Here is another great recipe from Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Making. This recipe makes a delicious mozzarella that has all of the characteristics of the milk used to make it so can be endlessly varied. It really is a very quick recipe – it may not take you only 30 minutes on your first try, but once you get the hang of it, it will go very quickly. It’s faster for me to make this cheese than to go to the market!
I particularly like homemade raw-milk mozzarella, but almost any milk will do, as long as it was not ultra-pasturized. Local milk will give you the best flavor and the best performance in terms of forming a firm curd. Ricki includes this recipe, along with lots of pictures and many great tips, on her Cheese Making site. Here I give you some of my own tips, after having made this recipe dozens of times now, and the recipe for making a 1/2 pound of cheese (rather than a pound).
- accurate thermometer
- 1/2 gallon local whole milk, pasturized or raw (but not ultra-pasturized)
- 3/4 tsp citric acid, dissolved in 1/4 cup of cool, filtered or spring water
- 1/8 tsp liquid rennet, diluted in 1/8 cup cool, filtered or spring water
- 1/8 tsp lipase powder, dissolved in 1/8 cup cool water and allowed to stand for 20 minutes (optional)
- 1/2 tsp cheese salt (optional)
- Shake milk well and pour into stockpot. Set over low heat.
- While stirring, add the citric acid solution to the milk when milk temperature is 55 degrees F. (If using lipase, add now). It’s OK if the milk is somewhat warmer than 55 degrees when you add the citric acid – I’ve added it when the milk is 60-70 degrees without apparent effect.
- Heat milk slowly to 90 degrees over medium-low heat. I find that, if just starting out, it is best to err on the side of caution and heat the milk very slowly; if you heat the milk too quickly, not only do you risk scorching the milk, but it does not seem to give the milk adequate time for a firm curd to form. This is also true if you switch milk sources; different milk can react quite differently and I’ve ruined a few batches in my time. Best to go slowly until you are familiar with the process and with your milk.
- At 90 degrees F you will see the milk starting to curdle. Gently stir in the diluted rennet, with an up and down motion, for about 30 seconds.
- Continue to slowly heat the milk until it reaches 100-105 degrees F (5 minutes or less – but don’t worry if it takes longer). Do not stir during this time. You should see the curd beginning to firm up and possibly pulling away from the sides of the pot. Turn off the heat and let the curds sit for 2-3 minutes. The curds should look like thick yogurt and have a bit of shine to them; the whey should be clear. If the whey is milky white, wait a few more minutes.
Suspend a colander over a large bowl and scoop the curds into the colander with a slotted spoon. Do not try to dump the curds directly into the colander from the pan, or you will disturb the curd and lose a good deal through the colander holes and into the whey (don’t ask me how I know this). If you don’t believe me, and try it anyway, you can rescue some curd from the whey with a small, fine sieve; add it back into the bowl of curds. Reserve the whey.
- Press lightly on the curds with your hands or a spoon to try to pour off as much whey as possible. Transfer the curds from the colander to a heat-proof bowl and microwave on high for 30-35 seconds. Be careful not to overheat the curds, especially if they are already somewhat loose, as this can cause the proteins to break down and instead of getting a nice, firm mozzarella, you will end up with a ricotta/cottage cheese-type texture. It takes a little practise with your microwave and brand of milk to get this just right, so err on the side of caution the first few times out. You can always re-heat the cheese but it is harder to cool it down, and impossible to re-form denatured proteins!
- Press on the heated cheese with your hands or a spoon and pour off as much whey as possible. Knead the
cheese gently (as in kneading bread) to distribute the heat evenly throughout the cheese. This is the tricky part; if now the cheese seems very loose, almost soupy, and nearly impossible to knead, it is possible that you overheated the curd. Place in the freezer or fridge for a few minutes to cool it down see if it firms up some. If it does, start again, with less time in the microwave. If it does not, you can salvage a soft cheese by pouring the cheese & whey into several layers of cheesecloth, tying into a bag, and hanging for about 1 hour.
- Pour off the whey once more and heat the cheese in the microwave again; this time for about 20 seconds. Remove, pour off whey, and knead again. The cheese should start feeling springy & resistant and a more cohesive mass.
- Heat once more in the microwave, for about 20 seconds. Add optional cheese salt. Knead quickly until the cheese is smooth, elastic and shiny. The cheese will not stretch until the temperature inside the curd is 145 degrees F – almost too hot to touch. When the cheese stretches like taffy, it is done. If the curds break instead of stretch, the cheese is too cool and should be re-heated in the microwave.
- Roll the finished cheese into a ball and use immediately, or store covered in the refrigerator.
Yields about 8 oz of cheese, less if lower-fat milk is used.
- If you have never made cheese before, consider doubling the recipe, to make 1 lb of cheese, the first couple of times out. It seems easier to manipulate the larger ball of cheese and harder to overheat, then when making a 1/2 lb. If you do this, then increase your microwave times to 1 minute, then 35 seconds twice.
- I use whole milk or creamline milk in making this cheese; as in most cooking, fat = flavor. You can use skim milk, or part-skim, but you will have a lower yield and the cheese will be drier in texture.
- Lipase makes the cheese somewhat softer. I have not had good luck with adding this, and if using fresh, local milk, the cheese hardly seems to need a flavor enhancer. If you do add lipase, consider adding a few more drops of rennet, in order to form a firm curd.
- When the cheese is done, try this: roll cheese into small balls and drop into a bowl of ice water for 1/2 hour. This will produce a consistent smooth texture throughout the cheese.
- There will be a lot of whey leftover after you make the cheese; whey is quite nutritious and can be used in place of milk or other liquid in making almost any sort of bread, in pancakes, or can be used to make whey cheese (ricotta is traditionally a whey cheese). I usually save the last 2-4 cups (the milkiest whey that comes off the curd following microwaving) for about a week in the fridge. Pig farmers feed whey to their pigs and I suppose cats & dogs would like it just as much!
The cheese should last a few weeks in the refrigerator (although I have yet to test this out as it always disappears quickly). Whey will keep about a week in the fridge.
Year-round. If you buy milk from pastured cows the quality of the milk, and hence the cheese, changes throughout the year as the cows are eating primarily grass, or primarily grains & hay. It’s fascinating how well a grassy, tart summer cheese goes with fresh tomatoes, while a mellow, buttery winter cheese is perfect with a baked potato. What grows together goes together!