A Do-It-Yourself Recipe
Mozzarella cheese is already spectacular and tremendously italian: homemade mozzarella (or home-cheese-making) is perhaps the next frontier for a healthy, self-sustained, natural alimentation.
Can you imagine?
You invite your friends at home for dinner and, during the meal, somebody says "This mozzarella cheese is sooooo fresh! Where do you buy it?!"
Your answer (with just a tip of - deserved - pride) "I did it".
More than that: you are eating a traditional italian food, following an authentic italian recipe, bringing you and your family a fresh taste and a splendid natural nourishment: all this, without having to travel a single mile (...maybe the one to the grocery store and back).
Ok, a small foreword before getting started.
First of all, let's get rid of the misconception that homemade mozzarella is too difficult to do or not for everybody: if you were allergic to milk, then I could see the complication.
But everything you will read below is absolutely DO-ABLE: the recipe and the description that I report here has been gathered from a couple (friends of mine) who make their own homemade mozzarella cheese (and they don't have a farm, I can assure you).
They are both having their "normal" daily lives, among offices and bills, and their parallel "mozzarella-cheese-making" existence: I was genuinely astonished when I learn this. Even more after I tasted the fruit of their efforts!
After all, if they do it, I bet you and I could be competing with our own homemade mozzarella cheeses as well.
After they explained me how they do it, it really seems like something I might embark on one of these week-ends!
Here's the instruments you will use to transform the milk into your homemade mozzarella:
- a thermometer
- a big pot (at least 10 liters in capacity)
- a smaller pot (half the big one is ok)
- a wooden spoon
- one or even two clothes (big enough to wrap the big pot)
- a big plastic bowl
- a plate
- a glass
- a knife (better with a round end)
- a jar
- some ice
Use this as a checklist and keep reading one you have everything ready.
Before you start heating up the pot and feeling the taste of your homemade mozzarella already, you need to procure the following ingredients:
- 8 liters of fresh milk (now, you will need to make sure that the milk is whole and preferably neither pasteurized nor homogenized)
- a glass and a half of "acid" whey (it should usually come from the previous cheese-making - Hey, I never told you you could do mozzarella with water and air! - try ask your cheese shop, they should be able to give you the "starter", so that you can then be independent)
- a teaspoon of rennet (you should be able to buy it at apothecaries - this should really not be a big fuss)
Checked every item on the list?
NOW you are ready to get started: make sure you have the kitchen for you for 3 to 5 hours (no, you DON'T need to be there for the full time, DON'T WORRY; but you don't even want that other people mess up your "creation" inadvertedly: I hate it when that happens).
Time To Get Your Hands "Dirty"! - The Heating
Using the big pot, heat the milk up to 37 °C (use the thermometer...), while mixing with the wooden spoon.
Turn the heating off and add both the whey and the rennet (dilute it with some water first).
Mix vigorously now, cover the pot and wrap it in the clothes (this shall help better preserve the warmth)
Breaking of the Curd
After about half an hour, the milk curd should have formed (you will see a dense and thick white mass).
Don't worry if you don't see it yet; my "experts" say that it depends on variables like the potency of the rennet is too low or the temperature goes too much lower than 37 °C, so it could take somewhat longer (check at 10 minutes intervals), without this affecting too much the end result.
Using the knife, cut the curd in small squares (not too small) and leave to rest for another 15 minutes.
Mix the curd again now, reducing it to small grains (as big as coffee beans).
Ripening of the Curd
Cover the pot again and again wrap it in the clothes.
The maturation phase is possibly the most challenging one (not too difficult, don't worry!) for your homemade mozzarella, because you need to understand when "enough is enough", that is when the curd is ready to be "pulled".
The duration of the maturation period is variable, but I'm told that after 3 hours a first check is worth, and that it can be extended to 4.5 hours if needed (I told you to make sure the kitchen is under control...).
Check the Curd!
If you had a PH-meter, the curd should be ready when its PH reaches 5...
But we don't have a PH-meter in our list, so, forget it!
You need now to check that the curd "pulls" ("fila") and it's ready to become your OWN homemade mozzarella.
Take a spoonful of curd and immerse it in hot water ( 90 °C ), to melt it slightly an see if it can substain the transformation: take it out of the water after just a few minutes.
Now, use your hands (both) keeping the small quantity of melted paste with thumb and forefinger: now... pull!
Immerse it again in the hot water in case you need to, but keep pulling (gently!).
If the curd breaks too soon or is not elastic enough, it means that it is not ready yet; if it does pull, let's say, up to 1 meter then it's really (well) done.
As you will notice if the curd is not yet ready, equally important is that you don't let it mature for too long as it might be "gone", meaning melting in the water instead of pulling.
Discharge the Curd
Cut the curd in half and take the halves it out of the whey, placing them in the colander with a plate below it, in order for the excess whey to be discharged without it contacting the curd.
After at least 20 minutes cut the curd in narrow stripes and place them in the big plastic bowl.
You will now have to cover these stripes with hot water (ca 50 °C) for a few minutes: now get rid of this water (or keep it in another recipient for later).
The next phase could be the most "painful" as it will involve putting your hands into hot water (ca 90 °C) so, make sure you have some plastic, impermeable gloves at hand.
Do NOT pour the water directly on the curd.
You will now see that the stripes begin to melt and to aggregate in a single "stringy" mass: fold the two extremities together and start pulling out a "cord" until it is about 3 cm thick.
Make a knot ("nodino") with the cord an cut to separate it from the "ribbon": place it in cold water.
Keep doing this until all the curd is transformed into knots (final shape of your homemade mozzarella), replacing the hot water if needed (the curd needs to be malleable to be pulled).
Preservation and Curing
The knots can be preserved in non-salted water, but my friends recommend to use the one coming from the melting of the curd (from the previous step).
Before being consumed, though, the knots need to be cured: for that you can prepare a brine yourself (some 100 grams of salt per liter of water) and immerse the knots for up to 10 minutes.
Naturally, the curing depends not only on the quantity of salt in the water but also on the size of the knots.
These (taken out of the brine) should "rest" for another half hour before being consumed, as the salt need to diffuse itself evenly in the mozzarella (you don't want to have a very sapid outer part and an insipid center.
After this phases, keeping the knots for much longer could cause problems.
Well, just eat all of YOUR homemade mozzarella once finished curing it!
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