Wednesday, August 3, 2011

In pursuit of good Mozzarella

With fresh tomatoes from the garden and no source of really good mozzarella cheese, I decided to try my hand at making cheese.

Recipe: Compliments of Condé Nast Digital and for the story behind the recipe.
Ingredients:  Required a trip to Central Market (ok, twist my arm) for rennet and citric acid.   No source for buffalo milk so settled for organic cow's milk.

There are lots of recipes for Mozzarella cheese, some claiming that you can have a finished product in less than 2 hours but I chose the one that discusses failed attempts and purporting to have the answers.  It was not a 2 hour process, closer to 7 hours. As I  worked my way through the detailed, meticulous steps, I realized this recipe was the perfect example of "cooking for engineers";  the complete opposite of my usual style in the kitchen.  What recipe calls for 1 1/8 teaspoon of anything?  But cheese making is completely new to me, so with no sense of appropriate or right, the detail was helpful.

Mozzarella Draining
Aside from a good recipe, the key to the process appears to be your ability to keep milk within a 4 degree temperature range for hours on end.  Not hard, just painfully demanding of your attention.

Initially the milk did not curdle to the "soft pudding" consistency.   After some research,  I discovered that Junket rennet, the brand available from Central Market, is not recommended for cheese making.   So, based on the recipes in the Junket package, I increased the rennet to 1/2 tablet of Junket and waited another 30 minutes.   The process then continued as described in the recipe.  Cutting the curds, allowing them to sit undisturbed for increasingly long periods of time, straining the curds into cheesecloth and allowing to drain.    The final steps of pouring hot water over small portion of curds and working with your hands appears to require precise temperature control and practice but I did get it to reach a sort of elastic state.  It was not completely smooth but I deemed it passable after the hours spent on the process.

Fresh Mozzarella

After cooling and serving with fresh tomatoes, my verdict is -- way too much trouble for result.  It was good, but no better than mozzarella that I can buy at the store.  

I would try again if raw cows (or water buffalo) milk was available but processed milk seems to lack the fat content and flavor to produce a good mozzarella.

It was an interesting experiment.  Anyone need rennet tablets?  I have lots.

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