I recently decided to try my hand at home cheese making with friends, and it came out delicious! I've been making yogurt cheese and kefir cheese, which simply require straining the yogurt of kefir, but this was my first “real” cheese. I used the “30 Minutes Mozzarella Cheese” recipe from Ricki Carrol's book “Home Cheese Making“. Ricki also features this recipe on her website at www.cheesemaking.com.
Homemade 30 Minute Mozzarella Cheese Recipe
1 1/2 level teaspoons citric acid dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water
1 gallon pasteurized whole milk (raw milk from a safe source or even powdered milk may be used – see Ricki's site for directions)
1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet (or 1/4 rennet tablet) diluted in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
1 teaspoon cheese salt (optional)
1. Gently bring the milk up to 55 degrees F in a large, stainless steel pot. While stirring, add the citric acid solution to the milk at 55 degrees F and mix thoroughly.
Note: You may use skim milk, but the yield will be lower and the cheese will be drier.
2. Heat the milk to 90 degrees over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Remove the pot from the heat and gently stir in the diluted rennet with an up-and-down motion for 30 seconds. Cover the pot and leave undisturbed for five minutes.
3. Check the curd. It should look like custard, with a clear separation between the curd and why. (If the curd is too soft or the whey is too milky, let set for a few more minutes.) Cut the curd with a knife that reaches all the way to the bottom of your pot.
4. Place the pot back on the stove and heat the curds to 105F, gently moving the curds around with your spoon. (Note: If you wish to make this cheese without a microwave, see directions below.) Remove from heat and continue to stir slowly for 2 to 5 minutes. (Stirring for 5 minutes will result in firmer cheese.)
5. Scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon and put into a 2 quart microwaveable bowl. Press the curds gently with your hands, pouring off as much whey as possible. Reserve the whey. (You can use it to make ricotta cheese.)
6. Microwave the curds on high for 1 minute. (***If you do not have a microwave, see directions below the string cheese photo.) Drain off all excess whey. Gently fold the cheese over an over (as in kneading bread) with your hands or a spoon. This distributes the heat evenly throughout the cheese, which will not stretch until it is too hit to touch (145F inside the curd). Rubber kitchen gloves are very handy at this stage.
7. Microwave two more times for 35 seconds each; add salt to taste after the second time. After each heating, knead again to distribute the heat.
8. Knead quickly until it is smooth and elastic. When the cheese stretches like taffy, it’s done. If the curds break instead of stretch, they are too cool and need to be reheated.
9. When the cheese is smooth and shiny, roll it into small balls and eat while warm. Or place them in a bowl of ice water for half an hour to bring the inside temperature down rapidly; this will produce a consistent smooth texture throughout the cheese. Although best eaten fresh, it can be stored in the refrigerator at this point.
Note: If you are using store-bought milk, and your curds turn into the consistency of ricotta cheese and will not come together, switch brands of milk. It may have been heated at the factory at too high a temperature.
Yield: 3/4 to 1 pound from 1 gallon milk
Update: After experimenting a bit more, I found you can also pull this into strips or strings (think “homemade string cheese”). Pull the strips, drop them in the water to cool, then pack them tightly in a pyrex container or wrap in plastic wrap (I prefer pyrex). They're not as pretty as the store bought ones, but they work just the same.
Although the original recipe recommended storing the cheese in water, I prefer storing it in a tightly sealed container without water. Water storage makes the cheese soft and washes out the salt.
***If you do not have a microwave:
After step 5, heat the reserved whey on the stove top to at least 175F. Add 1/4 cup of cheese salt to the whey (you could probably substitute kosher salt, but cheese salt is best). Shape the curd into one or more balls, put them in a ladle or strainer, and dip them into the hot whey for several seconds. Knead the curd with spoons or gloved hands between each dip and repeat this process several times until the curd is smooth and pliable. Please be careful! This is really hot, and working with more liquid increase the risk of getting splashed! If you use the non-microwave method, you cannot use the whey to make the Ricotta from Heaven below, because the whey will contain too much salt.
Optional Lipase Powder
If you want to add lipase powder to give the cheese more flavor, use 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon, dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water and allowed to sit for 20 minutes. To start, probably try the mild and see how you like the flavor. Add the lipase and water mixture at the same time you add the citric acid solution. If you add lipase to this cheese, you may have to use a bit more rennet, as lipase makes the cheese softer.
Ricotta From Heaven
(also from Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses)
Fresh whey, no more than 3 hours old, left over from making hard cheese
Directions (other options available at www.cheesemaking .com)
1. Heat the whey in a pot until foam appears, This usually happens just prior to boiling; if the mixture boils, it will taste burned.
2. Turn off the heat; let the whey set for 5 minutes.
3. Gently skim off the foam and place the whey in a colander lined with butter muslin.
4. Let drain for 15 minutes, then refrigerate. This ricotta will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.
Yield: About 1/2 pound per gallon of whey
*Note – I later read that the 30 minute mozzarella whey is not recommended for making ricotta (it says this in the cheesemaking kits), but mine works just fine. I'm glad I didn't read that I wasn't supposed to do it before I did it.
We ate one batch of mozzarella fresh, and then I made more to put on homemade pepperoni pizza. 🙂 It was delicious.
The ricotta was lovely, too. Very smooth and creamy, and just a tiny bit sweet. I think it would be great in homemade lasagna. The leftover whey can be used for fermenting vegetables, such as beet kvass, or you can chill it and add some flavored drink mix for a nourishing beverage. My kitties like to drink it plain. I warm it up for them on cold mornings.
I'm looking forward to trying other cheese recipes, but these were great ones to start with – very quick and easy.
Another family favorite that may be even easier, although it takes a bit longer, is fromage blanc. Fromage blanc is a soft white cheese that is great as a spread or dip. (Or for topping spuds – yum!) It can also be used in cooking.The recipe only has five steps – that's it! Learn how to make fromage blanc in this post.