Monday, October 17, 2011

All you need is Mozzarella CHEESE!

It's MONDAY! I hope you are all comfy in your jammies, glad that your dreaded MONDAY is over! It was a day full of clouds, drizzle and a little chilly here in Nebraska. Fall is definitely upon us, and I could not be happier! I love Mondays because it's the only day I get to spend with my husband, beginning to end. We always go on a lunch date to our favorite Chinese food place and then we do something together in the afternoon. Today happened to be the perfect day for cheese making.

We decided one day about a year ago we should attempt our own cheese. We looked up several recipes, we analyzed and we eliminated, one by one almost all of the recipes. We came across one that seemed easy enough and for first timers we needed easy! We are both fans of mozzarella cheese and decided it would be the cheese of choice. If you look back on the pizza blog, you will see a Margherita pizza I made, and it is using our own fresh mozzarella. Melts perfectly, tastes great, I mean seriously is there much in life better than a thick slice of melted mozz on a pizza? When you purchase a fresh ball of mozzarella, you will notice they come in different sizes. Sometimes they are packaged in water or whey and sometimes they are vacuum sealed. Regardless, if you have never eaten fresh mozz, the time is right and the time is now! Here are the sizes....Bocconcini being my favorite, just is.

We haven't made cheese since, I am no sure why, we just haven't done it so today was the day. I did a few things different this time. Last time I used 2% milk and this time I used Vitamin D milk. I came out with a much softer, more buttery ball of cheese. We did 2 batches as I will be using it in a side dish for my dinner tomorrow night.

Now let us get started on your first cheese making experience!! You will likely need to purchase your rennet and citric acid at your local health food store or perhaps Whole Foods. I was only able to get rennet in liquid form so I will put those comparable measurements in for you where needed. You will need a thermometer. My candy thermometer starts at 100 degrees so I used my meat thermometer to keep checking temps.  You will also need a large glass, microwaveable bowl and a storage container big enough to fit your cheese covered in a salt water solution.

You will need:
1/2 rennet tablet (1/2 tsp if in liquid form)
1/4 cup cool water (NON CHLORINATED)
1 gallon of milk (your choice, whole milk works best)
2 tsps citric acid
1/2 tsp salt (optional)

Crush the rennet tablet into the cool water and let dissolve.  Pour milk into a non-reactive pot (no aluminium or cast iron) and place over medium heat. Sprinkle the citric acide over the milk and stire a few times.  Heat milk to 88 degrees F, it will begin to curdle.  At this point, add in the rennet solution and stir slowly every few minutes until it reaches 105 F.  Turn off the heat.  Large curds will appear, seperating from the whey (greenish, clear fluid)

Note: All of the whey you drain off , you will need to keep!  Don't put it down the sink! Just add it back to the pot you took the curds out of!

With a slotted spoon or mesh strainer, remove the curds, letting them drain completely and putting into a large glass bowl.  When they are all removed, press on them to remove as much more of the whey (liquid) as possible.  Microwave them for 1 minutes and repeat the process of pressing them and draining the whey. Now with a spoon press the curds into a ball.  Microwave 2 more times, at 35 seconds each, draining the whey and forming the curds into a ball.  In the meantime heat the whey over medium heat back up to 175 degrees F.

When the cheese is cool enough to touch, knead it like bread dough.  When you can stretch it like taffy it is done.  You can sprinkle 1-2 tsps of salt in as you knead the cheese.  The cheese will become stretchy and shiny and smooth.  If it is difficult to stretch, and breaks easily, dip it back in the hot whey again to make it warm and pliable.  Fold over and stretch again. Dip in hot whey as needed to keep it stretchy.

When it is smooth and shiny (this takes a few minutes) it is ready to eat.  Shape into a log, miniature balls, or a ball.  Then store in a solution of 2 tsps salt, to 1 cup water.  This yields about 3/4 of a lb or 12 ounces. 

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!! 

Your "make cheese not war" chefwannabe

Additional notes:
The LESS you handle the cheese the softer it will be.  You must knead it, and stretch it, but do it ONLY until it is shiny.  The cheese will taste awesome no matter what but the more you knead the harder the cheese will be.  It will still melt and work beautifully!

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