Almost every Spring I read Barbara Kingslover’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. If you are unfamiliar with the book, Barbara and her family decided to eat locally and seasonally for one full year by growing their own vegetables and fruits, preserving, freezing, and utilizing their local resources. The only things they made exceptions for were olive oil, spices, and the fact that the wheat for their flour was not grown in their county (but it was milled there!). I love to read it because it is so inspiring, and it has some great seasonal recipes. Both her oldest daughter and husband also wrote for the book: Camille provided the recipes and related commentary, and Steven supplied background information on various food issues. I have always wanted to try making cheese, and the mozzarella recipe they offer (from Ricki Carroll of Home Cheese Making) seemed really simple for a cheese novice!
I decided that for my recipe demo this week I would try my hand at their 30-Minutes Mozzarella recipe. I have never made cheese before, and this seemed like a good place to start. I have talked to a couple of shoppers who make mozzarella regularly, and they also said how simple it was. I figured I was up to the challenge.
I armed myself with the recipe, and got to shopping. We only carry one kind of rennet, and we have citric acid in bulk, so those were no-brainers. I waffled back and forth between which local milk to use (isn’t it great that we have a choice!), and settled on the Fresh Breeze Organic 2%, mostly because it is the organic option and I always try to go that route.
After I had made what turned out to be my first batch, I couldn’t figure out why the milk was not curdling like it was supposed to. I assumed it had something to do with the temperature of the milk when I added the citric acid (the recipe indicated to add it at 55 degrees, and it heated up a lot faster than I thought it would and I ended up adding it at 66 degrees), so I went and bought another gallon and tried it again.
The same thing happened! I got online and started to look and see which of my ingredients was the culprit, because I had followed the recipe to a tee this time. I finally figured out that the Junket rennet was the issue – the recipe called for liquid rennet, and we only carry the Junket tablets at the Co-op, so that is what I used. I did do a little sleuthing before starting and found many recipes that used tablets that were very similar to the recipe I was using, so I figured I was all good. I wasn’t all good. Apparently when you use the Junket, you have to let the milk sit for 1-2 hours to form a “clean break“, which coincidentally was turning my 30 minute cheese into four-hour cheese!
I realized that I shouldn’t sample the cheese at this point because it was taking way too long and I wasn’t satisfied with the rennet that was available to me (I will be looking into the Co-op carrying a more-cheese making friendly rennet option!), but I was still going to finish the cheese!
After achieving what I supposed was a close-enough clean break, I continued with the process. I spooned out the curd with a slotted spoon, but that proved to be very time-consuming as well, so I got a very fine metal colander and unceremoniously dumped the contents of the pot into it. The above photo is what I was left with. I know that I lost a decent amount of usable curd by doing it this way, but I just had to finish what I started and figured that as long as I had some cheese to try at the end, I didn’t care how much I lost!
After collecting my curd, I dumped it into a glass dish and stuck it in the microwave for one minute. I squeezed and kneaded the curd briefly and poured out the whey that was extracted, then microwaved it again for about 25 more seconds. By this time, I knew I was actually going to get some cheese out my experiment, so I was getting excited!
At this point I needed to add some salt and stretch the cheese until it was like taffy (shiny, smooth, and rope-like). This happened very quickly. All of a sudden I had cheese! I had about the amount you would buy pre-made in the specialty cheese section, but doggone it, I had made this all by myself and was pretty happy (so happy I forgot to take a photo of the little mozza balls I formed with the finished product!).
If you are adventurous, I do recommend trying this recipe (although I hate to say this, but try to find some liquid rennet to use unless you have some time on your hands! Like I said earlier, I’ll see what I can do to get some cheese-making rennet on the shelves at the Co-op!). I’m definitely not going to give up myself – once I master this, I really would love to try my hand at making some cheddar!
Fresh Mozzarella PDF
FYI – I’m still working on a GF chocolate butter cake recipe…once I’m happy I’ll let everyone know!
Also, here is the recipe that I ended up demoing yesterday (with fresh mozzarella from the specialty cheese case!). It is a super simple recipe that people loved sampling (I asked one young shopper what she thought, and she said it was delicious and promptly brought her father and brother over to try it!). Enjoy! Bocconcini and Tomato Salad PDF