Child’s Play: homemade mozzarella
Making mozzarella at home is fair game at any age
Hi. My name is Anya Firisen, and I am 11 years old. I sometimes write for culture magazine because I am a cheese person. I started to like cheese when I was very young. My parents take me to cheese counters in stores, and I taste many cheeses. One day recently I decided that instead of always eating other people’s cheese, I wanted to make my own. Soon after, I was at my mom’s friend’s house, and she heard that I wanted to make cheese. She had booked herself a cheesemaking class, but since relatives were coming to visit, she couldn’t go. She offered me the ticket, and I went to the class and learned a lot. It was great fun. And that’s how I started to make cheese, especially mozzarella.
Why make mozzarella at home when it’s so easy to buy? I definitely suggest making it on your own because it tastes better and it’s simple and you know what goes into it. I use nonhomogenized milk because it makes the best-tasting cheese. My mom buys it at our local food co-op.
Here are some tips about making cheese: The curd should look like custard, with clear edges in a solid block before you cut it. Never forget the salt; if you do it tastes like rubber. The hardest part is stirring, because it takes the longest and is the most work. The easiest part is the waiting, because you really don’t have to do anything but stand around.
I suggest eating the mozzarella warm, because it is supersoft and tastes really creamy. My favorite part is eating it all up—with tomatoes and basil. Actually, I only like it with basil because I don’t like tomatoes, but my parents do. But it’s also really good just plain, by itself. So the next time you see mozzarella, think back to what you read here and say to yourself, “Why don’t I just make it myself?”
*Note: If you can’t find nonhomogenized milk in your market and have to use standard pasteurized, homogenized milk, then it is best for the flavor of your cheese to add 1⁄8 teaspoon lipase to the milk right before you add the rennet. You can get lipase from any cheesemaking supply company.
First thing you do is make sure all your equipment is really clean. Next, pour the milk into the pot. Dissolve the citric acid in ½ cup nonchlorinated water. Pour this mixture through a slotted spoon into the milk (so it will distribute better). Heat the mixture to 55°F.
Once the mixture reaches 55°F, stir constantly with a slotted spoon and continue heating slowly until the temperature reaches 90°F. You will start to see little flecks of curd forming (experts call this “flocculation”). Turn off the heat, and let the mixture sit for 30 seconds.
Meanwhile, dissolve the rennet in the remaining ¼ cup water; pour this into the milk, and stir for 30 seconds. Stop stirring, cover the pot, and allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes. A custardy gel should form; it is ready for cutting when the edges of the curd pull away slightly from the pot.
Cut the curd with a long knife that reaches to the bottom of the pot. You want to cut across and down to make what looks like a checkerboard of ¾- to 1-inch squares of curd (but they don’t have to be perfect in size). Next, cut into the curd at a 45-degree angle so you’re shortening the depth of your squares of curd.
Return the pot to a medium-low heat, and heat to 105°F while gently moving curds around with a slotted spoon. Remove from the heat, and stir 5 minutes longer to help separate more of the curds and whey. With a slotted spoon or strainer, scoop out the curds into a large microwavable bowl, leaving the whey in the pot. (Careful—once it splashed me in the face!) Try to leave as much whey in the pot as possible.
Microwave the curds for 1 minute on high. Fold the curd over and over, kneading it briefly, to distribute the heat evenly and press out more whey. Test the temperature of the curd—your goal is to slowly heat it up to 145°F. Microwave the curd two more times for about 35 seconds each, taking its temperature each time and draining any whey that appears. Add the salt to taste.
When the curd reaches 145°F, knead it, protecting your hands with rubber gloves, until smooth and elastic. It will stretch like taffy when it is done. Cut the curd into two or three pieces, and roll each into a ball. Enjoy!
Written by Anya Firisen
Photography by Kate Arding