Never have I considered that cheesemaking is something I would try, frankly it sounds rather crazy, even though I now know I have actually been part of it! The story begins in a round-about way, for my birthday (back in September) I was given a Rocco DiSpirito cookbook, Rocco's Italian American, it has beautiful color photos in it of mozzarella being hand pulled, I was curious, searched the index and found no recipe for making mozzarella....well I couldn't stop there! I started Googling around and found Ricki Carroll's fantastic website, www.cheesemaking.com when I saw the '30 Minute Mozzarella' recipe I knew I had to try it. So I kept digging and found out that I would need some very specific supplies, away I went, clicking my way to a Cheesemaking Kit (yup that has crazy written all over it!).
While waiting for my shiny new cheesemaking kit to arrive I started reading up on the history of cheese, both in Ricki's book Home Cheese Making and online. Being a food nerd is something I am not ashamed of and frankly reading about the history of cheese was pretty fascinating.
Cheese is ancient (technically speaking), dating back to times before recorded history, potentially as far back as 6,000 B.C.E. According to The Nibble.com, cheese was part of the Sumerian diet, 4000 years before the birth of Christ, made from both cows’ and goats’ milk and stored in tall jars. Egyptian tomb murals circa 2000 B.C.E. show butter and cheese being made, and other murals which show milk stored in skin bags suspended from poles demonstrate a knowledge of dairy husbandry.
Cheese is made in virtually every country on earth and is created with a multitude of animals' milk, ranging from the reindeer in Scandinavia, the boar in Africa, the water buffalo in Italy, the yak in Tibet, the mare in Russia to the cows, goats and sheep we all know.
I'm not just going to ramble on about the history of cheese, the point is, every culture, every country and nearly every animal has some kind of cheese associated with it. Two things that are key to making your own cheese, good, fresh milk and not using ultra-pasteurized milk. In Texas we are very lucky to have great local milks available to us, this time we used Promised Land Dairy Whole Milk, it's a pleasure to have such great Texas products available to us and it made a delightful choice for our first attempt at cheesemaking.
The instructions for making this cheese come directly from Ricki Carroll's website but you'll note that you won't find these ingredients at your local grocery store, for that you'll need to go to a supplier who stocks cheesemaking supplies (my recommendation is of course, www.cheesemaking.com). I won't go into the detail here but instead suggest you check out the link I've connected and will share our photos instead.
First we had to heat up the milk with citric acid, temperature is key so we had a thermometer constantly at hand.
Then we added rennet and let it sit for a few minutes, after it reached a solid state we sliced through it and we mixed it slowly bringing it back up to temperature.
At this point the curds and whey become so clearly cheese-like it got very exciting to be able to see some semblance of the product.
After more time we had to don plastic gloves and begin to press the whey out and bring the cheese to an even higher temperature.
Once it was hot enough it was ready to stretch, the fun part.
Finally, the finished product!
We had a fantastic time making the mozzarella, it was such a cool experience to see it come together in such a short amount of time and is a truly unique thing to produce your own cheese. I can't wait to try other recipes and to further explore this niche of cooking that is really a combination of science, cooking and art that I had no idea would be so easy to experiment with.