The first thing to do is gather all the required ingredients:
1 gallon whole milk (pasteurized is okay, but not ultra-pasteurized)
The milk and water are pretty easy to come by, but I had to go to the home brew supply shop here in town to get the rennet and citric acid. The citric acid was really cheap, just a couple bucks, but the rennet was a bit more spendy, I think around $12. But, it lasts for a year in the fridge, and since you only use 1/4 tsp per gallon of milk, it's really not that bad.
Measure out 1 1/2 tsp citric acid mixed with 1/4 cup distilled water in a ceramic cup and 1/4 tsp liquid rennet mixed with 1/4 cup distilled water.
Put the whole gallon of milk into a large pot and gently heat to 55 degrees F. I only have a candy thermometer, which means it doesn't register temperatures that low, so this part is always a little bit of a guessing game! At 55 degrees add the citric acid mixtuer to the milk and mix.
Around 88 degrees, the milk should start to curdle. When it's curdled, add the rennet mixture and mix into the milk with an "up and down motion".
Keep heating until just over 100 degrees. Good sized curds should be forming by then and the whey shouldn't be "milky" any more. These pictures were from my first time making it, and I have since gotten better curds by letting it heat a little longer.
I used a strainer to strain the curds from the whey, catching the whey in another pot to be fed to the dog and chickens. Then, while the curds were still in the strainer, I kneaded them to remove excess liquid.
Then, into a microwaveable bowl the curds went to be heated for one minute. Then I kneaded (with a spoon, those curds are hot!) again to remove liquid. Then into the microwave for 30 seconds, then keaded, then microwaved for 30 seconds then kneaded again.
This is also when you add "salt to taste" which I think is the most annoyingly vague direction in the world. Give me a starting point and then say "or to taste" because I have no idea how much salt these curds will take to taste like mozzarella! Anyway, I didn't put in enough salt the first time, but since then, I think I've found that about 2 tsp is a good "taste" for me.
Anyway, after all the microwaving and kneading, you stretch the ball'o'curds until it gets a smooth, shiney, elastic, mozzarella-y texture. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle describes it like pulling taffy, but since I've never pulled taffy, I can only guess what, exactly, that means.
Once it's to the proper texture, I made it into little mozzarella balls to be stored covered in whey in the fridge.
See how my whey was still a bit "milky"? I have since gotten it less so during the "heat to just over 100 degrees" stage. Theoretically, you should get about 1lb of cheese from 1 galon (10lbs) of milk. I weighed my efforts the first time I made it and came up a bit short, but I chalk that up to not getting the best curds, too. I haven't weighed since, but I think I'm probably getting closer to the 1lb of cheese mark. At least that's what I'll tell myself!
Anyway, we have used this cheese on pizza, baked pasta dishes and for caprese salad. It usually shreds nicely (I do bigger balls of mozzarella when we're planning on shredding it) and melts great. Only one time I made it and instead of melting when baked, it sort of just dried out and got crusty. I don't know why.
Well! That, so far, has been my foray into the culinary genius of dairy products. Next, I hope to try making yogurt. I'll be sure to update you all when that happens : )
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