Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mozzarela My Way

Again, the refrigerator was filled with milk, so it was cheese making time. This time I decided to make mozzarella, and as you can see by the title above - it is a recipe I have tweaked a bit from a few recipes I combined to fit our family tastes and my time. 

To start off, I partially skim the cream off the cream from my milk to get 8 gallons of partially skimmed milk.

Next, after sanitizing my cheese vat, the thermometer, and stirring ladle, I pour all 8 gallons of milk into the vat and set it to medium-high heat on my largest burner.  Until the milk is heated to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, I stir the milk every couple of minutes while checking the temperature.

When the milk gets to 90 degrees.  Turn off the heat and sprinkle 2 teaspoons of thermophilic culture over the top of the milk.  I get my cultures, rennet, and cheese making supplies from and have found his prices to be spot on competitive.  He also has great turn around on products and wonderful customer service.

After the culture has moistened for a minute or two, I use the ladle to draw down the culture with up and down motions about 20 times to make sure it is fully incorporated into the milk.

For this recipe, I let the culture sit in the milk for 45 minutes with the cover on to maintain the 90 degrees in the milk.  Then stir the milk again and add in a 2 cups of water that has been mixed with 2 teaspoons of rennet.  I use a vegetarian rennet liquid because it works well for me every time.  Make sure to stir the rennet into the cultured milk really well, just like the culture had been stirred in, with about 20 up and down strokes, otherwise the cheese will not set properly.

Now cover the pot again and it sit for 1 hour, maintaining the 90 degree temperature.  Just a note on maintaining temperature.  If you are making a small batch of cheese you will not be able to just turn off the heat and expect your cheese to maintain the same temperature unless your room is 90 degrees also.  But if you make a large batch with 8 gallons, it takes a long time for that heat to disburse.  I have found that making larger batches is just easier for me since I have so much milk on hand and temperature maintenance then is not a problem.

After 1 hour, your cheese should have set and it should look like milk jello.  

With a sanitized knife, I then cut the curd into pieces.  And then let sit for 5 minutes more so the cubes harden up a bit more before I start stirring - this is the key to getting good curds.

Next, the heat goes on at medium and the curds are slowly heated while being stirred until they reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

The curds are then let to settle while I sanitize the items I need to remove the curds and press them.

Now, with very clean hands, I scoop the curds out of the whey and put them into a stainer that has been sanitized.

Next, I dump the entire batch of curds into a sanitized pot, cover, and I let sit for 2 to 3 hours in a warm place.

At this time, you have a couple of options for using your whey.  Here I have taken a gallon out for a friend who also mixes whey with grains to feed her chickens and a smaller container for myself to use for lacto-fermenting.  Some I poured over grains for our chickens, but with still half the whey still left after all of those appointments, I put the cover on the pot and let it ripen until evening when I will make a batch of whey ricotta.

Now, back to the cheese.  After 2 hours, I start to check the ph of the whey in that the curds release.  I try to let the cheese sit until it shows a low "5" ph range.

Next, I cut the curd into 4 large pieces and then 4 times over I take each of those pieces through the following process:

First, I cut the piece into smaller pieces within a microwavable glass container.  Then I microwave the cheese for 1 minute.

Then with heat resistant gloves, I knead the cheese into a ball, releasing some of the extra whey.  

I put the whole thing back into the microwave for 45 seconds, and then knead the cheese again.  Buy this time the cheese will be hot enough to stretch into whatever shape you want it.

See how shiny it gets.

Now, because my family loves to use mozzarella on pizza, I want my cheese a bit more hard and easy to grate, so I put the ball into an ice brine (salted water mixed with ice) for about an hour. If you prefer fresh mozzarella you will want to skip this step and instead knead in 1 Tablespoon of salt per batch that you knead.

After soaking, I take the cheese out, place it on a sanitized mat and put in the refrigerator for a few hours to dry on each side.  Then you can either shred the cheese or just cut it - freeze or use it up quick. (This type of cheese does not keep long in the frig, but then again how long will it really last with five hungry people in the house?)

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