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Mozzarella: How to get started at home

Apr 4th, 2016 | Category: Cooking

by Kate Ferry

The history of cheese is as unique and lengthy as the different varieties to tempt your tastebuds. There is the creamy richness of brie encased in a fermented rind. The pungent and potent flavor of an aged blue cheese. The sharp cutting bite of a solid cheddar. The gooey stretch of a mozzarella. Each cheese’s quality is unique to their region, the maker, the environment and ingredients.

The texture of the mozzarella will be stretchy (top) and ready for salt if storing for more than a few days.  The starting ingredients are photographed at right. The additions of rennet, an enzyme that allows milk to form a curd and the moisture to run off as whey, and lipase, an optional enzyme that adds a kick of flavor, will be added during the mozzarella cheese making process. PHOTOS BY KATE FERRY

The texture of the mozzarella will be stretchy (top) and ready for salt if storing for more than a few days. The starting ingredients are photographed at right. The additions of rennet, an enzyme that allows milk to form a curd and the moisture to run off as whey, and lipase, an optional enzyme that adds a kick of flavor, will be added during the mozzarella cheese making process. PHOTOS BY KATE FERRY

Making cheese at home is a great opportunity to learn the basic techniques and experiment with different milks, cooking methods and types to personalize the end result. Soft cheeses are the easiest and most straightforward start to beginner cheese making. I have personally enjoyed making lebneh, quark and mozzarella. Mozzarella is particularly enjoyable because of its varied uses and delicious rich flavor. It can be used in a light and fresh caprese appetizer, melted on the top of a tasty homemade pizza or atop an open-faced savory sandwich.

A few things to take into consideration when you begin the process of making homemade mozzarella, or any cheese, are the ingredients and how they affect the end result. Basic cheese making involves concentrating milk by removing the moisture, in the form of whey, and keeping the milk proteins. It is important to keep a certain amount of butterfat for richness and lactose, milk sugar, to give cheese its characteristic bite. During the preservation process, the bacterial growth is slowed down by controlling the progression of harmful bacteria with acidity, salting, moisture extraction and the removal of lactose, milk’s energy source. When choosing your milk for cheese making, it is necessary to avoid ultra-pasteurized milk. You can enjoy cheese making with raw or pasteurized milk and your choice is a personal preference. The additions of rennet, an enzyme that allows milk to form a curd and the moisture to run off as whey, and lipase, an optional enzyme that adds a kick of flavor, will be added during the mozzarella cheese making process.

The recipe (at right) is from a weekend class that I took at the Community Food Co-op with Mark Solomon that focused on making a variety of soft cheeses. It is an easy and quick recipe that makes a great mozzarella for melting and slicing. It also uses ingredients that are relatively easy to obtain at local stores and takes half an hour from start to finish.

I recommend trying the “30-Minute Recipe” first to get a handle on the basic techniques and then decide if you are wanting something more. If you are looking for a more in depth recipe that makes for a creamier, richer and more versatile recipe, the “Six Hour Mozzarella Recipe” is for you.mozz getting started web

Lastly, if a class interests you, try the upcoming “Make Your Own Soft Cheese with Mark Solomon” on April 23 at the Community Co-op. This hands-on class includes yogurt cheese, ricotta, mozzarella, and burrata, and discussion about cheese-making equipment, samples, and more. The cost is $59. Contact the Co-op directly at (360) 383-2000 to register.

 

30-Minute mozzarella

Ingredients 

1-1/2 teaspoons citric acid dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water

1 gallon *whole milk

1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup cool unchlorinated watermozz in pan web

1 teaspoon cheese salt

(This is optional and the quantity can be adjusted within the range below if you would like to make the flavor stronger.)

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon lipase dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water; allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes

 

*If you choose to use skim milk, the yield will be lower and the cheese will be drier.

 

Supplies

Food thermometer (with a range of 55 to 145 degrees F)

Stainless steel pot with at least a 5-quart capacity

Knife with a long blade

Plastic bowl or colander

Large strainer or slotted spoon

 

Directions

Let milk rest at room temperature until it reaches 55 degrees. Add the citric acid and mix thoroughly. If using lipase, add it at this point.

Using a stainless steel pot, heat the milk on the stovetop over low/medium heat until it reaches 90 degrees F.  The milk should begin to curdle at this point.

Remove the pot from the heat and slowly stir in the rennet. Continue stirring for 30 seconds. Cover and let sit for five minutes.

Check on the curd. It should look like custard with a clear whey.  If it is still too soft, allow it to set for longer.

Cut the curd into 1-inch squares ensuring that the knife reaches all the way to the bottom of the pot. Repeat with diagonal slices that turn the squares into triangles.

Put the pot back on the stovetop and heat to 105 degrees while stirring very slowly for two to five minutes. Transfer the curd to a bowl or colander using a slotted spoon or strainer.

Drain the whey into a bowl by gently pressing on the curd.

Using a heatproof bowl, microwave the curd on high for 75 seconds. Take the bowl out of the microwave and pour off the whey.

Stretch the curd by hand and reheat in the microwave for another 45 seconds. Repeat this step, including the stretching, up to two times until the curd reaches an internal temperature of between 135 and 145 degrees F. The curd should be almost too hot to handle at this point.  Heat-proof or -resistant gloves can help.

After you have attained your desired texture, knead into a ball. Fold in the salt before kneading if you are planning to store it for more than three days.

Store covered in the refrigerator using the leftover liquid that you poured off during the making. For added flavor, you can store it in olive oil with a blend of herbs and spices. Garlic, rosemary and/or peppercorns make a delicious enhancer.

 

 

Published in the April 2016 issue of Grow Northwest

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