When I told the winners of the in-home cooking class we auctioned off for the Food Bank that we could make whatever they wanted, they said they wanted to make fresh mozzarella… did I know how to do that? Sure, of course we can do that! (I reply, hastily calling my Italian friend Emily Richards in Toronto.)
She had some advice, but hadn’t made it for awhile, so I dug around on the net for a formula, we did it, and it was simple. And fun. And took less than half an hour. To make cheese! Who would have thought it was so easy? All you need is good-quality milk, citric acid (available in the bulk section at Community Natural Foods) and rennet tablets, which are 10 for $2.99 and you can find beside the yogurt, also at Community. So when Emily (another one, my niece this time) was here for the day today and wanted to cook something, we made mozzarella to celebrate the fact that she’s apparently not lactose intolerant after all.
This site provides instructions along with a good series of photos that helped us along, but there were a few notable differences: first, we heated the milk to 100F rather than 90F, misunderstanding that it was supposed to start to curdle at that point. Then we had to wait for closer to 10 minutes after adding the rennet, and even then it was far from a solid mass you could slice with a knife, but you may see different results.
But here’s the gist (we halved the recipe):
Dissolve 1 tsp. citric acid into 2 L of cold milk (we used homo), briskly stirring it with a whisk in a largish pot. Set it over medium-low heat and warm until it reaches 100F, or just slightly warmer than body temperature. Remove from heat.
Crush 1/8 of a rennet tablet and dissolve into 2 Tbsp. cool water. Add this in a thin stream, whisking constantly, to the warmed milk. Stir for about a minute, then stop. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the curds into a small microwave-safe bowl, pressing out as much of the whey as you can.
Microwave for 1 minute (this will coax out a little more whey; just pour it off) and then plop it out onto a clean countertop and start to fold and stretch it. It will be almost too hot to handle, but will cool to warm quickly.
Pull and stretch it until it’s smooth, then shape into a ball and put in a bowl of cold water until firm.
Oh right, dinner. Having had our appetites for gooey cheese all worked up, we made quesadillas – really the same as grilled cheese sandwiches – with whole wheat tortillas folded over leftover shredded chicken and strips of roasted red pepper from the freezer, and whatever bits of cheese we could gather from the fridge.