Recipe from The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila (Clarkson Potter, 2012)Makes 1 pound
- 1½ teaspoons citric acid
- 1¼ cups cool water (filtered or boiled)
- 1 gallon whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
- ¹/³ teaspoon liquid rennet
- 4 tablespoons kosher salt
1. Ice a large, heavy pot (see page 28). Combine the citric acid with 1 cup of the water in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Add the milk to the pot. Slowly pour the citric acid mixture into the milk, gently stirring with the slotted spoon for 15 seconds. Set the pot over medium heat, attach a cheese or candy thermometer to the pot, and heat the milk to 90°F, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes. This will take about 10 minutes, and the milk will start to curdle. Remove the pot from heat.
2. Combine the rennet with the remaining ¼ cup water in the liquid measure. Pour the rennet mixture into the milk, and gently stir with a scooping motion for 30 seconds. Cover the pot and let sit for 5 minutes. The curds will solidify into one solid mass that looks like tofu or custard. Press your finger about ½-inch into the curd. If it comes out mostly clean, the curd is ready to cut. Otherwise, cover the pot and check it again in 2 minutes. 3. With the curd still in the pot, cut it into 2-inch cubes: place a long knife 2 inches from the left side of the pot and draw it through the curd toward you in a straight line, taking care to cut to the bottom of the curd. Continue with parallel lines to the first in 2-inch increments. Turn the pot 90°, and repeat so that you have a grid. Then, make 2-inch diagonal cuts at a 45° angle to the side of the pot. Repeat from the other side. The end result will be cubes of curd that float in the whey.
4. Return the pot to medium heat and stir the curds very gently with a slotted spoon as you heat the whey to 110°F. Remove from the heat. Set a metal colander over the mixing bowl and use the spoon to gently transfer only the curds into the colander. Set the curds aside.
5. Return the pot with the whey to medium-high heat. Add the salt and heat until the whey reaches 170°F, about 10 minutes. If there is any whey in the mixing bowl, add it to the pot. Reduce the heat to medium to keep the whey between 165°F and 180°F for the next step.
6. Transfer half the curds to a medium mixing bowl and set them aside. Submerge the colander with the remaining curds into the hot whey until they get glossy, about 1 minute. Put on heatproof rubber gloves to pick up the curds and firmly squeeze them into a ball over the pot. The ball will release more whey as you squeeze. Put the ball back into the hot whey for 1 minute, then stretch it between your hands, folding it back on itself. Put the cheese into the whey again and repeat the process up to three times, until the cheese is soft and glossy and holds together as you stretch it up to 12 inches. The surface of the cheese should be smooth. When you have reached this consistency, you can eat the mozzarella warm, dividing it into little balls if you'd like. Repeat the heating and stretching process with the second half of the curd.
7. If you would like to store the cheese, put the balls in a bowl, cover with cool water, and let sit for 5 minutes. Then add ice cubes and keep the mozzarella there for 30 minutes. Remove the cheese from the water and transfer into a covered container.
Fridge - covered container, 4 days
Freezer - no
It is possible that your curds will be weak and you won't achieve a clean break when you test it with your finger. The culprit for this problem is mostly likely your milk. Mozzarella will not work with milk that has been ultra-pasteurized (heated to 275°F or higher). Sometimes even pasteurized milk has been heated to a higher temperature. So if you are having trouble getting a strong curd, strain it and use it like ricotta, and next time try another brand of milk. Local milk tends to be heated to a lower temperature because it does not have to travel far, and raw milk is not heated at all. For a list of safe milks for cheese making, you can visit www.cheesemaking.com.