We recommend whole RAW milk for the best cheese ever, but hey, if you don't happen to live near a farm (or don't have $6-8 to invest in a gallon of fresh raw milk!) you can use store bought whole milk.
Now, here's the tricky part... buy a brand that is not Over-Pasteurized or "Ultra" Pasteurized or you'll end up with yucky milk and no cheese. Also, it's a good idea to use bottled water for the small amount of water in this recipe as tap water and city water tend to have minerals or chlorine that will interfere with the curdling action.
As far as the finished product, depending on your milk you should get approximately 2 pounds of mozzarella from this recipe. We've used some brands of milk that only yielded 1 3/4 lbs, which I suspect was due to the pasteurization. The following method is adapted from Ricki Carroll.
A Dairy Thermometer
1 gallon Milk, (just not ultra-pasteurized)
1 1/2 tsp. Citric Acid powder, dissolved in 1/4 cup room-temperature BOTTLED water
1/4 tsp. Liquid Rennet or 1 1/2- 2 tablets Rennet, dissolved in 1/4 cup room-temperature BOTTLED water
1 tsp. Cheese (Flake) Salt or Kosher Salt (do not use Iodized salt)
Rubber Gloves (for pulling/stretching the hot cheese!)
In a large pot, Dump in the milk and heat it slowly over medium-low heat until it reaches 55F. It should be stirred both slowly and continuously to prevent it from scalding.
As the milk reaches 55F, add the citric acid/water mixture stirring well. Continue to stir slowly and frequently and bring the mixture to 88F.
As soon as the mixture hits 88F, add the rennet mixture, stirring well to incorporate.
At this point, the milk will thicken considerably and white flecks may be sticking to your spoon. This is what it's supposed to do, it's starting to curdle.
As soon as the milk mixture hits 90F, you'll want to decrease stirring to occasionally, if at all. It's important that the curds come together.
Once the Milk reaches 95F-105F the curds will then become very thick. As they begin to separate from the sides of the pot, Shut off the heat. The curds are bright white and the liquid whey is yellow.
Let the curds set for about 5 minutes to rest.
Using a slotted spoon, gently remove the curds by ladling them into a microwave-safe bowl, draining off the whey as you remove them. Pour off any excess whey that has accumulated into the bowl during the transfer.
Place the bowl of curds in the microwave and heat for 60 seconds. Again, drain off any whey that has accumulated, then carefully fold over the cheese in half and then in half again, evenly distributing the heat amongst the curds.
Return the bowl to the microwave and heat for an additional 30 seconds. Again, drain off any whey that has accumulated in the bowl. Sprinkle the cheese ball with salt, then fold the curds in half, turn it 90 degrees and fold it in half again.
Return the curds to the microwave for another 30 seconds. Drain off any whey. The cheese will be very hot at this point and look like melted mozzarella (because hey, that's what it is!). Stretch the mozzarella out, fold it back on itself. A good rule of thumb to remember, if the cheese breaks while stretching and folding, chances are, it's not hot enough and needs a little additional time in the microwave.
This process should only take a minute or 2, overworking the cheese will result in a stringy finished product.
At this point, the cheese can be shaped into balls, braids or sticks, as desired. To cool it quickly, it can be dropped into a bowl of ice water.
This entire process takes about 25 minutes and is relatively simple to do once you get the hang of it.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Can I use Lowfat or 2% Milk?
We recommend Whole milk for a rich, soft textured finished mozzarella.
Use 2% if you really think you need to
Use 1% If you prefer a stringy-like texture (much like the string cheese sold in individually wrapped sticks)
Don't even waste your money on Fat-Free Milk, your cheese will double as a bouncy ball and only those with no taste buds at all will enjoy it.
2. What if I don't have a Microwave (Or if I think it will somehow kill/Poison my family to eat microwaved food)?
If you don't have access to a microwave you'll need a large pot filled with hot water. Then place the curds in the bowl and let the bowl float around inside instead. This warming action causes the curds to meld together (due to the heat) and then they become nice and stretchy.
3. Where can I get Citric Acid Powder?
This item is commonly found in with the Vitamins and herbs in the Pharmacy section, sometimes it's in with canning supplies (depending on the season) and it's always available here on Amazon as well.
4. Can I use Goat Milk Instead?
Yes, it needs to be Raw Goat milk and you'll need to cook it to about 115F instead of 105F in order to get the same amount of curds.
5. I don't have kosher or flake salt, can't I just use plain salt from my pantry?
Not if the salt is iodized, it will interfere with any bacterial ripening. If you don't have Flake cheese salt, use canning salt.
6. Do I have to use Bottled water?
No, you don't have to, you can use well water if it doesn't have a high mineral content (meaning you can drink it without having to run it through a water filter and it tastes fresh, clean with no smell at all.). We do not recommend using City tap water as it most often contains chlorine which will stop the enzyme action of the rennet.
Other Tips and Tricks:
If you're using liquid rennet (which is what we prefer to use) be sure it's not Double Strength- if so, reduce the amount to 1/8 of a tsp in the recipe instead of 1/4 tsp.
Have you made your own cheese before? How did yours come out?
If you're really struggling or if you want all the ingredients in 1 place, you can buy a cheesemaking kit.
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