Part of living a simple, fulfilling life is the acquisition of skills rather than the acquisition of stuff. The sense of accomplishment you get from demonstrating the ability to do is far greater than that received from demonstrating the ability to shop.
One of the skills I decided to cultivate was the ability to make my own cheese. From simple cheeses like Quark and Feta to complex flavours like Blue cheeses, you can learn to make them all at home. One of the first cheeses I ever made was Mozzarella because it was fast and easy, taking only about 30 minutes.
The kids will love getting involved in this one, and it will make pizza night at your house even better with this amazing stretchy homemade Mozzarella cheese.
- Four litres of full cream milk
- ⅛ teaspoon of calcium chloride diluted in ¼ cup of non-chlorinated water
- 1 ½ teaspoons of citric acid powder diluted in ¼ cup of non-chlorinated water
- ¼ teaspoon liquid rennet diluted in ¼ cup of non-chlorinated water
- One teaspoon of cheese salt
- Stainless steel pot to place your milk in
- Dairy thermometer
- Stainless steel perforated spoon
- Stainless steel curd knife
- Microwave-safe glass bowl (for the microwave method)
- Rubber gloves (optional)
- Place your milk into a large stainless steel pot, add calcium chloride, and mix in well.
- Stir in your citric acid solution.
- Using a low setting on your stove, gently heat your milk to 32°C, using direct heat. As the milk heats up, it will start to curdle slightly. Stir gently now and then while the milk heats through.
- Once your milk has reached 32°C, remove your pot from the heat and add the rennet solution, stirring gently but thoroughly, in an up and down motion to ensure that the rennet solution is evenly distributed throughout your milk mixture for 30 seconds and no more. Allow your milk to set for five minutes.
- Check for a clean break. If the curd is not firm enough, leave for another five minutes and check again. Be patient and wait for a clean break.
- Once the curd is firm enough and gives a clean break, cut the curd into one to one-and-a-half centimetre cubes.
- Place the pot back on the stove and gently heat your curds to 40°C, stirring gently to keep the curds from matting together. Once you have reached 40°C, remove the pot from the heat and continue to stir for an additional two minutes. The longer you stir, the firmer your final cheese will be.
Now you can choose to use one of two heating methods; the Microwave Method or the Water Bath Method.
- Scoop the curds out of the whey using your perforated spoon and into a microwave-safe bowl.
- Gently press the curds with your hands and pour off as much excess whey as you can.
- Microwave the curds on high for one minute and then again press out and drain off any additional excess whey. The cheese should begin to mass together and become slightly sticky. While still in the bowl, fold the cheese over itself and press like you are beginning to knead bread. It will become smooth and shiny and form into one piece.
- As soon as the curd starts to cool, place the curd back into the microwave and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and drain off any remaining whey. On a glass or smooth, food-grade plastic cutting board, placed on a draining area near your sink, knead the cheese like bread again until it begins to cool. The cheese should be hot this time, and you may need to wear rubber gloves. Some additional whey will drain off while you are kneading the cheese.
- Microwave again for 30 seconds. Knead again until the cheese is smooth and shiny. Test your cheese for stretch by pulling it slowly apart. If it stretches well and does not break, it is ready. If it still does not stretch, return your cheese to the bowl and microwave it again for 30 seconds. Once the cheese has reached a high enough temperature and has been kneaded sufficiently, it will stretch without breaking and will be ready to salt. If the cheese does not stretch, microwave it again for an additional 30 seconds. Note that the cheese will not stretch properly if it is below 58°C. You may continue to heat and knead your Mozzarella to get a firmer cheese; however, over-kneading will result in a very firm and almost rubbery cheese.
- Microwave and then knead for a final time; only this time, work in your salt as you knead.
- When your cheese is finished, make it into two balls and drop them into cold, non-chlorinated water to cool for a few minutes. Alternatively, try eating some right away while it is still hot for a real treat.
Water Bath Method
Note: With this method, your hands need to go into the hot whey; using heavy rubber gloves is highly recommended.
- Scoop the curds into a bowl using a perforated spoon, retaining the whey in the pot for further use.
- Press the curds with your hands and drain as much excess whey as you can back into the pot. Gently fold the cheese as you go, expelling additional whey. Do this several times.
- Heat the whey remaining in the pot to 85°C. Place your curds into a small colander and then place your curds while still in the colander into the pot of 85°C whey for five to seven minutes.
- While still in the hot whey, fold your cheese over itself several times like you are beginning to knead until it starts to feel elastic and stretchy.
- Remove the cheese from the hot whey and place it on a glass or smooth, food-grade plastic cutting board, placed on a draining area near your sink, and knead the cheese like bread again until it begins to cool.
- Return your cheese to the hot whey to reheat, and continue to work the cheese with your hands. Again remove the cheese from the whey and knead it again on the cutting board.
- Test your cheese for stretch by pulling it slowly apart. If it stretches well and does not break, it is ready. If it still does not stretch, return your cheese to the hot whey and continue to work your cheese.
- Once the cheese is stretchy, remove it from the hot whey, and while the cheese is still hot, quickly knead in your cheese salt. This must be done while the cheese is still hot, as it will not stretch once it drops below 58°C.
- When your cheese is finished, make it into two balls and drop them into cold non-chlorinated water to cool for a few minutes. Alternatively, try eating some right away while it is still hot for a real treat.
This cheese can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to one week or in the freezer for one month.
I like to use my mozzarella fresh immediately after making it. Add it to pizza, cut it up into a salad or eat it hot right off the plate.
This recipe has been taken from my book. Home Cheese Making in Australia is now in its second edition with even more recipes.
I hope this post empowers you to give cheese-making a go. It is a wonderful skill to have, making your life richer, more independent, and more sustainable. It also tastes better than mass-produced, store-bought Mozzarella and saves you money while allowing you to eat food knowing exactly what is in it.
As always, live well.