By far, the cheese which generates the most interest in home cheesemaking is mozzarella. The allure of its soft texture, varied uses, speed of production, and the fun of stretching the curd make it a very attractive beginner cheese. Thousands of hobbyists have flocked to the Quick Mozzarella recipes and classes. This cheese has often been referred to as “fast”, “quick” and “easy”. I have personally made a lot of this cheese through home production and teaching classes on cheesemaking. I find it to be quick to produce, but not easy. Furthermore, the quick recipes use citric acid for quick acidification and coagulation, which results in a rubbery texture. So while most home cheesemakers are seeking a decadent, soft Italian-style mozzarella (in this case we might pronounce it as Moh-tza-rel-ah), they end up with firm pizza cheese.
Despite these shortcomings, we continue to use the quick mozzarella for training of new cheesemakers. This article and recipe, however, is for those who have already succeeded with quick mozzarella and are ready to move on to a softer, better tasting, and more advanced cheese. Why more advanced? The main difference between the two recipes is the acidification process---quick mozzarella uses a direct addition of a specific measurement of citric acid to achieve the proper pH, while the following recipe uses a living lactic acid bacteria to produce the proper pH by fermenting lactose sugar to lactic acid. The waiting time required to achieve the proper acidification in this soft, cultured mozzarella recipe is about 5-6 hours. It is still a rather quick recipe when compared to most other cheeses which take days, weeks, or months.
The mozzarella will only stretch when the pH is in the range of about 5.1-5.4. Left to its own devices, the lactic culture will generally take a cheese pH all the way down to 4.7. This means that to make mozzarella, you must monitor the pH of the curd and stretch it before it has acidified to completion. If the pH drops to 5.0 or below, you will find that the curd will tear apart rather than stretch. Working on this recipe, I created pH schedules to chart the curd acidification and get a good sense of what is happening with the culture and pH. I found that once the pH drop below 6.0, the pH drop accelerates rapidly to the point that it will go from above 5.4 to below 5.1 in perhaps a ½ hour period. Without a pH meter or pH strips, you are unlikely to stop your curd in the correct range. Ideally, you have the ability to measure pH and will be checking on a regular basis after about 4 hours of culturing.
After stretching and forming your mozzarella balls, they may be stored until consumption in the salt brine, or after 24 hours you may move them to a baggie so they will last a bit longer. Remember, this cheese is intended to be consumed fresh, so don’t wait for a rainy day!
Note of Caution on Selecting Milk: We have found over the years that there are sometimes problems with getting this cheese to stretch. The problem is that milk is often pasteurized at temperatures that are too high to allow proper stretching. The solution is to always use the highest quality non-homogenized milk that you can find. Here in Sonoma County we have always been successful when using Straus Milk.
Makes approx. 2 lbs. of cheese
Preparation Time: 6-7 hours
2 gallons Whole Cow Milk
3/8 tsp. Thermo B
1/4 tsp. Calcium Chloride in ¼ cup unchlorinated water
1 tsp. Rennet in ¼ cup unchlorinated water
OPTIONAL : 1/8 tsp. Lipase powder dissolved in 1/4 cup water, and set aside for 20 minutes
2 Tbs. nonfat dry milk
1 or 2 oz. Salt
See brine ingredients below.
Large stainless steel double boiler (at least 10 qt. capacity)
Perforated ladle or slotted spoon (preferably two of these)
Cheese netting or Cheesecloth
Kitchen gloves (preferably neoprene coated)
Extra pot or bowl to collect whey
Basic Knowledge Review (optional)
1 quart unchlorinated water
1 quart whey (saved from draining of curds)
1 tsp calcium chloride per quart of brine
1 Tbsp. Diamond Crystal salt per quart of brine
Prepare a brine in a large sealable container using the above ingredients. The prepared brine should be very cold so that the hot mozzarella balls can cool quickly and firm up. Place the mozzarella balls in the brine ensuring they are covered with liquid.
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