Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Making Mozzarella: The "30 minute" method

Ok, so I talked about making Mozzarella but didn't you tell HOW to make Mozzarella. (Perhaps this is part of my evil geek plot to keep you coming back to read my blog. muhahahaha!)

1 gal whole milk (I have been using Wal-Mart brand at $2.98 with pull date of 17-19 days)
1 1/2 tsp of food grade citric acid dissolved in 1 cup unchlorinated water
1/4 to 1/2 rennet tablet dissolved in 1/4 cup unchlorinated water

You will also need the following equipment

1 non reactive pot big enough to hold 1 gal of milk, with lid (Non reactive means not aluminum or steel pots. Stainless steel or enameled steel pots work fine. I have a 7.5 quart enameled steel pot.
1 thermometer that will accurately read lower temps
1 non reactive slotted spoon
1 timer (optional)
1 knife for cutting the curds (long enough to reach the bottom of the pot)
1 microwavable bowl 2.5 quart glass works well
A bowl of ice water
Plastic wrap
A microwave
And, of course, a range

It’s pretty simple to start with. Pour the milk into your pot then add the citric acid slowly while stirring vigorously. Do not reverse this order as the acid will curdle some of the milk as it comes into contact with the acid and you will get milk that looks like cream of wheat. That is not what we are looking for at this point.

Bring the milk to 90 degrees, stirring to prevent scorching the milk. I have started using my 12.5 quart stock pot as the bottom of a double boiler and can bring the milk up to temperature faster and safer than directly on the burner. At 90 degrees remove pot from heat and add the rennet. Stir slowly, gently, and in an up down motion for 30-60 seconds. You do not want the milk to continue moving after you finish stirring as it breaks up the curds as they are forming. Put a lid on it and set timer for 5 minutes or check your watch. Leave it alone. Don’t even peek.

After five minutes, check for curd development. With store bought milk, it probably isn’t ready yet. Check back every five minutes until the curds are ready. It should look like custard and the whey should be clear green. Once it is ready cut the curd into 1 inch squares. Then retrace your cuts but at a 45 degree angle from the first cuts. Cut all the way to the bottom and sides as you go. Don’t worry if they aren’t exactly one inch.

Put the pot back on the heat and bring the temperature of the whey to 105F while gently moving the curds around in the pot. Take the temp at different depth and locations in the pot to insure even heating of the curds. Once it is at 105F remove from heat and stir slowly for 2-5 minutes. (The longer you stir the dryer the mozzarella will be.) Take the curds out of the whey with the slotted spoon and put them into your bowl. Drain off as much of the whey as you can without pressing on the curd. (All right, you can press a little) Put the bowl in the microwave and heat on HIGH for one (1) minute. Pour off any additional whey that has separated from the curd. Knead the curds like you would in making bread (fold over half on top of itself and press down). Repeat in different directions several times until the curd begins to cool. Nuke it again for 30 seconds and drain whey as needed. If it is ready and is hot enough (135F) it will begin to stretch when you pick it up. Time to have some fun. Think “Taffy Pull”. Hold one end in one hand and stretch it with the other and when you run out of arm bring the ends together and start over. When it starts to break when you stretch it, nuke it again for 30 seconds. I have only been repeating the heating process 2-3 times. Any more than three times and I end up with a nice ball of soft plastic.

After you’ve made a few batches, you’ll get a feel for when it is “right”. And that is when you bring it together and form it back into a ball, or form strings, or small balls or or or. Put your final product in an ice water bath until it is cold. For a 1lb ball that is about 20 minutes. For string cheese 2-3 minutes. Take it out and let it surface dry before wrapping it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. You can skip the ice bath if you like the fresh warm cheese so much that you eat it all before it gets to take the bath.

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