I had a busy day at work today and wanted to escape so I started thinking about things to make this weekend. I’m not lying when I say that cooking/baking helps me relieve stress. One time I was so discouraged and stressed out from work I went straight home (skipped my cycling class at the gym) and baked Joy’s caramelized mushroom and onion biscuits. It helped.
There is something about working with my hands and making things from scratch that is so satisfying to me. It makes everything else go away. So what did I come up with this week? Homemade mozzarella.
This past September my husband and I took a cheese making class on how to make feta and parmesan at River Valley Cheese. We had a groupon so we got a good deal and it is one of the coolest things I’ve done. We learned a lot just in that one class and I have been determined to do it since then. Since parmesan takes a while and I wanted to start simple, mozzarella seemed like a good choice. I think my next cheese adventure will be brie…can you imagine homemade brie? This excites me.
We were able to take two freshly made parmesan cheese wheels home to age in our refrigerator (pictured above). You can age the wheel anywhere from 2-12months. We decided to age them to 6 months and 12 months to see if there is a difference in flavor. Right now they are 5 months old. If you are curious, we keep them in our vegetable crisper in the fridge among our other produce. Apparently the parmesan will soak in the flavors of whatever it is sitting next to so its important to keep things like fresh herbs next to it.
One of the key ingredients in using the right milk. You CANNOT use milk that has been ultra high temperature (UHT) pasteurized because it will not form the curds you need. The best type is to use raw milk and if you can’t find this you can use a pasteurized milk just as long as it’s not UHT pasteurized. I am using a local pasteurized whole milk from Twinbrook Creamery in Lynden, WA. I found them at my local QFC.
This milk was goooood. I tried some before hand and it was so rich and flavorful.
I’ve always wanted to milk a cow. Farm stuff like this seems funs to me. I joke with my husband often about getting land and chickens and eventually a goat or other animals. This idea is hilarious because I was raised in the city and know NOTHING about living on a farm. I’m sure it’s a lot of work but the idea of it seems cool. I can picture it now on a Saturday morning waking up early to feed the chickens and work in the garden. I would come back with my harvested carrots, lettuce and fresh herbs ready to cook something for lunch.
…wow, I feel exposed. It’s probably odd coming from me, 1st generation Filipino American that was born and raised in the city, but I’ve always day dreamed about the country. I grew up reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and watching the show on television. I was also curious about plants and making things grow as a kid. I remember asking my parents if I could buy a packet of flower seeds so I can plant them in the backyard and watching the home and garden show on PBS to learn how to make our brown grass grow (I grew up in Texas…enough said). Reflecting back on this makes me laugh out loud. Anyways, it’s one of my dreams as odd as it is.
Back to cheese!
There are two supplies you may need to track down. You’ll need rennet (left) and citric acid (right). If you are vegetarian you can buy vegetable rennet. I bought my rennet at River Valley Cheese but I’ve heard you can find it at a health food store or online. I’m sure you could find this at PCC That’s where I bought the citric acid in the bulk items for only $0.58.
Once you heat the milk, citric acid and rennet togther and let everything set the consistency will be like soft tofu.
The white blobs are curds and the yellow liquid is whey…hehe curds and whey.
After heating it to 135 degrees F it’s time to stretch! You can use gloves but I stretched it with the spatula for a bit then used my hands. The cheese was still pretty hot when I was handling it so do what is comfortable for you.
Be sure to save the whey. You can use it make breads or add it to smoothies for more protein!
Makes about 1 pound of mozzarella
slightly adapted recipe from The Kitchn
1 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
1/4 rennet tablet or 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet, not Junket rennet
1 gallon whole milk, not ultra-high temperature pasteurized
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1. To prepare the citric acid and rennet, measure out 1 cup of water and stir in the citric acid until dissolved. Measure out 1/4 cup of water in a separate bowl and stir in the rennet until dissolved.
2. To warm the milk, pour the milk into a 5 quart (or larger) pot and add the citric acid solution. Set the pot over medium-high heat and warm to 90 degrees F and stir gently.
3. To add the rennet, remove the pot from heat and firmly but gently stir in the rennet solution and count to 30. Stop stirring, cover the pot, and let it sit for 5min. After 5min, the milk should have set, and it should look and feel like soft tofu. If it has not set, re-cover the pot and let it sit for another five minutes.
4. Next you need to cut the curds by making several vertical cuts and several horizontal cuts to make a grid like pattern. Make sure your knife reaches all the way to the bottom of the pan.
5. Next, cook the curds by placing the pot back on the stove over medium heat and warm the curds to 105 degrees F. Stir slowly as the curds, but try not to break them up too much. The curds will eventually clump together and separate from the whey (yellow liquid).
6. Remove the curds from the heat and continue to stir firmly but gently for 5 minutes.
7. To separate the curds from the whey, ladle the curds into a microwave-safe bowl with a slotted spoon.
8. Continue to drain off the whey, by microwaving the curds for one minute. Drain off the whey. Fold the curds over on themselves a few times. You can use gloves to do this but I just used my spatula.
9. Next you will heat the curds and continue to drain off the whey by using the microwaving the heat the curds to 135 degrees F. Microwave the curds at 30 seconds intervals checking the temperature until it reaches 135 degrees F. It took me around 5-6 intervals to reach the correct temperature. Be sure to check the temperature often reaching the correct temperature is important to stretch the curds.
10. To stretch and shape the mozzarella, sprinkle the salt over the cheese and use your fingers to incorporate. Again, you can use gloves but I did not. I started with the spatula and used my hands as it became easier to work with. Stretch and fold the curds repeatedly using both hands. It should tighten and become firm and glossy. Once this happens, you can shape the mozzarella. I made one large ball, however, next time I will make two smaller balls. Be sure not to overwork the mozzarella.
11. You can eat and enjoy the mozzarella right away or store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. To store, place the mozzarella in a container and pour in enough cooled whey to cover the cheese. You can also add a teaspoon of salt.