As cheesy as it sounds, I disagree that mozzarella is at all “foolish.” I think it’s actually quite useful and tasty. Mozzarella is my go-to cheese when I need to use up milk, because it’s easy and can melt.
It’s the only unaged, beginner cheese that I’ve made that melts properly when heated. I’ve used it in different dishes, but mostly on pizza, of course.
If I have a gallon of milk that’s not going to be used before it expires, I know I can always turn it into mozzarella. Below is a mozzarella recipe from the book Home Dairy with Ashley English, reprinted by permission of the author. I purchased the rennet I used from New England Cheese Making Supply, Co. You can find calcium chloride there, too.
Rennet has an interesting history. I don’t have space here to include that history, but would urge you to check it out if cheese-making interests you. (Who doesn’t like to read about digestive enzymes found in mammals’ stomachs?)
1 gallon whole cow’s milk (not ultra pasteurized)
2 teaspoons citric acid powder
¼ teaspoon calcium chloride mixed with ¼ cup cold, sterilized water*
½ teaspoon liquid rennet or ¼ crushed tablet mixed with ¼ cold, sterilized water
1 teaspoon cheese salt or kosher salt
*Omit this step if using raw milk
- Pour milk into large pot. Stir in citric acid powder (and the calcium chloride, if using). Warm milk gently over medium heat to 88°F. Use a thermometer to avoid overheating.
- In a small bowl, mix together rennet and cold water. Add rennet solution to milk, and continue stirring until the temperature reaches 104° to 106°F. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. The curds and whey will begin to separate during this time.
- Use a slotted metal spoon, remove the curds, and place them in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Press against the mass of curds with the slotted spoon, forcing out as much whey as possible, and pour it off into the pot of whey.
- You can warm your curds either in the microwave or with the heated whey.
- Read below paragraph about kneading your curds.
- Once ready, your cheese will be pliant, spongy, and shiny. You can eat the mozzarella immediately, or place in a lidded container and store in refrigerator. Use within one to two weeks.
The “curds” are actually one big cheese ball that needs to be kneaded. I usually separate this into two balls and work one at a time. I’ve never used a microwave to heat up the curd, because I’m one of those people who thinks microwaves kill off nutrients. Instead, I use the whey. I dump a bunch of the whey down the sink, so the remaining whey in the pot will heat faster. The pot goes back on the burner until the whey reaches about 170°F.
Then, I ladle some whey onto my curd ball. (I have one ball at a time in a glass bowl for this part.) You’ll need to wear a pair of rubber gloves while kneading. (I bought a pair that I use only for making mozzarella.) The whey is very hot, so you’ll burn your hands if you don’t wear gloves.
The whey melts the curds together. While the ball is hot, you pick it up and knead, stretch, squeeze the ball to give it the right texture and work out any whey remaining in the curds. I also salt my cheese at this point. This part really only takes a few minutes: ladle, pick up ball and knead for awhile, ladle some more, pick ball back up, etc.
I repeat this procedure with the second curd ball and then put both balls into a glass container. All done, and then it’s happy, cheesy goodness.