Fresh, HOMEMADE Mozzarella!
Yep, you read that right! Today I took the plunge into cheese-making!
My interest was first piqued when I read this tutorial from The Pioneer Woman. Not only did she make homemade mozzarella sound fun and downright delicious, it sounded MUCH cheaper than purchasing a ready-made hunk at the grocery or specialty foods store. (I had to alter my method slightly from the Pioneer Woman’s, because I had slightly different ingredients to work with. You can refer to either tutorial, depending on what you’re working with.)
I stored the idea away and sat on it for many months… and this week, I did it! I’m so proud and excited to share the method with you!
Once you have invested in one or two slightly uncommon ingredients, you’ll find that this really is SO much cheaper than buying Mozzarella. Plus it is really fun! My husband and I worked on it together today and it was like a fun little date project 🙂 And you can serve this gourmet treat on homemade pizzas, yummy baguette slices all toasted up under the broiler, or stuffed into calzones. There are a lot of delicious possibilities!
So… ALL YOU NEED is:
1) 1 Gallon of Whole Milk (Preferably raw, unpasteurized whole milk… but they say regular will work too. I was fortunate to have access to the raw stuff through a friend!)
2) 6 Tbs. Lemon Juice or 1 1/2 tsp. Citric Acid Powder (if you use the powder, you’ll need to dissolve it into 1/4 C water.)
3) 1/2 tablet of Rennet dissolved in 1/4 C water (*Alternatively you can use liquid vegetable rennet mixed with water. See instructions on individual bottle of rennet for amount of water to use.)
4) 2 tsp. Kosher salt or Sea Salt
As for equipment, you’ll need:
-a large non-reactive stock pot
-an instant-read thermometer (I use this one and I love it!)
-a large strainer
-a long knife
-a large heat-proof bowl
Rennet may seem like an “out there” ingredient… but it’s fairly basic! It causes milk to curdle so that you can make it into cheese, custards, etc. The Junket rennet tablets I used can be found in a regular grocery store near the pudding. However, I have heard that Junket is the least reliable rennet brand out there, so if you can find liquid vegetable rennet at a health food store or online, I recommend using that. Just be sure you read the bottle instructions because the times/temperatures of the cheese-making process vary depending on the rennet you use.
*One more side-note, and then I’ll get to the cheese… Did you know that in most states, the plant you need to make your OWN vegetable rennet for free can likely be found just outside your door?? See this recipe to give it a try! (I would soooo do it, but apparently Arkansas is the ONE state this plant is not native to. Just my luck.)
Ok, let’s make some CHEESE!
Pour the lemon juice into a large stock pot.
Now grab your rennet and use a butter knife to divide one tablet in half. Dissolve the 1/2 tablet in 1/4 C room temperature water.
And set that rennet/water aside to use in a moment.
Now, pour the gallon of milk into the pot with the lemon juice.
Place your instant read thermometer so that the needle is submerged by the milk but not touching the bottom or sides of the pan. Heat this mixture over medium-low heat, stirring gently, until it reached 90-degrees F. Do not worry if the milk looks like it is curdling a little.
When the milk has reached 90 degrees, remove it from the burner and pour in the rennet dissolved in water.
Gently stir in a circular motion for 30 seconds. Then use the spoon to make the milk “be still.” Then place the lid on top of the pot and leave it untouched for the next 2 hours. So simple!
After two hours, the rennet will have worked its magic. You may not be able to tell yet (I could, but only barely) but the milk has thickened and begun to separate. Remove the lid from the pot and use a long knife to cut a criss-cross pattern into the thickened milk. The cut marks you make may not hold their form, but it will help to separate the curds for the next step. (Note: If the milk is still completely liquid at this stage, place the lid back on the pot and wait another 1-2 hours, leaving the milk undisturbed. This is one of the downsides of Junket rennet… it works verrrrrry slowwwwwwly.)
After all that waiting, return the pot to the burner and heat the milk, stirring gently, until the mixture reaches 105-degrees F.
You’ll start to notice some real separation occurring!
When the milk has reached 105 degrees, it is ready to be made into cheese!
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the stringy curds of cheese into a large strainer sitting over a large bowl.
Fish out all the curds… and whatever you do, don’t throw out the remaining liquid (the whey.) People pay big money for that stuff! It is pure liquid protein. Chris and I are super excited to have it leftover from our cheese-making fun. We plan to add it to our breakfast smoothies and mix it with chocolate syrup for a post-working recovery drink. Score!
Gently swirl the large lump of soon-to-be mozzarella around in the strainer, allowing the whey to drain out. Isn’t this awesome looking??
And gently squeeze it to release more of the whey.
Now, place the mozzarella in a heat-proof bowl and microwave it on High for 1 minute.
When you take it out, it will be hot! So you might want to let it cool off for a minute or two. Once you can handle it again, drain off the whey that has gathered in the bowl. Then gently squeeze the ball of mozzarella to extract even more.
After doing this, you will return the cheese to the bowl and put it back in the microwave for 35 seconds.
Then repeat the process of gently squeezing it to release more whey. (I let my husband do this one since he’s less of a wuss than I am when it comes to touching hot liquids.)
And then one final time you will return the cheese to the microwave for 35 seconds, and squeeze off whatever whey you can after it has cooled enough to handle. (I didn’t picture this step yet again because I trust you’ve got it down by now.) 🙂
After you’ve squeezed out all the whey, stretch and knead the cheese a few times, like so. At this time, knead in the salt so that the cheese has awesome flavor (as opposed to zero flavor… which is what you’ll get if you leave it out.) You can also knead in other spices/herbs if you want to. Garlic, basil, sundried tomatoes, Italian seasoning, all would be delicious!
Then roll the cheese under itself until it forms a neat ball.
And submerge it in ice water until it is completely cool. (If you are not eating this right away, store it submerged in water or oil in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it.)
And that’s it! It is now ready to serve!
And check this out! From that whole gallon of milk… this is how much whey we extracted from the curds to use as a protein supplement this week! I seriously can’t believe this much was left over.
And now… feast your eyes upon THIS!
This stuff is DIVINE served with pesto and garden tomatoes (with a drizzle of Balsamic vinegar.) Out of this world! I especially love the taste and texture of it melted. We threw a few slices on a homemade baguette and toasted them up under the broiler with a sprinkle of Italian seasoning. To-die-for!
And I can’t wait to try this stuff in homemade calzones! That is what Chris wants for his birthday meal… but let’s be honest, it’ll be just as much MY gift as his. Yum Yum and Yum!
And did I mention how much more affordable this is than store-bought mozzarella? I did? Well let me mention that again. This cost me maybe $4 to make… and for that four dollars we got a scrumptious hunk of cheese and almost a GALLON of whey protein to drink all week. (Protein shakes can cost anywhere from $1-$3 for just a 12 oz bottle!)