Simple, Quick Homemade Mozzarella
Living in rural Alberta, it is sometimes difficult to get to the big city to grab the ingredients needed when one gets the urge to cook something out of the ordinary. While it would be nice to live 10 minutes from the nearest Italian Centre Shop, such is not always possible.
I have forgotten to get ricotta cheese for lasagna. I have had to not make lasagna on a whim because I don’t have any mozzarella cheese. Well, no more. So long as there is a gallon or two of farm fresh milk to be had, fresh mozzarella cheese is less than an hour away. This recipe is so simple, anyone, of any age, can master mozzarella cheese on their very first ball.
There is one important thing about making mozzarella cheese. The milk CANNOT be pasteurized using the ultra high temperature method. This method will render the proteins in the milk useless for properly separating the curds from the whey. Also, the milk cannot be homogenized, for the same reason. Check with the milk manufacturer to see what process they use for their pasteurization, or find a local farmer who is willing to part with a gallon or two of fresh whole milk. If you can’t find any non-homogenized milk, you can use 3 litres of skim milk mixed with one litre of whipping cream (35%). So long last they use a low temperature (under 165ºF) pasteurization process, this should work.
You will need to find a couple of ingredients used in the separation process. Citric acid can be found in most large grocery stores, and in some smaller specialty shops. Rennet may be a little more difficult to come by. It is available in liquid, tablet, and powder form on Amazon.ca. It is also available in a vegetable, rather than beef form. In Alberta you can find beef harvested rennet at the Italian Centre Shops in Edmonton and Calgary, as well as in some specialty shops. I will post a list later, as well a bit of the science behind making Mozzarella Cheese.
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- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 tsp citric acid
- 1/4 tsp rennet ¼ tablet, ¼ tsp liquid. DO NOT USE JUNKET
- 1 gal whole milk not UHT-Pasteurized, not HOMOGENIZED
I find it is important to get all my tools and ingredients ready before starting any cooking process. There is nothing worse than getting to step 4 of a recipe and finding you are short an ingredient or a tool. For this cheese you will need a pot large enough to hold a gallon of milk, an offset icing knife, a slotted spoon or rice skimmer, two measuring cups (min. 1 cup) rubber gloves, strainer, and a second pot for straining whey.
Make the citric acid and rennet solutions as follows. Stir 1½ tbsp of citric acid into 1 cup of warm (not hot) water. Completely dissolve. Stir ¼ tsp of powder rennet (¼ tablet or ¼ tsp liquid) into ¼ cp of water. Set aside for next step.
Pour the milk into large non-reactive pot. Place on an element at medium-high heat. Add in the citric acid mixture, stirring slowly. Stirring gently, bring the milk and citric acid mixture to 90ºF.
Add the rennet mixture. Remove from heat. Stir gently for 30 seconds. Cover the pot and let sit for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, the milk should have set, and it should look and feel like soft tofu (YUKKY). If it is still liquidy, re-cover the pot and let it sit for another five minutes. The look and feel can be deceiving. Use your offset icing knife to gently slice thesurface. If any whey (yellowish water) seeps through, it is ready to cut. Once the milk has set, cut it into 1-1½” cubes, by cutting up and down and across the curds. Be certain your cuts reach all the way to the bottom of the pot. The curds are deeper than you might think.
Now itʼs time to cook the curds and start the cheese hardening process. At this stage you will be completely separating the curds from the whey. While very gently stirring, bring the curds to 105ºF. Try not to disturb the cubed pattern too much. You will notice the whey and curds separating. About the time the temperature reaches 105º, the curds will sink.
When the temperature reaches 105º, remove from the heat and stir the curds for about 5 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon or rice skimmer, move the curds to a microwave safe glass bowl. I find I get too much whey at this stepd, so I will ladle off as much whey as I can, until I have about a 50/50 ratio of curds to whey. Put aside about 1 litre of whey ( I put it in the refrigerator to cool to room temperature) for use later. You can also save the excess whey and use it 1 to 1 to replace water in bread recipes. It makes very tasty bread.
Microwave the curds for 1 minute. Drain off all of the whey. Put on rubber gloves and fold the curds into themselves one time.
Microwave the curds to 135º. Do this in 30 second bursts, removing the whey after each burst. Once at 135º the curds are ready to work into a ball. 135ºF is the temperature at which the curds become pliable enough to stretch and form.
At this point the mozzarella is a flat blob in the bottom of the bowl. Grate approximately 1 tsp of salt onto the blob. Work the salt into the blob using you rubber glove covered fingers. Fold the cheese onto itself and then stretch. Repeat this process about until the cheese gets s shiny sheen to it.
Once the cheese is stretchy and shiny, form it into the classic mozzarella ball.Place it in the room temperature whey you put aside in step and add a bit of salt to the whey. Your cheese is DONE!
You can use your mozzarella immediately, or store it. Mozzarella can be stored for 3 - 7 days in the fridge. To store it, put a teaspoon of salt in a bowl of cool whey. Place the ball in the whey (make sure it is covered), seal it with a lid or stretch wrap and refrigerate.
For a nice snack, instead of forming into a large ball, you can form bite sized balls using your thumb and forefinger. These are known as bocconcini. Place the tiny balls on a plate, season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Then sprinkle them with extra virgin slice oil and serve at room temperature. If you are serving these to friends, make sure you make about three batches worth. They will go quickly.