Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm a failure

Ever since reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" this summer I have been dying to make homemade mozzarella cheese. I checked out the book "Home Cheesemaking" by Ricki Carroll from the library and read all about it. I searched high and low for the proper ingredients. I planned an evening to do it and convinced the kids to join me in my experiment. I was so excited and my expectations so high. I failed.

My cheese just looked like milk left out for a week (I know you don't want to admit it but you have done this before, perhaps it was one of the kids sippy cups behind the couch or the forgotten mug of Santa's on the mantel, if it makes you feel better to blame it on them then fine. . .) fortunately it didn't smell like milk left out for a week. I thought I followed all the directions but the results prove otherwise. I went back and reread parts of the book and found a few things I will change the next time I try this out.

The recipe (minus optional additions.-you'll have to check out the book for those. My notes in red):
2 level teaspoons citric acid
1 gallon pasteurized whole milk
1/4 rennet tablet diluted in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water

I got my citric acid from Lisa (thank you Lisa!!!) I have no idea where to buy it, perhaps she will comment and tell us all. The rennet tablets I picked up at Fred Meyers from the baking aisle by the Danish Desert.

Day before making cheese: I don't have a filter that eliminates chlorine (does anybody?). I don't know if bottled water has chlorine. So, I just left a glass of water out on the counter overnight.; supposedly the chlorine evaporates.

30 minutes before beginning cheese: divide your rennet tablet into quarters with a pill cutter. Crush 1/4 tablet with two spoons (like you would to hide meds in Peanut Butter for the dog). Mix the crushed quarter tablet into 1/4 c unchlorinated water (the water you've left out overnight). I crushed the pill but did not dissolve and leave it out for 30 minutes. Only afterwords did I find mention of this important step in the third chapter of the cheese book.

1. Add the citric acid to the milk and mix thoroughly.
2. Heat the milk to 88 degrees F (the milk will start to curdle.)
3. Gently stir in the diluted rennet with an up-and-down motion, and continue heating until the temperature reaches 105 degrees F. turn off the heat and let the curd set until you get a clean break. This will take only a few minutes.
This is where my experience with the cheese ends. My curds never set to a clean break. I only got about 1 cup of curd out of the whole batch. :(
4. The curds should look like thick yogurt. If the whey is still milky white, wait a few more minutes.
5. Scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon and put into a 2qt microwavable bowl. Press the curds gently with your hands, pouring off as much whey as possible. Reserve the whey.
6. Microwave the curds on HIGH for 1 minute. Drain off all excess whey. Quickly work the cheese with a spoon or your hands, forming it into a ball until it is cool enough to touch. (wear rubber gloves; the cheese has to be almost too hot to touch before it will stretch.)
7. Microwave two more times for 35 seconds each. After each heating, work the cheese into a ball until it is cool enough to touch. Drain all excess whey each time.
8.Knead quickly like bread dough until it is smooth. When the cheese stretches like taffy, it is done. If it breaks, the curds need to be reheated.
9. When the cheese is smooth and shiny, it is ready to eat.
Yield 3/4-1lb

Things I think I did wrong
  1. I started heating the milk and realized that I hadn't added the citric acid yet. Probably should have done it while it was still cool.
  2. I didn't let the dissolved rennet tablet sit out for very long before adding it to my milk.
  3. The kids stirred so it probably wasn't gentle enough.
  4. I only have a candy thermometer, the lowest it registers is 100 degrees, so I may have added the rennet too soon before 88 degrees or after, I dunno?! Time to get a digital, darn.
So I'd love to hear if any of you have tried this cheesemaking stuff and what your experiences were. I hope to try it again soon with greater success.

1 comment:

  1. I don't remember exactly where I got the citric acid, because it was a while ago, but I got it online. If you do a search for "food grade citric acid", you will get lots of hits. One option I saw today was nutsonline.com, where (with shipping costs) you can get 1 lb of it for about $12.50, or 5 lbs of it for about $31.00. I bought 5 pounds, and I'm pretty sure it will last me a lifetime!

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