Cheesemaking 101 - Homemade Mozzarella
Everyone knows that wine and cheese go together, but I discovered recently that wine and cheese making do not. My first couple of attempts at homemade mozzarella did not go well. First time I overheated the milk, next time I added the rennet and the citric acid in wrong order, wine was involved on both occasions. My third (sober) attempt at making my own mozzarella was successful, thank goodness.
Homemade mozzarella is a little more complicated than making your own fresh ricotta cheese, but still worth the effort. It does require a couple of ingredients which can be hard to find, so I've listed some sources at the end of the post.
Ricotta is ridiculously simple; just heat the milk, add acid to curdle, drain the whey, you're done. Where have you been all my life? I can make my own ricotta for less than half the price of buying it at the store. This really appeals to my frugal nature.
Homemade mozzarella involves a few additional steps. First, you heat the milk, add acid to curdle, add rennet and let rest, cut the gelled curd, reheat, drain the whey, and reheat the curd to form into balls. There's even some stretching involved, so a clear head is advisable.
These are the tools you'll need:
- Large pot with lid
- Slotted Spoon
- Large knife
- 2 large bowls
- rubber gloves
To make 300 grams of cheese you will need:
- 2 liters of whole milk
- 1 ml calcium chloride
- 1 teaspoon citric acid dissolved in 1/8 cup distilled water
- 1 tablet of rennet dissolved in 1/8 cup distilled water
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
Dissolve the citric acid in the distilled water in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, dissolve the rennet tablet in distilled water. Add the cold milk to your pot and stir in the calcium chloride and sea salt. Add the dissolved citric acid and stir. Put the pot on the stove over med/high heat and stir constantly until the milk reaches 32C.
Once the milk has come to temperature, remove from heat, and stir in the dissolved rennet. Cover the pot and let rest for about half an hour. This will cause the curds to sort of gel. You should be able to take your knife and slice cleanly through the layer of gelled curd. Use your knife through the layer of curd to slice it into small cubes, about an inch square.
Now, put the pot back on the stove over med heat and bring the mixture up to 42C while stirring very gently. Don't overheat the mixture! When the curds reach 42C they will become firmer to the touch and spring back a bit if you pinch a piece.
Using your colander lined with a couple of layers of cheesecloth, drain the whey from the curd. Be sure and save the whey.
Next, you'll be forming the balls of mozzarella out of the drained curd. This involves heating it and lightly stretching it and forming it into the size ball you would prefer.
Prepare a bowl of salt water using 200 grams of salt dissolved in 2 liters of cold water. Add about a dozen ice cubes to salt water. Prepare a second bowl of hot water (no salt) that has been heated to 70C.
To make bocconcini, take a small piece of the drained curd and place it on your slotted spoon. Lower the spoon into the hot water bowl, and let the curds soften, it should look like its melting. Lift out of the hot water, and wearing rubber gloves, use your hands to stretch the curd. Few stretches and it will become more silky, form it into a ball, and drop into the iced salt water. Leave the finished balls in the ice water for at least 10 minutes to cool. You may find that you need to reheat the hot water after making a few bocconcini balls, if the curds aren't melting after a minute or so, the water isn't hot enough. Alternatively, you use the microwave for this step. This post on The Kitchn tells you how.
You can form the mozzarella into larger balls, or do as I have here, and make little bocconcini. It's totally up to you. I find the smaller bits of hot curd easier to manage when stretching and forming the balls. It does take longer to make a bunch of smaller bocconcini than it would to make one big mozzarella ball, but I found I had more control over the texture when dealing with smaller amounts. Even with the gloves, the curds are hot on the hands, so be careful. The finished cheese should be stored submerged in a container of the reserved whey in the fridge. Making cheese always results in a lot of whey, here are some ways you can use it.
For a little extra pizazz, you can marinate the bocconcini in some olive oil and a few fresh herbs from the garden. Forever the food stylist, I can't resist dressing up the hero. Other than visual appeal, the marinade adds a lot of flavour to this very mild cheese. Use any combination of aromatics that appeals to you; fresh herbs, garlic, citrus zest, dried chilies, spices, go wild. I'm adding two sprigs of rosemary, 4 sprigs lemon thyme, one clove of garlic, and a pinch of dried chili flakes to 12 bocconcini balls and covering with olive oil (about 1/2 cup). Let the mixture marinate overnight to develop the flavours, and bring to room temperature before serving. It will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, but it never lasts long around here.
Mad Millie's sells great starter kits with everything you'll need other than the milk, great for beginners. That's how I got started, a Mad Millie Italian Cheese Kit.