What is Mozzarella?
There are three different kinds of mozzarella: stretched, pressed, and fresh. In this recipe, we will be making stretched with cow milk. It has a creamy, soft texture and is absolutely ideal for pizza toppings and snacking! This curd cheese initially came from Italy.
Thank you to Make Cheese for this awesome description of the science of cheese making! Milk is made up of spherical globules of milk fat, which is called casein (or casein micelles). Most of the milk-water, along with lactose and some minerals, are removed as liquid, called whey, during cheese making. This excretion is a yellowish color and can even be saved from the cheese-making process and added to shakes and whatnot.
Heating the milk and adding food grade citric acid to the milk reduces the pH level to between 5.2 – 5.4. As this number goes down, the calcium phosphate in the casein dissolves and is replaced by hydrogen in order to stretch the cheese. When rennet is then introduced to the milk, the rennet collapses the outer layer, or walls, of the casein micelles. They bind together, condense the fat cells and drain the whey, making a protein chain. Kneading and stretching the curds help to elongate this protein chain, which causes the stringiness of mozzarella.
1 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
1/4 rennet tablet or 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet (Not Junket rennet, see note below)
1 gallon milk, whole or 2%, not ultra-pasteurized*
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1.Prepare the Citric Acid: Measure out 1 cup of water. Stir in the citric acid until dissolved.
2.Measure out Rennet: Measure out 1/4 cup of water in a separate bowl. Stir in the rennet until dissolved.
3. Warm the Milk:
Pour milk into a pot. Stir in the citric acid solution. Set the pot over medium-high heat and warm to 90°F, stirring gently but frequently.
- Add the Rennet: Remove the pot from heat and gently stir in the rennet solution. Count to 30. Stop stirring, cover the pot,and let it sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
- Cut the Curds: After five minutes, the milk should have set, and it should look and feel like soft silken tofu. If it is still liquidy, re-cover the pot and let it sit for another five minutes. Once the milk has set, cut it into uniform curds: make several parallel cuts vertically through the curds and then several parallel cuts horizontally, creating a grid-like pattern. Make sure your knife reaches all the way to the bottom of the pan.
- Cook the Curds: Place the pot back on the stove over medium heat and warm the curds to 105°F. Stir slowly as the curds warm, but try not to break them up too much. The curds will eventually clump together and separate more completely from the yellow whey.
- 7. Remove the Curds from Heat and Stir: Remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring gently for another 5 minutes.
- 8. Separate the Curds from the Whey: Ladle the curds into a microwave-safe bowl with the slotted spoon.
- 9. Microwave the Curds: Microwave the curds for one minute. Drain off the whey. Put on your rubber gloves and fold the curds over on themselves a few times. At this point, the curds will still be very loose and cottage-cheese-like.
- 10. Microwave the Curds to 135°F: Microwave the curds for another 30 seconds and check their internal temperature. If the temperature has reached 135°F, continue with stretching the curds. If not, continue microwaving in 30-second bursts until they reach temperature. The curds need to reach this temperature in order to stretch properly.
- 11. Stretch and Shape the Mozzarella: Sprinkle the salt over the cheese and squish it with your fingers to incorporate. Using both hands, stretch and fold the curds repeatedly. It will start to tighten, become firm, and take on a glossy sheen. When this happens, you are ready to shape the mozzarella. Make sure not to overwork the cheese, so that it will still melt.
Would I Do It Again?
Yes! Most definitely! I am going to continue to retry this recipe until I completely master it, because I still cannot get this texture perfect! I’m still not really sure what I’m doing wrong, but I am going to try to get an actual thermometer so that I can check the internal temperature of the cheese (since that’s what the recipe calls for).