Self-Sufficiency Series

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Making mozzarella

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.

19 comments:

  1. Awesome - I'll be showing this to my husband.

    Lana

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! I've made cheese a few times. I press my cheese after removing the whey. Maybe it has to do with the kind of cheese.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I make pressed cheese too, notably cheddar (here's a blog post on it:
      http://www.rural-revolution.com/2010/04/homesteading-question-4-making-cheddar.html )

      Mozzarella is nice because you can eat it immediately.

      - Patrice

      Delete
    2. when you sit the colander on top of the hot water was that boiling water? was there a steady heat on?

      Delete
    3. Not boiling, but the water was still hot. If the temperature of the curds in the colander start to drop, I'll heat up the water in the lower pot a bit more, but boiling usually makes things too hot. Mostly the stage of the colander over the pot is simply to allow the curds to drain a bit, without letting them get too cool.

      - Patrice

      Delete
  3. Canned grapefruit tonight after having seen one of your blogs on canning citrus. Tis that time of the season!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you so much for the pictures! I have the book and have wanted to do this. You give me courage!! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've been so frustrated with trying to make mozzarella. We have a milk cow, we have the thermometer, the lipase powder, the citric acid, the starter, etc. BUT each time I've tried to make cheese (3 times so far) it never ends up stretchy. Instead of getting stretchy it contracts more and more, getting drier and drier. The first time I made it, it actually turned "squeaky." (My kids still talk about that!) The past two times it was edible - but not nice. I've bought all new starter products and I'm going to try again using your step by step process that you've shown in this blog. The failures woudn't have anything to do with the pot I've used, do you think? Does it matter if you use aluminum vs. stainless steel vs. some other kind? I'm determined to master cheese-making! Wish me luck! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh gosh, you sound like me when I first tried making mozzarella a few years ago. I started with mozzarella because somehow I thought it was an easier cheese than, say, cheddar. Turned out I was wrong; it's one of the harder cheeses. So don't beat yourself up because you've had failures!

      I must have had thirty failed batches before I finally got it right, and what really helped was using Ricki Carroll's book. Her recipe has the consistency I needed. While my pots are stainless steel, I don't believe the pots would make a difference, though I could be wrong.

      So please don't give up! The key is your **determination** to master cheese-making -- because of that determination, you'll succeed! Keep us posted.

      - Patrice

      Delete
    2. Thank you for your encouragement! The cover of the book you showed looks very familiar. I don't know if it's because I own it or because I've seen it recommended so often. When I get home I'll check to see what book I have and will order Ricki Carroll's, if it's not the one I own already. Thanks for your thoughts on the pot. I, too, was under the impression that mozzarella was an easy cheese to learn on! Maybe I should just skip ahead to cheddar. I'm sure we could rig something for a press or find one to borrow or something. Thanks for your blog! I've enjoyed/shared it very much! Blessings, Mary Beth

      Delete
    3. Cheddar is the other cheese I used to make a lot. Here's a blog post on making cheddar cheese:

      http://www.rural-revolution.com/2010/04/homesteading-question-4-making-cheddar.html

      It also shows a few photos of the homemade lever-arm cheese press my husband made.

      - Patrice

      Delete
  6. Thank you for posting this. We have our own milk cow and I make all cheeses w/ success, except for mozzarella. I have the book you mentioned. I didn't use the citric acid because I thought it was optional when using raw milk, so I think that is where I have been failing! I will try again this weekend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The book talks all about checking the pH here and checking the pH there, to make sure the cheese is sufficiently acidic. To my way of thinking, it's a whole lot easier to just add some citric acid at the beginning and not have to worry about the pH after that.

      BTW, check with a local health food store for citric acid, they usually have it for a fairly cheap price.

      - Patrice

      Delete
  7. Yummy!!! You're the second blog I've read today that posted on making cheese. Have you heard of Range to Range blog? I just found her.

    http://forpeteysake.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  8. You make it look to easy. Is the process any different using goats milk?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I honestly couldn't say since I've never used goat's milk. Heck, all you can do is try! If it works, let me know.

      - Patrice

      Delete
  9. The citric acid worked like a charm! Thank you! :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Where do you order your chemicals for cheese making?
    --K in OK <><

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. From the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company:
      http://www.cheesemaking.com/

      Except the citric acid. I got that from a local health food store.

      - Patrice

      Delete