Seeing as February is almost over, I should probably get around to posting about this month’s cheese recipe from Another Year Without Groceries. This time Rachel challenged us to Work With Rennet in the form of mozzarella.
What the hell is rennet, you ask? It is the reason I make a profoundly sad face when watching you bastards enjoy Manchengo, Parmesan and a variety of other cheeses with an emotional fervor. Rennet is an enzyme that usually comes from the lining of calves’ stomachs and helps with the cheese-making process. It is also the source of extreme awkwardness when, as a vegetarian, I have to ask about the enzymes in the cheese at restaurants. The usual response is:
“Let me check on that…”
And then they spit in my salad.
I was quite pleased to find vegetarian (plant-based) rennet at my local overpriced-wannabe-dirty-hippie market. Let the mozzarella making commence!
Or so I thought:
Though delicious, this is clearly not mozzarella. After chatting with Rachel, I think I made the mistake of stirring too often during a critical step.
So, another gallon of milk later, I corrected the error and was the proud parent of this one pound beauty:
Yield: About a pound of mozzarella and 1-ish cups of ricotta
- 1 gallon whole milk (do not use ultra-pasteurized)
- 1 1/2 tsp citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup filtered water
- 4 drops liquid rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup filtered water
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- Pour the milk and dissolved citric acid in an enormous pot over low heat until it reaches 90°F/32°C. Remove pot from heat.
- Add dissolved rennet and give a quick stir to incorporate. I think this is where I went wrong with my first batch. I stirred with some frequency and created ricotta. Though a trusted source says it’s perfectly fine to stir like a crazy person. Let me know what you decide to do. Cover pot and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Gently try to pull the curd away from the side of the pan. If you cannot do this, cover and let sit for another 5 minutes. If you can, using a sharp knife, plunge knife through the curd and cut into 1-inch squares (a good photo of this step here).
- Return pot to stove and heat the curd over low heat until it reaches 105°F/40°C. While this is heating, fill a large mixing bowl with ice water, place a colander in the sink lined with a food-grade cheese cloth and start your tea kettle.
- When curd has reached 105°F/40°C, remove from heat and carefully scoop out curd with slotted spoon. Place in cheesecloth-lined colander. Leave whey (clear fluid with some cheesy bits) in the pot for now.
- Gently press excess whey from curd in the colander. Be gentle. Then place into a large mixing bowl. Pour hot water (not boiling! You want it about 180°F/82°C) from the tea kettle over the curd, just enough to cover; the curd will start to “melt”. Dissolve the salt in the hot water. Now, glove up with clean rubber gloves because this shit is hot. (You can also skip the hot water bath and microwave the curd as outlined by Rachel).
- Grab a good handful of the curd and stretch, roll and form a ball of mozzarella. I grabbed the whole lot of it and after rolling it around for a bit, used a bread pan to create one big lump. Create whatever size you like. When you are happy with it, plunge into the ice water to stop the cooking.
- While your cheese balls are cooling, turn your attention to the whey still in the pot. Simmer until you notice little white blobs floating around – that’s real ricotta (ricotta = “twice cooked”). Strain and season with salt.
- Eat. Revel in your hard work.
I chopped up some of the mozzarella and let in sit in some olive oil with whole peppercorns, garlic and red pepper flakes to eat as is, while the rest of it and the ricotta went in a lasagna.
It seems like a lot of work and if I could stress one thing, it’s to be prepared. You do not want to be scrambling around your kitchen looking for things; have everything out and at the ready.
January: Buttermilk Cheese