Vegetarian Giro d’Italia: Say Cheese! (a.k.a. Adventures in Making Mozzarella)

May 17, 2010 By: Megabeth Category: Other, Snacks/Appetizers, Vegetarian Giro d'Italia Print This Post Print This Post

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In the Campania region, buffalo mozzarella cheese is a local delicacy. For nearly 2000 years, buffalo have been raised in this region and the mozzarella from buffalo milk is acidic in flavor and rather juicy.  I had heard that making cheese was something I’d be able to do at home and I really wanted to see how easy it was to make good and edible cheese from scratch. Luckily, a friend of mine was up for the challenge and invited me over so we could try our hands at cheese-making. Try as we did, we couldn’t find any buffalo to milk in the Washington, DC region, so we had to settle for cow milk. (Cows milk mozzarella produces a more firm, slightly drier cheese.)

We used a kit that provided some of the ingredients and instructions for a 30-minute mozzarella. (Note: It took us a little longer than 30 minutes, more like an hour. But, honestly, from start to finish it did not seem to take to long for us to be enjoying our finished product.)

The ingredients required included: a gallon of milk, unchlorinated water, citric acid, rennet, cheese salt. Kitchen equipment included: thermometer, sieve, slotted spoon, cheese cloth, wooden spoon, large pot, smaller pot, two bowls.

As this recipe came from a kit and fits the ingredients provided in it, I’m not going to list out the recipe we used in detail here. As I am no where near a cheese-making expert, I suggest following the recipe that comes with the kit you purchase or find some cheese-making resources. All I merely want to demonstrate is how easy it was to make and to outline the basic steps we took to come up with some remarkably good cheese.

There were a few moments of disbelief as we stirred the liquid that was soon to be cheese. To be honest, we were pretty incredulous the entire time we were in the kitchen. But, through the magic of science, we ended up with some pretty good cheese. In the end, although we didn’t come out with a Mozzarella di Bufala that is coveted and revered by gourmets, we did end up with a truly fresh and palate-pleasing cheese.

Here is a basic outline of what we did  to make our mozzarella cheese…

Dissolve rennet in a bowl. Dissolve citric acid in bowl. In a pot, pour one gallon of milk and stir in citric acid. Heat the milk to 90 degrees.

Remove pot from burner and add rennet to the milk. Stir in a top to bottom motion for about 30 seconds, then stop.

Cover pot and leave undisturbed for 5 minutes. (We actually had to have it sit for more than 20 minutes.) The curd will look like custard and there will be a clear separation between the curds and whey.

Cut the curds into a 1″ checkerboard pattern.

Put the curds back on the heat, slowly stirring the curds with your ladle. Bring to 110 degrees.

In another pot, heat water to 135 degrees.

Remove curds from heat. Line a sieve with cheese cloth and remove curds from the pot with a slotted spoon. Press the curd gently pouring off as much whey as possible.

Dip curd into hot water bath and form it into a mushy ball.

Once it is cool enough to touch, knead the curds so that it becomes smooth and shiny. (If the cheese breaks apart, dip it back into the hot water bath.)

Add salt and herbs into the cheese and knead it until the seasoning is distributed. Stretch the cheese like taffy.

Form the cheese into whatever shape you’d like and drop the cheese into a cold ice bath.

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