Lately, my life has been about cheese. Pounds and pounds of cheese. With gallons to spare, mozzarella has become one of my favorite ways to use up the excess milk that seems to multiply overnight.
And, it seems that pudding for breakfast, lunch, and dinner isn't an acceptable form of excess milk usage in the United States of America.
Since I do not have a cheese press (yet!), I researched recipes for soft cheeses before settling on mozzarella. Then I had to sift through all of those recipes for one that made sense to me.
After a couple hours of internet use and a postponement of a history lesson I needed to teach, I finally found the one. Like a light shining from up above, my eyes went to the DVD stand and landed on a copy of Homestead Blessings: Dairy Delights. The West ladies know how to make cheese. And ice cream. And butter. While smiling.
And they don't have any fancy-schmancy gadgets to do it.
Mozzarella is a very easy cheese to make. If you have a source of fresh milk, use it. But if you don't, don't fret. You can still make mozzie using store-bought milk! Just be sure to not use ultra-pasteurized or high-heat pasteurized milk, as all the "good stuff" has been killed.
The Ingredients~2 gallons of cold milk (Use raw, whole or 2 %)
*liquid rennet (see below)
The Process~Pour milk into a large pot. Mix together 2-1/2 t. of citric acid (which can be found in any health food section or sprouting section of a store) with 1/4 cup filtered water until citric acid is dissolved. Pour citric acid into the milk and stir with a long-handled wooden spoon for about 2 minutes.
Begin to heat milk on medium low to 88*F, stirring gently. This could take up to 20 minutes.
Use a dairy or digital thermometer to determine the temperature. (Stir well before reading so the heat will be evenly distributed throughout the milk.)
Once 88*F. has been reached, turn off the stove.
Mix 1/8 t. liquid rennet with 1/4 cup water. Add the rennet solution to the warmed milk, stirring for 15-20 seconds. Set a timer for 30 minutes.
Then, walk away. Seriously. Take a shower. Call your mom. Sneak into your secret chocolate stash, or read a book. Just don't come back and stir the pot. You'll have to trust me on this one. After 30 minutes, the milk should look like a large pot of tofu. But better.
Using a long knife, cut through the curd (all the way down) into 1-inch strips. After that is done, do the same crossways. Like this: #
Let this sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, turn the burner on to medium. Stir, without mixing, to keep the curds from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Put your spoon straight down into the curds and lift up.
Once the curds have reached 108*F. (this won't take long since they are already warm), turn off the heat. Let the solution sit for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Drain the curds in a colander for 15 minutes. My picture didn't turn out, but I set the colander in a large bowl and drained the whey into that for my pigs. They LOVE the whey! (Chickens love it too!) While the cheese is draining, mix 1/2 gallon of water with 1/2 cup of fine sea salt and heat to boiling. You can use the same pot that the cheese was in without washing it.
At the end of 15 minutes, cut the cheese (which resembles a big, hot blob of goo) into strips.
Dump the strips into a large bowl and add half of the boiling saltwater. Stir with wooden forks or spoons for about 10 minutes. After 5, drain the water off and add the other half of the saltwater. This is the one time where playing with your food is a good thing, so stretch, pull, tug, and swirl away.
Drain the cheese into the colander to start kneading it. It will be extremely hot, so use the wooden forks/spoons until cool enough to handle. This will get all the water out of the cheese.
As soon as you're able, turn the cheese out onto a counter/cutting board and knead by hand. You will want to stretch and pull this to allow any water bubbles to escape. I fold the cheese over and into itself, kind of like shaping loaves of bread. Remember, that as the cheese cools, it will become more difficult to shape the cheese, so work quickly. When I'm done, I place the still-warm cheese into a Pyrex loaf pan and cover it with a piece of wax paper and a lid.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Not that cheese has EVER lasted more than 2 days in our house.☺
*Rennet can be found in most health food stores or online. You can use either the calf rennet, made from the lining of a calf's stomach (ew.) or vegetable rennet, which is made from a type of mold.
This post is linked to the Homestead Barn Hop, The Farmgirl Blog Fest, and Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop.