I’ve made ricotta and yogurt cheese a few times at home, but I’ve never tried to do anything that involved (vegetable) rennet before. I had read that mozzarella was fairly tractable, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Casting about google for recipes turned up New England Cheesemaking Supply which sells rennet, citric acid and anything else you would need to get started, as well as a pretty nice visual recipe.
First attempt: got my package in the mail and of course I had to make it the same evening. I ran over to our local market which has just started carrying some organic products, bought a gallon of whole milk and got started. And something went horribly wrong, the curds wouldn’t set up but became something more like ricotta. It took me awhile to realize I’d bought UHT (ultra-high temperature pasteurized) milk in spite of the directions warning you multiple times that it wouldn’t set up. Bummer! I thought UHT milk always came in those brick cartons similar to soymilk, I guess not :(.
Second attempt: things went much more smoothly this time. Because I was a little skittish from the last effort, I did everything to the max. Maximum citric acid, maximum rennet, maximum resting time. Now I got nice big curds, and sure enough you cut them up, microwave them, knead them and pour off the whey, repeating a few times, and presto, you’ve got mozzarella! I have to say I was elated when the texture suddenly changed and it was obvious I’d really made cheese. Very cool.
This batch turned out more like a good grocery story mozzarella, really stretchy and stringy and suitable for melting on pizza, not something you would make an insalata caprese with. It tasted better after resting overnight, but still wasn’t something that is probably worth the trouble of doing regularly.
Things to try for next time:
- Don’t let the curds sit so long before cutting
- Knead more gently so more moisture stays in
- Reheat in hot water or whey instead of microwave
- Try using a culture instead of citric acid. I think this will give a better flavor and it is the traditional way
- Maybe use a little bit of goat milk in the mix? or better yet, water buffalo, but I don’t think that is available in the Seattle area. I hear a rumor there are herds in Florida.
- Try making a burrata-style mozzarella, following the directions at Sex and the Kitchen