Mozzarella – November Cheesepalooza Challenge
First off let me apologize for being so late with this post. The verbiage was completed on November 23 but I/we were very busy and I needed time to upload the photos. The Mozzarella Cheesepalooza Blog winners were announced and the Christmas season arrived….next thing you know it is now New Years Eve and I have learned my lesson. Future posts will be shorter and deal with a single subject rather than complicated multi-idea, multi-post ‘masterpieces’.
The Cheesepalooza Challenge for November was Mozzarella or ‘Stretched Curd’ cheeses. Watching the tweets and blog posts of other Cheesepalooza’ers I was getting more nervous by the post.
Everyone seemed to be having limited or no success. In the back of my mind I had been planning on making mozzarella with my kids as a fun family activity but the more I read about other Cheesepalooza’ers failures I decided that maybe this first batch was going to need my undivided attention and the fun family activity would need to wait for the Christmas break.
This mozzarella exploration was conducted during what I call my Deranged Squirrel Weekend, which is documented in my next post.
I am far from a mozzarella expert but have eaten buffalo milk mozzarella, aged mozzarella and ‘fresh’ mozzarella but not real fresh mozzarella of which I believe there are two beasts: fresh unstretched (soft bocconcini style) and stretched (what I made).
I reviewed the Mary Karlin recipes and soon realized I couldn’t make the traditional mozzarella because I had no way to measure pH. I quickly reviewed some of my favourite blogs, Addie and Ian and several other Cheesepalooza’ers which quickly confirmed there was no way I could fake it, estimate it or S.W.A.G. it; I was stuck and it was the weekend BEFORE the Cheesepalooza tasting at Val’s.
At this point I decided to make Junket Mozzarella and headed out. I was sure I had seen Junket Rennet somewhere in my recent travels and hopefully not during my trip to Oregon. I headed to Bosch Kitchen Centre, the place I save for hard to get items. Strike One! They didn’t have it and didn’t know where to find it. I have both tablet and liquid rennet at home so I was hoping I could salvage the day. I was burning daylight and decided to go for the Hail Mary Pass without accruing further strikes and headed home to begin.
I pulled out my 3 cheese making volumes and reviewed other recipes on the Internet and like a lot of discoveries decided to work with what I had and to use a blend of several recipes and come up with my own unique recipe using the raw materials I had on hand as follows:
Modified Sailor Rick “MSR” Mozzarella Recipe
8 liters whole milk (I used homogenized because I missed the recommendation to use non-homogenized)
1/2 teaspoon lipase powder dissolved in 1/3 cup distilled water for 20 minutes
1/2 tablet rennet dissolved in 1/3 cup distilled water
1/2 teaspoon calcium chloride diluted in 1/2 cup distilled water
3 teaspoons Lebanese Citric Acid Powder dissolved in 1/2 cup distilled water
- Heat milk to 80 degF.
- Add dissolved Lipase Powder and gently stir in with slotted spoon.
- Heat milk to 95degF.
- Add diluted Calcium Chloride, stir in with slotted spoon.
- Add Citric Acid solution, stir in with slotted spoon.
- Heat to 100degF.
- Add rennet, gently stir in with slotted spoon.
- Heat to 105degF.
- Turn off heat and let sit undisturbed for 20 minutes.
10. Check for a clean break, if not satisfied leave for 10 minutes more.
11. Scoop curds into a muslin-lined colander and drain off the whey (save the whey).
12. When curds stop dripping you are ready to proceed.
13. Heat up a large pot of water with enough dissolved sea salt to make the water taste like the ocean (being a sailor I love the poetic nature of this direction; but I digress and cannot take credit).
14. As the water reaches about 180degF clear everyone out of the kitchen and from within earshot, now stick a finger in the water. Can you take the pain? If yes, increase the temperature until you reach your upper limits of tolerance; cursing is acceptable as you’ve cleared out the kitchen. Once you’ve reached your maximal tolerance point make a note of this for future reference.
15. Squeeze together a ball of curds about the size of an orange (or as big as will comfortably fit in your cupped hands) and place gently in the hot water. They may separate a little but don’t worry we will fish them out.
16. Wait 5 minutes and scoop up the curds with slotted spoon.
17. Try and work the curds into a ball and squeeze out as much whey as possible on the slotted spoon. Pick up the ball of curds in your hands and cup between hands enclosing the curds (scream-shriek-curse the pain) squeezing tightly to expel more whey. Do this several times till the flow of whey almost stops, work quickly!
18. Start kneading the ball in your hands, at first it is grainy, coarse, dull and feels like a big failure but don’t despair! Keep kneading until too cool to work.
19. Flatten into a disc about 1/2 inch thick and put back into the hot water. Wait 5 minutes.
20. Take back into your hands and knead some more. Continue this process of kneading and heating until the cheese is shiny and elastic, as many times as necessary. But remember during this phase HEAT is your ally!
21. Once the cheese is stretchy and shiny, show off and stretch it out. I stretched mine about one meter (see photo).
22. Work it into a ball and stretch from the top and around the bottom to form a smooth ball. Pinch the bottom closed and place on a covered plate.
23. Repeat until all your curd is processed. Once you are comfortable you can have several balls in various stages of the process going at once.
24. Others will tell you to submerge the cheese balls in an ice water bath but I didn’t and my family really liked the final results.
25. My hands were sore when I was finished but they were back to normal the next morning.
26. Whimps, I mean ‘Modernists’ can wear gloves but I like to feel the curd as I work them.
I was really happy with how the mozzarella turned out. It was shiny and firm and had a nice toothiness; it was enjoyable to masticate. It also had a nice, more robust flavor that I had hoped to obtain from the addition of the lipase. However, at the Cheesepalooza tasting Valerie commented on how my mozzarella had a less creamy taste than she was expecting (she didn’t know about the lipase). I knew that by adding lipase I would give up that fresh creamy taste. That was a personal choice because I was planning to convert some of the mozzarella into burrata stuffed with mascarpone/cultured butter or ricotta and cream so I wanted more contrasting flavours.
I am not a mozzarella expert by any means and generally wouldn’t buy it to eat on its own and I have only made it once; but here are my thoughts about mozzarella making:
I know a number of the books and cheese makers and bloggers worry about overworking the curd. I treated my curd like bread dough and kept kneading until I thought it looked and felt right.
I will get a pH meter and try the traditional method to compare to my method to see if there is a difference in the cheese qualities.
I used homogenized milk because that is what I had on hand. I don’t think it had an effect.
I honestly wonder if the reason folks have difficulty is because they don’t squeeze out enough whey before the kneading process and then don’t heat the ball of curds hot enough to melt it before stretching and kneading. I had the same thoughts with every ball I made. It seemed like each ball was going to be a flop; it was grainy and dull and not stretchy but I kept at it and eventually it bound together and became a homogeneous mass.
Is it possible that by heating to a high enough temperature, the cheese proteins recombine? Dr. Addie comments please.
Maybe my secret ingredient, the Lebanese Citric Acid Powder was the magic that brought it all together. This acid powder is usually used be to make garlic sauce more sour without making the sauce runny like would happen by adding more lemon juice to the emulsion.
I reworked several of the mozzarella balls 4 days later by reheating in salted water and re-stretching the cheese. It did not seem to affect the cheese and it also allowed me to make the Burrata the day before the Cheesepalooza tasting. Please see my Burrata post for the recipe and procedure on how to make them. To quote Valerie (A Canadian Foodie) “His burattas were not at room temp, but so close, I thought the fillings would just ooze out. Nope. With a little nudging from the nuke-o-matic, they did ooze. Decadent deliciousness! I could have licked the plate.”
So please do find out for yourself.
I WILL be making this again. The whole family really enjoyed the taste of this fresh mozzarella.
FINAL FINAL THOUGHTS
Well here it is New Year’s Eve and I am about to post this. But before I do I’d like to mention that my partner in life’s Aunt Diane had heard rumors that I had been making cheese so she gave me/us a gift:
A mozzarella making kit. I will post the results of the use of this kit in the not too distant future.
And my final thought; I came across a piece of my home made mozzarella in our cheese drawer (things can be lost in there quite easily as we usually have upwards of 15 to 20 varieties of cheese in the drawer at any given time). Now about 6 weeks old it had a couple spots of mould on it and was looking a little tired but I trimmed it up and put it on a cheese plate with 12 other varieties. It was still pure white and when my wife looked at the plate she immediately picked it out and sampled it. “That’s your homemade mozza isn’t it? It is still delicious!”