Since it is incredibly hot today, I decided to stick around the apartment and amuse myself. Today, this took the form of making mozzarella and ricotta. I picked up a couple of gallons of milk at the store, and searched the internet for advice.
Fresh homemade mozzarella is a really incredible thing, especially with a fresh garden tomato, a few leaves of basil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Yum. So today I decided to try my hand a making it. Since I haven’t yet been able to locate prepared cheese curd for cheese making at a local grocery store, I had to start with whole milk (yep, whole milk-it is cheese, after all). I poked around the internet and eventually landed upon this site. I pretty much followed their method, but since I did double everything, I’ll repeat it here for future reference.
2 gallons whole milk
3 tsp citric acid in 1/2 cup distilled water
1/2 tsp liquid rennet dissolved in 10 tsp distilled water
4 tbsp kosher salt
1 stock pot (non-reactive, please)
Thermometer (I used an infrared, but a candy thermometer would work as well)
2 wooden spoons
1 mesh strainer
1 slotted spoon, or smaller strainer on a handle
Rubber or Vinyl gloves
Pour milk into stock pot. Turn to medium-low heat, and bring up to temperature. When the milk hits about 55 degrees F, add the citric acid mixture. Stir occasionally, and when the mixture hits 88 degrees F, add the rennet mixture. Stir for about 30 seconds then let the mixture come to 100-105 degrees, stirring occasionally. When this thermal point has been hit, turn the stove off, and allow the pot to sit undisturbed for about 5 minutes. This is going to let the curds really set up, and the whey should turn a yellow color. Set the strainer in one of the bowls, and using your slotted spoon or mesh scoop, evacuate the curds from the whey. Let the curds strain, pushing them gently against the sides of the strainer, but don’t get too excited about this step. They should still be moist and dripping. They will start to set up at this point. Add the whey that’s collected in the bowl back into the stock pot. Move the curd to a cutting board and cut into about 1 inch pieces, then place directly in the now empty bowl. In the other bowl, put cold water. Meanwhile, you can either put 8 cups of whey, or 8 cups of water (I did about half and half) in a pot, with the salt. Bring up to about 175 degrees, then pour over the curds to cover the curds. If you have extra, return it to the stove, and try to keep it around 175, it may be needed. Working with the two spoons, squish the curds together until it comes together into one big, messy mass. Here is where the gloves come in handy (no pun intended). Take the curd and start stretching it. When it is stretched, it will take on a shiny, smooth appearance. If you have too much to do all at once (as I did), just stretch it in batches. If it takes more than about 10 minutes to get through the stretching and shaping, you may want to add some of the salty mixture to the curds, to help maintain the temperature. I ended up stretching the mozzarella in about 8 batches, shaping as I went. For shaping, basically just form into a ball, and tuck the ends under. After shaping, stash the cheese in the cold water. To store, air tight container with water to cover, but it really is best within 24 hours. I ended up with 8-2.5″ balls of mozzarella.
But wait, there’s more!
There are two primary classes of recipes for ricotta: milk and whey. Milk recipes start with milk, and use the curds as well as the coagulated whey proteins, and thus have a much higher yield than the whey methods, which use the whey from a prior cheese making. Since I had whey, I decided to go with the traditionally ricotta method (which is ridiculously simple). Take the stock pot of whey, and bring it up to 175 degrees, stirring occasionally. Once there, Remove from heat and let it coast down to about 140 degrees. Strain whey into a cheesecloth lined colander, and allow to drain. The longer it drains, the firmer your ricotta.
The resulting texture from this batch of ricotta is much finer than you would find in a grocery store example, and has a more complicated flavor. The yield from this process is pretty small (two gallons of milk originally yields about 2/3 cup of ricotta), but in the future I may spike the whey with additionally acid before cooking, to see if that coagulates more protein.
All in all, this took just a couple of hours, and was well worth the time and effort.