Mozzarella

mozzarellaOne need not be Italian to make mozzarella.  You don’t even need a buffalo.

Mozzarella is a relatively easy cheese to make at home.  It’s not a terribly complicated process, nor is it long: mozzarella is a wonderful fresh cheese that does not need any aging.  And no buffaloes are needed either:  Bufala are the milking animals of choice in the south of Italy, wherefrom mozzarella hails, but cows milk is a perfectly good replacement to buffalo milk, responding just as well to this technique.

The traditional Italian method of making mozzarella is a three-stage process:

To start, soft-bodied curds are made, and formed into small rounds.

These small rounds are left submerged in whey for a short fermentation period.

Finally, the fermented rounds of curd are melted in a hot water bath, then stretched and folded into balls of mozzarella.  All-together, the process takes one to two days….

There’s a recipe floating around for a thirty-minute mozzarella that you may have tried.  This recipe works:  it takes three shortcuts to achieve the same end as a traditional three-stage recipe.  But these shortcuts result in a cheese that’s a little flat.  First, this recipe avoids the use of bacterial cultures in making the curd through the use of citric acid.  Second, the recipe calls for an extra dose of citric acid, which replaces the traditional fermentation period which is responsible for much of the flavour development of traditional mozzarella.  And third, the recipe uses a microwave to melt the curd rather than a hot water bath.  Replacing the culture with citric acid results in a savings of time; it also results in a significant saving in taste…

My suggestion: try making the thirty minute mozzarella the natural way! You can replace the citric acid in the thirty minute mozzarella recipe with lemon juice, or vinegar, and the results will be far superior.

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Natural 30 minute Mozzarella

In this recipe, the milk is first acidified using lemon juice.  The acidified milk is then curdled with the aid of rennet.The curds are strained, and allowed to rest.  They are then submerged in hot whey or water, and stretched into mozzarella.

Cows milk works well for this recipe, just as well as buffalo milk .  If you are fortunate enough to have access to fresh buffalo milk, you can follow this recipe with one slight adjustment: add in 1/3 of a cup of lemon juice in place of 1/4 cup – the extra solids (fat and protein) in buffalo milk need an extra dose of acid in order to stretch into mozzarella

First: acidify your milk.

1. pour two litres (2 quarts) of cold milk into a pot.  If your milk is warm, it may curdle when you add the acid.

2. Dilute one quarter cup of fresh lemon juice into one cup of water.   As the lemon juice is quite acidic, pouring it directly into the milk can cause to milk to curdle excessively.  By diluting it in water before pouring it into milk, less curdling will occur.

3. pour the diluted lemon juice over the cold milk, and stir well.

 Second: make your acidic curds.

1. Warm up the acidified to milk to a comfortable temperature – round 90F.

2. Add in a regular dose of rennet.  For two litres, the amount of walcoren brand rennet I use is 1/8 of a tablet, diluted in cold water. Mix the rennet in very slightly.

3. Wait 15 minutes for the curds to set. Cover the pot to keep the milk warm so that the rennet sets well.

4. Cut the curds into one half inch cubes, by slicing through the curds in three series of cuts.

5. stir the curds lighty, over low heat, for 5 minutes to firm them up. The goal temperature is around 100F, or a temperature that is just barely tolerable to the touch.  If the curds begin to melt, you’ve warmed them too much.

6. slowly pour the whey off the curds.

7. Strain the curds into a cheesecloth bag. Let the curds drain for 15 minutes.

Third:  Stretch your curds.

This is where the recipe gets fun!  The acidified curds have magic powers.  If you submerge these curds in hot water, they stretch!  The stretching happens because at the particular acidity that the curds have, as a result of the addition of lemon juice, the proteins lose their calcium, and they lose their form when subjected to high temperature.

1.  Heat up 2 litres of water to 70C in a pot.  You can use a thermometer to judge this temperature, or a small piece of your acidic curds. The curds will begin to melt once their temperature rises above 50˚C(170˚F).  Turn off the heat once the whey is hot. If the whey gets too hot, the mozzarella will stretch too much, and may become too firm as a result.  Other Pasta Filata cheeses, like Oaxacan String Cheese are made by immersing acidified curd in very hot whey, which makes them extra elastic, and allows them to be stretched beyond belief!

2.  Cut up your acidic curd into one-inch thick slices.

3. Place some of the sliced curds into a ladle and submerge them into the 70C water.

4.  Stir the curds lightly for one or two minutes.

5.  Pull the ladle out of the hot water and feel the curds – they should have begun to developed their elasticity.

6. Continue pressing the cheese and folding it over onto itself in the hot water bath until the curd feels quite soft and has developed its elasticity – this should not take more than a couple of minutes.

7.  Take the curd out of the hot-water bath, and take it into your hands. Stretch the curds with two hands, by pulling the cheese apart.  Pull it until the cheese is quite thin.

8. Roll the curd upon itself, to form a small ball made of many thin layers of curd.

9. To seal the mozzarella ball, submerge it back into the hot water bath for a moment, then remove the ball from the bath and lightly press it inside your cupped hands.

10.  The mozzarella is now formed.  The last step is to cool it off.  Cool your mozzarella balls off by submerging them in cold, lightly salted water.

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Your mozza balls are best eaten while still warm… Drizzle olive oil atop the mozzarella, with slices of tomato and fresh basil.  You’ll never believe you’ve just made a cheese so divine.

To preserve the mozzarella, leave them in a salted whey brine in the refrigerator.  They will last for only one-two days..

 

 

 

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