Y’all, I can’t stop. This cheese, it consumes me (and I it, hehe).
Up today: No-Hands Mozzarella!
I’ve made mozzarella before, and it’s fast (only 30 minutes), but it involves several steps, lots of dirty dishes, whey splashes galore, and — this is the worst part — plunging your hands in painfully hot liquid. Add in this crazy hot humid weather, and making homemade mozzarella is like installing a sauna in the main part of your house: stupid.
But homemade mozzarella is easy to make! It freezes well! It’s cheap! It goes with everything! I need my mozzarellaaaaaaaa!
milk “jello” — right around the 100-degree mark
(though that thick band of whey means I probably heated it a bit higher than I should have)
So when I happened upon a video of an Italian dude making mozzarella by stirring the curd with a long wooden paddle, not his hands, I got excited. Just lots of stirring, extra hot water, and then — BAM — mozzarella, could it be?
I tried it, but nope. It just didn’t stretch properly.
But THEN I saw that Kate (the quark lady) had recently done a post updating her mozzarella method and, lo and behold, she’d switched from hand-stretching to spoon-stretching (à la the Italian cheesemaker in the video)! To stretch the cheese, she just lifted it out of the whey with the spoon and let gravity do the work. The part I’d been missing, I surmised, was that I hadn’t heated the whey enough.
So I made it again and . . . IT WORKS.
Kate’s new method is so relaxing and easy and efficient and — most importantly — painless. No more scorched hands!
my niece wanted a lesson
Once the cheese is sufficiently smooth (we’re aiming for “good enough,” Kate says), she just dumps the squishy soft mass into a square container (the easier to grate it, my dears!) and pops it into the fridge. Or freezer, since it only holds a few days in the fridge.
Have I mentioned how well it freezes?
I’ve been trying to make a batch of mozzarella each week. Sometimes I grate it prior to freezing, other times I wrap a whole chunk in plastic and then bag it, and yet other times I vacuum seal it.
Course, if you want to shape the cheese into ropes and then drop them in ice water to set (though they will, once removed from the water, slump a bit), feel free!
Mozzarella is short on flavor (but long on stretch, pun intended) so always make sure to salt it prior to eating it fresh, or while cooking with it. Most recently, I’ve been putting it on pizza (of course), tossing it into stirfries, eating fresh with slices of tomato, and sticking it in grilled cheese.
Speaking of grilled cheese, yesterday I made a grilled cheese using fresh mozzarella and quark and I about fell out of my seat it was so delicious.
The quark added a gentle creamy tang and the mozzarella the incredible stretchy gooiness, and goodness gracious, oh boy, WOW.
Talk about fireworks!
Adapted from Kate’s blog, Venison for Dinner.
Since I find it easier to spoon-stretch a larger amount of curd, I usually make my mozzarella with at least 2 gallons of milk.
(Update: I just rewatched the video of that Italian guy making mozzarella. Maybe next time I should try hanging the curd to drain, crumbling it, stirring in salt, and then adding it back into the pot of hot, reserved whey? Might make a more flavorful cheese….)
2 gallons milk
3 teaspoons citric acid dissolved in ½ cup cool water
½ teaspoon rennet in ¼ cup cool water
½ cup non-iodized salt
Heat the milk to 55 degree and gently stir in the citric acid. Continue heating the milk until it’s about 85 degrees, and then gently stir in the diluted rennet. Continue heating on low for another couple minutes — no stirring — until it’s about 95 – 100 degrees.
Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. At this point, the milk should be a solid block of curd — think milk jello — with a thin ring of whey around the edge. Make sure the curd is sufficiently set by sticking a table knife (or your finger) in at a 45-degree angle and then lifting up; the curd should split cleanly.
Stir the curds to break them up into small pieces. Let sit for several minutes — the curds should sink. Remove 2-3 quarts of whey.
Place over medium-high heat, add the salt, and heat to 130-140 degrees, stirring every couple minutes. Right around 120 degrees, the curds should start clumping together. Once they’ve pulled together, you can start the stretching process. (The hotter the whey, the easier this is, so feel free to wait until 135 degrees or so.)
Using a sturdy spoon (I use one that my brother hand-carved), lift the curd out of the whey and hold, watching as the curd slowly stretches/falls back into the pot. Repeat this lifting and stretching process 10-20 times. At first, the curd will look dry and clumpy, but as it heats, it will soften and stretch. Once it’s satiny and smooth, lift it into a plastic container and pop it in the fridge.
Use fresh within a few days (don’t forget to salt it!), or (grate and) freeze it for later.