A neighbor named Wendy had a cow who lost a calf at birth, and Wendy's been forced to milk the new mama in the absence of the baby. Wendy called and asked if I could make her some mozzarella cheese out of the milk.
It's been over a year since I've milked Matilda, so I said sure! I wanted to see if my cheesemaking skills had atrophied. So Wendy brought over five gallons of fresh milk. (I kept it in our "outdoor refrigerator" until I had a free day to make cheese.)
Cheesemaking isn't arduous -- it's mostly a matter of keeping an eagle-eye on the temperature -- but it's a lengthy and drawn-out process. Don't try making cheese unless you plan to be home the whole day.
I followed the directions found in this book, Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll. If you're serious about making cheese, this is a wonderful reference book.
I won't repeat the recipe since it's too much typing, but I do have another blog post on mozzarella cheese here.
To two gallons of milk, I added some citric acid to make sure the acidity was high enough. Mozzarella cheese has to be somewhat acidic in order to have that "stretch."
Adding lipase powder. This helps give mozzarella its characteristic taste.
My thermophilic starter was a little old, so I wasn't sure it had enough kick. Fortunately it did. However I plan to use some of the leftover fresh milk to re-culture my starter. (Don't worry, I'll blog about it.)
All the ingredients are added and the temperature is correct...
...so now it's time to add rennet. This thickens and "gels" the milk into curds. Takes about 75 minutes for this process to occur.
Cutting the curds. Cut in about 1/2" strips one way, then the other way (criss-cross), then diagonally one way, then the other way.
The curds end up looking like this. Stir, then let them rest for 20 minutes.
Pouring off the whey. Whey can be used to make ricotta cheese, but I wasn't making that today.
As with canning, kitchen timers are your best friend while making cheese.
The drained curds are kept in the colander over a pot of hot water to keep draining, and they're flipped every 20 minutes for 2 1/2 hours. (Sorry, didn't take any photos of this process.)
At the end of this process, it's time to turn the curds into cheese. Start with broad wooden spoons. Do NOT use slotted spoons of any sort (as I found out the hard way) because the gooey cheese oozes between the slots and makes a mess.
Start a pot of water heating toward 170F.
Meanwhile, take the dried curds...
...and start slicing 'n dicing.
It's a juicy process, so be sure to keep a towel beneath the cutting board. During the second batch of cheese, I balanced the cutting board across the sink and let the excess whey drain directly, which worked much better.
When the water in the pot reaches 170F, add the curd cubes. Adding the curd will cool the water, so add more heat as necessary to keep the temperature at 170. Don't go any higher.
Then take the wooden spoons and start working the curds, pressing them together. The water will get very cloudy with whey. Keep working the curds, and keep the temp at 170.
The curds will start to get shiny...
...and stretchy. It's now officially cheese.
Next take the hot and stretchy cheese and plop it in a bowl of cold water to cool.
Here's the two batches of cheese I made from Wendy's milk. Looks like nothing more than a couple of brains sitting on my counter, doesn't it?
I still need to reach Wendy to find out whether or not she wants me to brine the cheese. Personally I like fresh mozzarella better when it's lightly brined, but of course it's her call.