Homemade mozzarella is really easy to make. There are certain steps than can cause success or failure. The recipe I use comes from Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll. This is a great book for beginners. I make a few changes, and as you become more comfortable making this cheese you too may want to make your own changes. Let’s start with what you’ll need:
Milk - I purchase whole pastuerized, non-homogenized fresh, local milk. Unless you have your own cow that you milk yourself and are certain Betsy will give you uncontaminated milk, then go for the pasteuized milk. Pasteurization is when milk is heated to kill any potentially dangerous bacteria, fungus or virus (pathogens). Just an FYI - pastueurization does not kill all pathogens so there is still a very small chance something yucky could get through.
Homogenization is when the milk is forced through very tiny tubes in order to change the molecular structure so the milk won’t seperate. Back in the old days, before homogenization, you could see a layer of cream on top of the milk. Some "smart" person in marketing decided that didn’t look appealing so homogenzation began. Homogenization does also help prolong the shelf-life of milk as well.
Ultra-pasteurization is when the milk is heated at even higher temperatures to prolong the shelf life. It does kill more pathogens than just pasteurized. Unfortunately, it also damages the protein structure and destroys enzymes, key players in cheese making. If you use this milk to make cheese you will get something the consistency of ricotta.
You should research for yourself homogenization, pasteurization and ultra-pasteurization if you are going to start making cheese. Safety first.
Here are some other things you’ll need to get started:
Citric acid, rennet, flaked salt, measuring cup, large stock pot, cheesecloth, colander, slotted spoon, microwave proof 2 qt. bowl, thermometer, lipase powder is optional. Lipase gives you a stronger flavor, I really like using it unless I plan to smoke the cheese (which I am in this case) so I didn’t use any, but I do highly recommend it for non-smoked mozzarella.
Start by measuring 1 and a half level teaspoons citric acid and add to a half a cup of cool water. Set aside. I use bottled water. Do not use chlorinated tap water.
Then measure 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet and add to 1/4 cup water (bottled water here also). Set aside.
Heat milk to 55F and while stirring add the citric acid solution and mix thoroughly.
Heat the milk to 90F over medium/low heat. This takes a little while to reach 90F so be patient. The milk will start to curdle.
When the milk reaches 90F gently stir in the rennet mixture using an up and down motion just until rennet is mixed in and stop, you will notice it has started to thicken up.
Bring temp up to between 100-105F and turn off the heat. You should see the curds begin to pull away from the sides of the pot. This may take up to 5 minutes.
Once the curds have pulled away, and the whey looks clear, you are ready to cut the curd. Using a long knife or spatula, cut the curds gently in approx. 2 inch chunks (this step is not necessary, but it can make it easier to scoop out the curds).
Scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth. Then place into a 2-qt. microwavable bowl. Press the curds gently and pour of excess whey.
Microwave the curds on high for 1 minute, drain off excess whey, knead the curds like you would bread, folding it over on itself several times.
Microwave again for 35 seconds, drain off whey, knead.
Microwave one more time for 35 seconds, drain, add 1 teaspoons flaked salt (flaked dissolves better than kosher or sea salt, but any fine salt will work) knead and work the cheese by stretching, kneading, folding. If the cheese tears apart you may have to heat it again, it is important to work fast. You are looking for your cheese to be smooth and elastic.
Here is where you have some options. I chose to form my cheese in a plastic container and refrigerate so I can smoke it later. You can form it into small balls and eat warm (very yummy!) or place it in an icewater bath for 30 minutes to bring down the temp, this also provides a very smooth and silky center. Something else I like to do if I am not planning on smoking is to form into small balls and place back in the cooled whey and chill. This is very flavorful and works well to use for salads.
One more thing, the whey is very high in protein and can be used in baking, protein shakes, or anything else you may want to substitute water or even milk for. I have frozen it before to use in protein smoothies, works well.
Please note that there are many different recipes and ways of making mozzarella cheese. Don’t be afraid to experiment and most of all have fun!!