By Kellene Bishop
Frequently I’ve written on this blog as to how simple it is to make delightful dairy indulgences such as yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, ice cream, cream cheese and other cheeses. So today I’ve decided to share with you just one of the many scrumptious dishes you can make—preferably from whole milk. After trying this yourself you might catch the same bug that pesters me—the one which entices me to move to big, green pastures where I can drink all of the raw milk I want, enjoy fresh eggs, and thick slices of ham knowing completely what Frankenstein-ian chemical additives are lurking behind my meals.
To start with, yes, whole milk is preferred if you’re going to make cheese. However you certainly CAN make this cheese recipe from powdered milk (just follow the manufacturer instructions to make yourself a gallon of milk). Yay! Mozzarella and ricotta are the simplest to make. The quality of your milk will definitely determine the quality of your cheese and the ease in which you make it. Frankly, I do not make cheese with pasteurized milk. I only use raw milk, but for some of you that won’t be possible. The reason being is that ultrapasteurized milk will make my curds too small and they will not come together. Besides, dairy fat is NOT one of the bad guys that the USDA would have us believe. For more information on that topic I strongly recommend reading “The Untold Story of Milk” by Ron Schmid. Suffice it to say that I’ve never had a better lasagna or stuffed manicotti than the ones made with homemade ricotta just days previously. The mozzarella, though, only takes 30 minutes to conjure so I’m going to start you off with that recipe today.
Another key ingredient for cheese is the rennet. I keep seeing it off and on in my grocery stores but for some reason I don’t see it consistently. So when I do see it, I’ve been good to purchase it. It usually comes in a tablet or a liquid form. Unfortunately, it’s not one of the ingredients for which I’ve ever seen a coupon. So full price it is. Grrr… The firmer you want your cheese, the more rennet you’ll want to use. You may read occasionally of people searching for “vegetarian rennet.” This is because rennet is actually obtained from inside a cow as it’s the enzymes in the fourth stomach of a cow that causes the dairy to curdle. These enzymes are either extracted in a liquid form or the stomach is dried and tablets are formed. You may want to remember this if you ever find yourself “living the dream” so that you don’t miss this valuable part of the cow. For the vegetarian readers, there are a number of herbs which have similar coagulating and curdling qualities as rennet. But I find that this cheese is bitter over the long run. There is also synthetically derived rennet that’s also kosher which vegetarians can use.
Lipase is another ingredient found in a lot of soft cheese recipes. (it’s in a powdered form) When you use lipase you’ll need more rennet to give you a firmer cheese than you would without the lipase. Another great tool you’ll need for this and other great dairy creations is some citric acid. You can find places to purchase it in bulk to last you for a long time. (Citric acid is also a great asset for canning fruit.) I also found several recipes that call for cheese salt. I found cheese salt to be a bit challenging to purchase unless I was willing to pay and arm and a leg for it. So I instead use RealSalt without any problems. Salt actually helps the curds to shrink so that the whey is drained. This also helps inhibit the development of harmful bacteria. The only salt you definitely don’t want to use is iodized salt as it completely ruins the aging process that makes cheese taste SO great.
Lastly, one of the next important tools you’ll need is some rather thick rubber gloves, a steel slotted spoon, a stainless steel or glass pot that can hold 1 to 3 gallons of liquid. One other thing to remember when you’re making cheese is to NOT use treated water. You don’t want the chlorine in the water. It interferes with the rennet. When you allow the lipase to dissolve in the water, you’ll want it to sit for about 20 minutes to give the cheese great flavor. With these rules in mind you’re now ready to follow the recipe. This is for a quick mozzarella. It takes less than 30 minutes to make. Pretty impressive when you can serve your guests a fabulous Italian dinner and share with them that you made the cheese just before dinner. *grin*
30 Minute Homemade Mozzarella Cheese
¼ cup of cool water
Dissolve the citric acid in the cool water
1 gallon of whole milk (yes, you can use pasteurized, but it’s not my personal preference)
1/8 t. lipase powder, also dissolved in ¼ cup of cool water.
¼ t. liquid rennet (or ¼ rennet tablet diluted in ¼ cup of cool water)
¼ cup of cheese salt (optional)
Yields ¾ to 1 pound of cheese
Step one: Heat the milk on the stove to 55 º F on low heat, stirring occasionally. While you’re stirring add the citric acid solution and mix thoroughly; followed by the lipase.
Step two: Increase the heat of the milk to 88º F on medium low heat. This is when your milk will start to curdle.
Step three: Slowly mix the diluted rennet to the milk, but instead of stirring round and round like you’re accustomed to, stir with a plunging motion. Continue heating until the temperature reaches 100-105º F.
Step four: Your curds will start pulling away from the sides of the pot as you’ve increased the heat and will look shiny and smooth. The liquid that’s left behind, called whey, should appear clear instead of milky. If it’s not clear quite yet, just give it a little bit more time. When you see the curds pulling away they are actually ready to scoop out. Turn off the heat and remove the pan. Set the curds aside.
Step five: Once you’ve got all of the curds from the milk mixture, put on rubber gloves and squeeze out all of the whey you can from the curds. Pour the whey into the pot with the other whey. Heat the whey to 175º F. Once the heat is achieved add ¼ cup of cheese salt to the hot whey mixture and stir to blend completely.
Finishing Step: Shape the set aside curd into a ball 2-4 inches in diameter. One at a time you’ll place a ball of the curds in the slotted spoon and then dip the ball in the hot whey for about 6-10 seconds. Knead the curd into a ball with spoons in-between each dip. You’ll repeat this process until the balls are really smooth. Once you see the curd become elastic-like, pull it a bit. It should stretch. If it breaks, then it needs to be reheated. You’ll repeat the process several times until the curd is smooth and pliable. You can make cheese logs instead of balls if you’d like and you can eat this while it’s nice and warm, too, or you can place the balls in a bowl of cold water for about a half hour if you’d prefer them to be cold and smooth in texture.
Enjoy and indulge!
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