Before you read my short story, you may want to take a look at The Mozzarella Maker, one of the episodes of the series "1 in 8 million" recently published in the NY Times. I was moved by this story and by the images chosen to illustrate it.
After getting the book Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll, I tried making her 30-minute Mozzarella. Making this cheese entails heating the curds, stretching the resulting pliable matter, then forming balls and plunging them in cold water. A version of the recipe is available here, and here there is a version that does not use the microwave.
I have made mozzarella in 30-minute several times (some of them using half a gallon of milk, instead of one gallon) and after the first, tentative, time, the results have been pretty consistent. I get the curds to come together and then stretch, though not as far as what Ricki shows on the page referenced above. I also never kneaded the curd outside its bowl, and tried to keep more whey in, with an eye to a softer texture (see the third bullet point under "Option"). My mozzarella is good enough to be used, for example, as topping for pizza margherita, or in a dish I created, called Pizza-inspired Beans. For something like insalata caprese, however, I need to obtain something softer, moister and more flavorful.
The book has another recipe for mozzarella, which calls for farm fresh milk and does not use citric acid. I don't have farm fresh milk, but I tried it nonetheless, because I wanted to experience the different process. The recipe requires checking the pH of the whey, a procedure with which I need to become comfortable. This recipe is more involved: it was a nice challenge and it made me try to work the hot curds with wooden spoons, which is kind of fun.
Like with all the other cheese adventures I have embarked on so far, this has enlightened me on a process with which I was not familiar, content to enjoy the delicious result. I am determined to get better: as you can see from the photo, my mozzarella also needs to acquire a smoother surface. I have some time to practice before summer arrives and a plate of tomatoes from the farmers' market and fresh mozzarella, both sliced, graced by fresh basil leaves and lightly seasoned with olive oil, salt and a hint of pepper makes a simple yet satisfying dish.
This is my contribution the third edition of the Home Creamery Event created by Kirstin of Vin de la Table. Update: The event is now called Kitchen Curds and it is hosted on Kirstin's new blog It's Not You It's Brie. Here's the roundup of the event, which includes the story of what happened when a typo in a recipe turned 180 into 108.
Once again, my lack of knowledge in the wine field becomes evident at this point: you are welcome to help me by suggesting a wine pairing for one of the dishes I mentioned above.
Going out for pizza was something I used to do as a teenager, with friends or classmates. The common beverage in those occasions was birra (beer). Not for me though, as it disagrees with my taste buds. Since my childhood, my favorite accompaniment for pizza is actually a follower: gelato. A nice pizza topped with fresh mozzarella (maybe di bufala) then a nice cup of gelato: Life is good.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the mozzarella audio file [mp3].
Ho sempre creduto che non si potessero realizzare mozzarelle home made, per la complessità della lavorazione, ma tu mi apri un mondo da esplorare ...
Posted by: lenny | April 19, 2009 at 01:18 PM
Posted by: Baol | April 19, 2009 at 02:57 PM
Oh my! I was having a pizza margherita for dinner as I read your post. What a nice coincidence. ;-)
I think it's awesome that you can make your own mozzarella.
God bless the Mozzarella maker, Mrs. Tedone. Thanks for directing us to the link about her. One of these days, I'll try to get out there just for her mozzarella. Wonderful story. Wonderful person.
Posted by: Paz | April 21, 2009 at 05:21 PM
Amazing, I always thought that making mozzarella was really complicated. Congratulations on this! It would be cool for me to try it :)
Posted by: Marta | April 21, 2009 at 06:35 PM
Ciao Lenny. La ricetta veloce e' carina perche' fa capire il processo di lavorazione nelle sue fasi di base. Io non avevo mai visto fare la mozzarella, quindi e' stata una scoperta piacevole.
Anche a te, Baol.
Nice coincidence indeed, Paz. If you visit Mrs. Tedone, please, let me know. The photos they used to comment on her story are just beautiful, evocative.
Marta, the 30-minute recipe requires some manual skills and it make take a couple of tries to become comfortable. Now I would like to visit an artisan mozzarella maker and see how they do it. I assume that some of the steps are done by machines.
Posted by: Simona Carini | April 22, 2009 at 09:25 AM
Try adding 1/4 - 1/2 cup Cider Vinegar with the Citric Acid, it really increases the stretching of the curds. Happy cheese making...Tien
Posted by: Tien | April 26, 2009 at 10:07 PM
Thank you so much, Tien, for the suggestion. I will definitely follow it the next time I make mozzarella.
Posted by: Simona Carini | April 27, 2009 at 06:24 AM
ma tu sei incredibbole...la mozzarella home made!!! da non crederci! vorrei provare a farla. scusa la domanda scema, ma dove trovo l'acido citrico o va bene il succo di limone?
Posted by: fabdo | April 28, 2009 at 02:16 PM
I have attempted to make Paneer which is a simplified cheese, but have yet to attempt anything that requires any type of skill:D
Posted by: Bellini Valli | April 28, 2009 at 03:27 PM
Ciao Fabdo. Io l'acido citrico l'ho trovato in un negozio che vende ingredienti per fare la birra. Non ho mai provato ad usare il succo di limone.
Hi Valli. I think paneer is a good starting point. I hope you enjoyed making it.
Posted by: Simona Carini | April 29, 2009 at 06:21 AM
What hard cheese do you suggest that I start with? You have had wonderful success with your hard cheeses.
Posted by: Tien | May 06, 2009 at 02:28 PM
Hi Tien. If you select Cheese under Categories on the right side bar, you can see some old posts where I talk a bit about the first hard cheeses I made: http://briciole.typepad.com/blog/cheese_dish/ Let me know if you have any questions on what I wrote and I'll be more than happy to answer. I am glad you are thinking about experimenting with hard cheeses.
Posted by: Simona Carini | May 07, 2009 at 10:00 AM
Thanks a lot, Simona. I was so excited to see where you ordered a cheese press. With the cheese press, did you order any forms for the hard cheese? Which hard cheese did you like the best? I wanted to visit ricotta cheese for a second. I tried it with buttermilk, lemon juice, citric acid. The best flavor was from the leftover whey from mozzarella or ricotta and add apple cider vinegar. I also found that using the potato sack towels is better that cheese cloth.
Posted by: Tien | May 09, 2009 at 06:41 AM
You are welcome, Tien. I ordered just the cheese press. Actually, each cheese I have made so far had a different personality and some characteristics to recommend itself. The Montasio is probably my favorite so far. Also, I prefer the Manchego that I age longer: it can be aged as little as a week, but a longer aging makes it more interesting.
My favorite ricotta so far was made from the whey left over from making Manchego to which I added a bit of milk and some acidified whey from a previous batch of ricotta.
I used cheese cloth only a couple of times, at the beginning, the first time I made labneh and mascarpone, and quickly realized that I needed a different solution. I use cotton cloth that I got from cutting into squares a bed sheet. Your idea of using potato sack towels is very good.
Posted by: Simona Carini | May 10, 2009 at 11:24 AM
Thank you for all of the information. I will just order the cheese press. It is at very reasonable price. For the ricotta, try adding 4 cups of milk to the leftover whey, 1 pint of half and half, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, and 1 tsp of salt after you drain the whey. I have tried making the ricotta with buttermilk, citric acid, and lemon juice separately. But from the ricotta class, everyone loved the apple cider vinegar addition. I will let you know after I experiment with the Montasio cheese. What temperature did you store the cheese after you put wax on it? I am so happy that you are into making cheeses. I have found your blog through Lisa's Champaign Taste blog.
Posted by: Tien | May 11, 2009 at 05:02 PM
For the mozzarella, after you heat up the cheese for 1 minute in the microwave, drain the whey, knead the cheese like bread dough, heat the cheese for 30 secs more, drain the whey, knead the cheese like bread dough. To get the stretch of the mozzarella, you have to do at least 4 more times of heating for 30 secs, draining and kneading on a plate. The mozzarella will get a really glossy outer coat. I did not realize that I had to do this longer than the Ricki's instructions.
Posted by: Tien | May 11, 2009 at 05:08 PM
Hi Tien. Montasio is not waxed. It should be stored at 55-60 F, according to Ricki's instructions in her book. Thanks for the tip on microwave mozzarella: I will follow your process the next time I make it. I remember reading about your Pho class on Lisa's blog. Thank you so much for stopping by and for this very interesting exchange.
Posted by: Simona Carini | May 13, 2009 at 01:20 PM
Great video! Would love to see you more involved in our project on facebook and twitter as you have such amazing background in cheese... but, that is a selfish request. Just as thrilled you are sharing your work with us!
(LOVED the video!)
Posted by: A Canadian Foodie | December 02, 2012 at 10:04 AM
Have you posted about your mozzarella making more recently? How has your technique changed or improved? I found that my stretching improved from mozzarella attempt one to three, so I can only imagine what improvement you may see after several years of practise!
Posted by: christine @ wannafoodie | December 02, 2012 at 11:24 AM
Hi Valerie. I can assure you I'd love to have time to do that, but my life is a bit on the full side. I am not a fast-working person, so it takes me a long time to do everything I do. I am glad you enjoyed the video. It was part of an interesting project by the NY Times.
Hi Christine. No, I haven't. To be honest, my technique has not changed, because I have made mozzarella probably another time after the post was written and then I stopped, because I was not happy with the result. In general, I am more attracted to semi-hard cheeses. Also, I am afraid that having eaten countless fresh mozzarelle in Italy has set my bar for mozzarella quite high. If one day I get to intern at a mozzarella-making place in Italy, I may revisit my decision. I am glad to read you felt your mozzarella improved with time.
Posted by: Simona Carini | December 03, 2012 at 11:56 AM