queso chronicles: homemade mozzarella

I have this fantasy that I will one day be an excellent cheesemaker. I really like cheese and I really like making things from scratch soooo … logical conclusion, right?

Well, my first two forays into the world of cheesemaking have been (sadly) less than stellar. Armed with internet research, a recipe from Ricki the Cheese Queen and the appropriate ingredients, I thought I had it in the bag.  I didn’t. After two back-to-back disappointments, I have taken a hiatus from cheesemaking. I think my milk choices may have been to blame (too high of a pasturization temperature at the milk factory), that and also the lack of a microwave to aid with the stretching process.

Here’s a little breakdown (although, if you want to attempt yourself, I would recommend you go straight to Ricki. She has quite the cult following and an awesome 80s hairdo, so she must be doing something right).

The ingredients

1 gallon whole milk, as local as you can get and not ultrapasturized

1 1/2 t citric acid, diluted in 1 c water

1/4 tab rennet

Add the citric acid diluted in water to cold milk. SLOWLY heat to 90 degrees.

Remove from the heat, add the rennet, stir 30 seconds, cover and let it sit quiet for 5 minutes.

A curd should form. Cut the curd into 1 inch cubes. Heat to 105 degrees. Take of the heat and continue to stir for 3 – 5 minutes. Strain the curd.

And this is where is all went downhill. I did not get a clean break between the curds and the whey. My curds were also finer and more grainy than they should have been. Still, I soldiered on, attempting to drain the curds and then form balls of those curds. Not successful. On my first attempt, my “mozzarella” was this funny mix between ricotta and mozzarella and would not hold any shape. On my second attempt, the cheese formed balls, but they were rock hard and dry. (Eww). Neither time was I able to stretch the cheese like Ricki shows in her pictures, neither time did I end up with a cheese that was appealing in texture.

I have to say, after the second failure I was pretty heartbroken. I hate to waste food (but I could not force myself to eat those hard, dry cheese balls). I won’t pretend that that it’s not disappointing to know that my dreams of master cheesemaking are much further away that I once thought. But, if anyone has a cow (and wants to share some super fresh milk) or even wants to offer up the use of their microwave, I may just give it another go.

-Emily