Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mozzarella: Urban Farm Handbook Challenge, March

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Warm Mozzarella, ready to eat
I first talked about the Urban Farm Handbook Challenge here.  March's challenge theme is recreating dairy products in your home.  The first task given was to make an acid based cheese, see the details here.  As you can tell by looking over the technique and recipe it is very much like the pot cheese I already make around our home.  I decided to stick with the spirit of the challenge and make cheese but use this as a chance to try something new for my household.

Oh man am I glad I did!  Mozzarella is pretty straight forward as long as you read the recipe through in advance and have all your ingredients and tools ready to go before you start.  Ricki Carroll is the Cheese Queen and her Home Cheesemaking: Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses is the cookbook source that I used.  I really like her website version of 30 Minute Mozzarella with all the great photos and very clear step by step instructions as well.  I was worried about doing this so I will confess I consulted both sources, more than once.

Junior chef helper and chemist in the making
I had milk, salt and citric acid (from the canning I do) so all I had left on the list was rennet.  I chose to use a liquid vegetable based rennet I found on Amazon but there are a lot of choices out there so just go with what you prefer and can easily get your hands on.  I enrolled my favorite junior chefs as timers, temperature takers, and chemists but when it came to the kneading and heating stage of things I was on my own.  The heated curds were just a little too hot for them to handle comfortably.  They were still deeply proud to have been a part of making our own Mozzarella and barely waited long enough for me to get a quick picture before they ate half of what we made in big greedy wedges.  I can definitely recommend this project for your own home.  If we can do this you can too!

Milk, salt, citric acid and rennet is all you need to make your homemade Mozzarella.
  • 1 gallon, pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized) milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp citric acid
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tablet or 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet

  1. Have a clean non-reactive 6 - 8 quart pot ready to go. You will also need a reliable thermometer.
  2. In 1 cup of water mix the citric acid until it is completely dissolved and set aside. In 1/4 cup of water mix the rennet until it is completely dissolved and set aside.
  3. Pour your gallon of milk into your pot and then add the dissolved citric acid. Mix very well. Turn on your flame to medium and slowly heat the milk mixture to 90 (F).
  4. Move the pot to a cold burner and very slowly mix in the dissolved rennet using an up and down motion. Cover the pot with a lid and let the mixture rest for 5 - 8 minutes. Check things at 5 minutes to see if you have a firm curd and a clearly separated whey. If you do not, wait another 3 minutes.
  5. Once the curd is well set cut it into 1 inch cubes using a long knife. Move your pot back onto the hot burner and turn your flame to medium. Slowly bring the temperature of your whey and curd mixture to 105 (F). Stir things gently while you are heating.
  6. Once you hit 105 (F) move the pot to a cold burner. Continue stirring things gently for another few minutes. Transfer the curd using a slotted spoon to a colander and then from the colander to a microwave safe large bowl. At each transfer point remove as much whey as you can while keeping as much curd as you can.
  7. Once all of the curd is in the bowl microwave it on high for one minute. Pour off the whey and then sprinkle the curd with the teaspoon of salt. Knead in the salt and then reheat everything for 30 seconds on High. Drain off the whey and continue heating and draining in 30 second intervals until the curd is 135 (F).
  8. Knead the curd until it forms together smoothly and will stretch under its own weight. Form into a large ball, tucking the bottom into the middle until the surface is smooth and shiny.
  9. Eat warm or store for up to a week in the refrigerator with a little water.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 large ball of cheese

PS - Get your brisket brining soon! St. Patrick's Day is this coming Saturday!