A few weeks ago, my wife and I tried our hand at making mozzarella cheese. This kit from Leeners.com cost $25 and will make 6 pounds of cheese:
The kit cost over $30 after shipping and handling, and we'll have to buy six gallons of fresh milk. That might sound like a lot of effort and money for so little product, but it would cost us over $90 to buy that much fresh mozzarella from the grocery store. So we think it's a good deal — if the cheese tastes good.
You add calcium chloride, citric acid and lipase powder to whole milk. It might sound unhealthy to add a bunch of chemicals, but you’re really just returning the milk to its natural, unprocessed state. Next, you heat the mixture to 88 degrees and add half of a rennet tablet. This helps develop the curd and separate it from the whey:
You can use the leftover whey to make ricotta cheese, but that's for another day. Here I am pressing the last bits of whey out of the mixture:
This recipe allows you to use the microwave to help melt and consolidate the curd:
Next, you add a little salt and start kneading and stretching the cheese:
Here's the cheese we got from one gallon of milk. It’s about the size of an orange:
It ended up tasting more like string cheese than fresh mozzarella. I wasn't very happy with it, so I spent most of the next day working on this mozzarella recipe from Gourmet Magazine. The first steps are similar to what you saw above, except everything takes much, much longer.
Instead of melting the cheese in the microwave, you hang it in cheesecloth for three hours to let the whey drain off. After that, you bring a pot of water to around 90 degrees and use it to temper the curds. After a while, you get this:
These cheese balls were very difficult to pull together, but they came out even softer than the fresh mozzarella from the store.
We decided the recipe from Gourmet was fantastic, but way too cumbersome. Next time we'll stick to the Leener's recipe, but keep the kneading and stretching to a minimum. And if we accidentally overwork it again, we'll just stretch it into a long coil and call it string cheese.
Who doesn't like string cheese?