Saturday, June 6, 2009
Yes, we did it! And it turned out so good, oh so good! Can we call ourselves cheese-makers now? Alright, alright, let me back a little. James visited me last week and making mozzarella was among the many wonderful, exciting, delicious and very much unplanned things we did. We used a very simple recipe - the one included in Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" (read it!). All the recipes from the book can be found here.
1 gallon pasteurized milk
1 1/2 tsp citric acid dissolved in 1/4 C cool water
1 tsp cheese salt
1/4 tablet rennet dissolved in 1/4 C cool water
1/4 tsp liquid rennet dissolved in 1/4 C cool water
Yields: four 2-inch balls
Also helpful: Big stainless steel pot (should fit at least 1 gallon), candy thermometer, sieve, slotted spoon, heavy duty rubber gloves, microwave.
I am not going to explain you how to make the cheese - just follow the instructions here.
Aout the ingredients: You need pasteurized but not ultra-pasteurized milk (a.k.a. HUT milk). Ultra-pasteurized milk cannot be turned into cheese. With the advent of big milk-processing plants, milk distributers wanted to be able to keep milk from spoiling for longer periods of time and thus developed the process of ultra-pasteurization - by heating milk to a higher temperature (280F/138C vs. 161F/71.7C for regular pasteurization) milk will stay "fresh" for up to couple of weeks months. Unfortunately, this also changes the protein structure, so milk will not curdle properly. Frequently, additives need to be included in UHT milk to duplicate the taste and texture of regular milk. To summarize, avoid it if you can in principle, definitely avoid it if you are making cheese.
Rennet, according to Wikipedia, is a natural complex enzyme produced by any mammalian stomach to digest the mother's milk and often used in cheese production. Ewwwww. Luckily, I managed to find some vegetable rennet at a brew-store in Arizona (which is usually derived from mold?). I got a dozen of tablets for ~$7 which will make a whole of a lot of cheese. Rennet can also be found online as well as here and I saw some liquid rennet at Whole Foods the other day (not sure that was vegetarian though... I think it was).
Citric acid ... Hmmm, I bought it from the same place as the rennet. I have also seen it in Middle-Eastern grocery stores. If you live in Tucson, AZ, Caravan (on Glenn and Country Club) is the place to go. Also, use non-chlorinated water if possible and definitely non-iodized salt. The latter is important, for iodine may interfere with cheese making enzymes. Get some cheese salt (which is just nice coarse-grain salt without iodine) or get the box with the girl without iodine.
This is a lot of explaining for such a short ingredient list!
About making the cheese itself. We followed the recipe and things went pretty smooth. We had to heat the curds three times for about 20 seconds each time while kneeding until we reached the desired consistency. The result was very smooth but not as stretchy as I thought it needed to be. I think we just didn't heat it enough because I just saw the pictures here - wow, this really stretches like taffy. The cheese came out a bit dense, but the taste was great! We kept it in a bowl covered with whey to prevent it from drying. The whole batch swiftly disappeared over the course of the weekend - most of it was consumed at a dinner with friends along with some sliced tomatoes, olives, basil and olive oil. The rest went to top our amazing Sunday night dinner.
What next? I think I need some more practice with the mozzarella. But other than that I am thinking of getting Ricki Carroll's Home Cheese Making book to explore some other recipes. Ultimately, wouldn't it be nice to be able to make feta? I think my life would improve substantially if I could do that... Or I'd get fat. Possibly both.