One of our favorite things to try for Rampant Cuisine is to make things at home that we used to think we had to buy at the grocery store. We are usually surprised by how easy it is to make things that seem like they would be complicated or time consuming. It is always intriguing to learn the sometimes weird processes that magically create tasty foods.
Take fresh mozzarella cheese, for example. Using three ingredients and about an hour of your time you can produce a beautiful ball of fresh mozzarella that puts most store bought mozzarella to shame. Two of the ingredients (vegetable rennet and citric acid powder) are a little hard to find and we had to order them online. The third ingredient is easy to find at any grocery store…your basic gallon of whole milk (unless you’re Nathan and couldn’t find the whole milk because it’s labeled ‘Vitamin D milk’… this is why I try not to let him do the food shopping alone.) Now that we have the basic ingredients we can make tons of fresh mozzarella. We showcased our fresh cheese in a simple way…slices of mozzarella and tomato placed on toasted pieces of baguette and garnished with basil from our declining balcony herb garden.
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
(Slightly modified from recipe found here.)
1 gallon of whole milk. (Unpasteurized milk is best but we used pasteurized milk and it came out just fine. Unpasteurized milk is hard to find if you don’t live next door to a farm. )
1 ½ teaspoons of citric acid powder.
1 ¼ teaspoon liquid vegetable rennet combined with 1 cup of water.
1 to 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, according to taste.
1. Sprinkle the citric acid powder into a cool, empty, large non-reactive stockpot. Pour ¼ cup water over it and stir it to dissolve. Pour the milk into the citric acid solution and stir to combine.
2. Put the pot over medium-low heat and heat it to 90 degrees (use an instant read thermometer.) You will start to notice the milk beginning to curdle.
3. When the milk reaches 90 degrees, remove the pan from the burner and pour in the rennet mixed with water. Stir the mixture with a gentle, circular up and down motion for about 30 seconds, then use the spoon to stop the motion of the milk.
4. Place the lid on the pot and walk away for five minutes. Don’t touch the pan! After five minutes, the mixture should resemble a very soft custard. With a spatula long enough to reach the bottom of the pot, cut the curd into chunks.
5. Return the pot to the the burner over medium heat and stir it gently until the temperature of the whey (the liquid that separates from the curd) reaches 105 degrees.
6. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the curd to a colander set over a bowl. Slowly spin around the colander to allow the whey to drain from the curd. Remove the cheese and gently squeeze it a few times to drain off more excess whey.
7. Transfer the cheese to a microwave-save bowl and microwave the curd on high for 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the microwave and pour off as much whey as you can.
Knead the curd together with your hands and drain off more whey.
Microwave it again on high for 35 seconds, the press the curd together again to drain the last of the whey. When the cheese is cool enough, knead and stretch the curd a bit.
8. Knead in the salt and roll the cheese dough under itself until it forms a neat ball (be sure not to over-knead the cheese or it will get rubbery.)
9. Set the ball into an ice water bath and let it rest until totally cool. (We were staring impatiently and took the cheese our after about 5 minutess and our Mozza ball eventually turned into a Mozza puck.)
Your mozzarella is now ready to eat!