Making cheese has been on my culinary bucket list for a long time, and the complex world of cheese-making begins with mozzarella. I understood the basics: heat milk with rennet to separate the liquid whey from the solid curd, the part that makes up mozzarella. While the process is simple, I was intimidated - sometimes the most basic dishes are the easiest to screw up!
Biding my time I made constant excuses like, "I need to order special ingredients online" or "It'll cost a ton and I don’t have the time"... as I idly shopped online for non-essentials. But none were valid justifications and I knew it. So when my boyfriend recently gifted me a cheese-making kit, the excuses ran dry, and I realized it was time to face my irrational fear.
To my delight the cheese came together with ease, with the most demanding part involving the close monitoring of temperature. In just 30 minutes I was dropping soft, warm balls of mozzarella into cool water to help them set. I proudly served my creation with roasted grape tomatoes, thin slices of salami, and a drizzle of good olive oil. This simple recipe yields mozzarella that easily rivals the finest restaurants. The cheese tasted incredibly fresh and satisfyingly rich.
NOTE: The art and science of cheese-making ranges from easy to complex. There are many fresh cheeses that you can make that are almost fool-proof. And if you enjoy that process, the rabbit hole is deep. There’s a whole world of knowledge out there if you are interested and here’s a good place to start.
Homemade Truffle Mozzarella
(Adapted from the Hobby Hill Farm cheese kit)
Yields 1 pound of cheese
- Large heavy bottom pot, which can fit a gallon of milk
- Thermometer (can measure 40 - 214 degrees F)
- Fine mesh strainer
- 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid diluted in 1 cup cold water
- 1/4 rennet tablet or 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet
- 1 gallon whole milk
- 1 tsp truffle salt (purchased from Whole Food's bulk section) or any non-iodized salt
Add milk to the pot and place thermometer in the milk to monitor the temperature. Heat gently over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until the milk is 55 degrees. While stirring add the citric solution to the milk. Continue to stir constantly and heat the milk to 90 degrees.
Remove the pot from the heat and add the rennet. Stir gently for about 30 seconds and let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes.
At this point the curd and whey will be separated. The whey will be a clear, yellowish color and the curd will be small loose chunks.
Place the pot back on the heat and warm until it reached 105 degrees. Again, be sure to stir gently and constantly. Remove from the heat and stir for another 2-5 minutes.
Scoop out the curds with a fine mesh strainer and squeeze out as much whey as possible. Place the curds in a glass microwavable dish.
Microwave on high for 1 minutes. This melts the curds and removes excess liquid. Pour off the excess liquid and knead the cheese with a wooden spoon for about 1-2 minutes to redistribute the heat. Microwave again on high for 35 seconds. Add salt and knead for another 1-2 minutes. Microwave, one last time, for 35 seconds and knead for 1-2 minutes. Form the cheese into little balls, stretching the cheese and pinching at the bottom of the ball. Place the balls in a bowl of cold water to cool down.
Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in an air tight container for up to 4 days.