Make Mozzarella Cheese At Home

You can make wonderful mozzarella cheese at home easily and it will taste much better than anything available in the grocery store.

Mozzarella cheese is a very popular cheese in this country. Just try making pizza without it; you can leave off the tomato sauce, but without the cheese all you have is bread.

The quality of mozzarella available in the supermarket is usually pretty poor. If you are not lucky enough to live near a specialty store that sells the real thing, you have had to settle for the flavor-less, plastic lump, optimistically labeled "mozzarella" and sold in the dairy section of the grocery store.

THE MILK TO USE

The very best mozzarella is made from the milk of water buffaloes. There are lots of these animals in Florida and if you know someone with a cow or two, you might be able to acquire some milk. Otherwise, regular cow milk will be fine. Do not use goat milk, it will not work. Do not use homogenized whole milk for the same reason. Try to get raw milk from a farm store or dairy. Some health food stores sell pasteurized un-homogenized milk and this is ideal for making mozzarella cheese. The key here is to use milk that has not been homogenized. For some reason, the homogenization process renders the milk unfit for mozzarella making. If all else fails, you can use skim milk from the supermarket. Adding back some heavy cream will approximate whole milk.



SPECIAL INGREDIENTS

You will need liquid cheese-making rennet and citric acid. The citric acid is usually easy to find. In the summer it is sold in many grocery stores in the canning-supplies section. It comes in small jars for a few dollars. You can also find it at some drugstores but it will be more expensive, about $5.00 for the same amount. Liquid rennet is sold by the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. There are many other companies that sell cheese making suplies and rennet is sold in supermarkets in some parts of the country.

THE RECIPE

3 teaspoons of citric acid

2 1/2 gallons milk

3/4 teaspoon liquid rennet

THE METHOD

Dissolve the citric acid in 1/2 cup cool water and add to the milk. Warm the milk to 88 degrees and add the rennet mixed with 1/4 cup water. Stir gently for about a minute then let sit for 15 minutes for the curd to form.

CUTTING AND COOKING THE CURD

Using a stainless steel knife, cut the curd into approximately 1/2 inch cubes. Cut across the top from side to side and then cut through the curd at an angle to slice the columns of curd into smaller chunks.

Set the pot into a basin or sink full of hot water and slowly raise the temperature of the milk to 98 degrees while stirring the curd gently for 15 minutes, cutting any large pieces up with your spoon. Continue to stir the curd for 20 minutes longer

DRAINING THE CURD

Line a large colander with butter muslin and slowly pour the curds and whey into it. It is a good idea to save the draining whey for making ricotta cheese, adding to soups, or feeding to pets or chickens. Allow the curds to drain for 15 minutes then tie up the ends of the cheesecloth and hang over the sink to continue draining for another 5-10 minutes or until the dripping has stopped.

IS IT CHEESE YET?

Cut the mass of curd into 1/2 inch slices and cut the slices into strips. Put about 1/4 of the curd strips into a microwave-safe bowl and zap it until the curds start to melt and get gooey. Remove the cheese (it is now cheese!) from the microwave and, wearing rubber gloves because this stuff is hot, begin pulling it like taffy. Keep working the cheese until it is smooth and shiny then form it into a ball and put the ball in salty iced water. Keep doing this with the rest of the curds until you have 4 balls of cheese in the cold water. The cheese is ready to eat as soon as it is completely cool.

Mozzarella cheese freezes beautifully and will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 3 days. Once you taste this home-made delight, you will never be able to eat the plastic kind again.

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