Cheese… I love thee endlessly, hopelessly. One bite and I am humming cheesy love ballads… feel the hairspray, man. Darling cheese: I’m forever yours… faithfully, there’s no love like our love I can’t help it — there’s nothing I want more, heaven isn’t too far away, and I finally found the love of a lifetime. So, I got to thinking that maybe I should show you guys how I make mozzarella (while singing rock ballads, of course).
Here’s the lineup:
- 2 gallons whole or 2% milk (I’ve tried skim… hated it)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons citric acid powder dissolved in 1 cup cool water
- 1 tablet Junket Rennet Tablet suspended in 1/2 cup cool water
- 2 teaspoons salt
Take a good look at that there Junket and take a minute to fully appreciate the joy I felt in finally finding the silly stuff in rural Georgia after searching for that little darling in the kind of panic that can only be compared to loosing a contact on a first date and then realizing that it’s floating in your water glass (only after feeling around a sticky floor shouting things like, “I’m sure it’s here somewhere… this, like, totally never happens to me.”). Not that I ever had that happen to me.
Prepare that citric acid and water. Stir! Prepare that rennet mixture, too.
Pour milk into a non-reactive pot (no aluminum or cast iron). Place over medium heat. Heat milk to 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Milk will start to curdle. Can you take me high enough?
At 88 degrees, add the citric acid solution. Now stir. Add the rennet solution. Continue stirring slowly every few minutes until the milk reaches 105 degrees F. Turn off the heat. Large curds will appear and begin to separate from the whey (the clear, greenish, pukey liquid.. and I fully realize that it is not very professional of me to say “pukey” but let’s face it — I’m also singing rock ballads so we’re obviously past the point of me trying to impress anyone).
Let this warm mixture set for about 2 hours (can take longer, I’ve found), until it looks like the picture above. Now cut the curd (that’s the white part floating on the top) into cubes.
Isn’t that lovely? I generally feel like a very accomplished chef at this point. I’m officially ready to pull out my Heart and Bon Jovi mix tapes. How do I get you alone? Alllloooooonnnnneeee… be thankful that you don’t live in earshot of my Ann Wilson impressions.
Warm the curds and whey over LOW heat, stirring from time-to time, and keep the curds from becoming a big lump until the temperature reaches 108 degrees Fahrenheit and then try to keep it there for about 30-40 minutes. Stir to keep the curds separated and from cementing themselves to the bottom of the pan. The thermometer shows the temperature rising in the kettle en route to the magic 108.
With a slotted spoon, scoop the curd into a colander with a kettle staged to catch the whey (Save the whey to make ricotta, okay?). Let it drain for 15-20 minutes. Here I go again on my own… Break up the curd and mix in 2 teaspoons of salt. Make sure you do this so that it mixes in very evenly (trust me on this one… I’ve ignored this little tidbit and lived to regret it).
Now microwave (NOTE: this is the first time I have ever mentioned the use of a microwave in one of my recipes and I will apologize to no one. It’s supposed to be simple living… not camping.) the curd in a glass bowl for 45-60 seconds. Use the slotted spoon to remove the curd and begin to knead it by hand to distribute the heat evenly. Zap it again for 20 seconds or so.
When cheese is cool enough to touch, knead it like bread dough until smooth. When you can stretch it like taffy, it is done. The cheese will become stretchy, smooth and shiny. If it is difficult to stretch and breaks easily, dip it into hot whey for a few seconds to make it warm and pliable. Then pick it up again and stretch it into a long rope. Fold over and stretch again. Dip in hot whey as needed to make the cheese pliable.
When the cheese is smooth and shiny (this takes just a few minutes), it is ready to eat. Shape it into a log or golf-size balls, then store in a solution of 2 teaspoons salt to 1 cup water. Serve with a totally amazing rock love ballad like the one below… you know I really couldn’t resist:
My friend, Chapple, tried my recipe and shared her cheesemaking journey on her beautiful blog, Ginger and Limes. Feeling discouraged? Have you read one too many food blogs or Pinterest posts and suddenly it feels as though everyone else in the world is a master chef? Here’s a post discussing cooking as a muscle: Trial and Error Eventually Pays Off.