Monday, January 4, 2010

Fresh Mozzarella, Unbound

A few months ago, after Gourmet announced it was shutting its doors, a new food blog popped up to celebrate the legendary (and influential) magazine. Since I missed the deadline for December, I was determined to submit something for January. Ironically (sadly), I had only been a subscriber since December 2008, but since I kept all my old issues, I turned to the January 2009 issue for inspirado.* (to find out what exactly I’m talking about, click here)

Why did I pick one of the most difficult recipes in this issue?? I don’t know . . . Is it because I like a challenge? Maybe it’s my Italian heritage?? Too much Schnookie and DJ Pauly D?? Whatever the situation was, I spent a good portion of Sunday afternoon trying my hand at HOMEMADE MOZZARELLA!

Fresh mozzarella only has 3 ingredients: Milk, Citric Acid, and Rennet. After calling every grocery in BHM (and a few kitchen supply stores), the only place I found that carried this elusive Rennet was WHOLE FOODS. A pack of 8 tablets was about $1.50 and the Citric Acid (in the hippie herb/supplements section) was around $5. The Rennet also came with a handy little recipe guide that had more recipes for homemade cheeses (so folksy!).

The Gourmet
instructions/recipe seemed time consuming, but not overly difficult. You basically combine Milk and Citric Acid, Heat, add Rennet/Water, Heat, Stir Curds, Drain in Cheesecloth, and then form Curds into Mozzarella. To quote Tom Petty “The Waiting is the Hardest Part.”

I thought the first hour went pretty well. Looking back, I probably stirred my milk too often, but I did start to see some curds form. After the first hour was up, I stirred in the warm water and Rennet mixture, and waited for the magic to happen . . . and waited . . . and waited. Another hour went by, and I never achieved the “stiffened milk mixture.” I mean, I achieved a few more curds, but nothing firm.

I might not have achieved mozzarella curd perfection, but I decided to strain what little I had and drain them in the cheese cloth. If you had seen the pictures in Gourmet, it looks like you would get about a basketball sized portion of curds from 1 gallon of milk. I got about a tennis ball’s worth. Maybe.

After hanging around for about three hours, the curds did lose some moisture, and even looked to be compacted into a little mozzarella ball shape. But this final step is where the curd really becomes mozzarella.

You’re supposed to ladle hot salted water on top of the milk curds, and let it slowly melt into a gooey mixture, which you’re then able to form into mozzarella balls (before suspending the process in cold water). I’m sure my curds weren’t robust enough in the first place, but when I placed them in warm/hot water, they just seemed to dissolve. And I definitely couldn’t form them into a ball.

After a minute or two, I ended up draining the curds and wrapping them in saran wrap to shape into some type of ball. The consistency was about the same as really soft, milky cream cheese, but not exactly what I had hoped for.

Looking back, I don’t think it was a complete loss. I bet my “cheese” would be half-way decent on pizza, but I’ll definitely try this again. What else am I gonna do with all this rennet and citric acid???

* For January 2009’s Pancetta & Pea Risotto I made last year, click here.


jccvi said...

Now I know what the plastic bags of citric acid at the Mediterranean grocery are for!

For some time I've wanted to make my own yogurt. Apparently all you need is a little yogurt with live bacteria culture and milk. After you get the first batch, you just keep use the yogurt you made as a starter and keep going.

You can make yogurt cheese (labneh in Lebanese cooking) by straining yogurt in a cheese cloth. The texture and taste are like tangy cream cheese. Mix in onions, cucumbers, and a little olive oil and you have tzadziki.

Seriously though, do all the cooking you can before the baby comes.

A said...

That sounds like a good idea about the homemade yogurt. The Mrs. and I tried Greek yogurt for the first time this summer, and now we keep a qt (?) on stock in the fridge. She loves it with granola (its vanilla-flavored) and I put it in my smoothies.

Yeah, i figure i won't be able to dedicate 3+ hours to artisinal cheese-making once the baby gets here. Oh well.

jccvi said...

The best way to do the Greek yogurt, and if you get Lebanese yogurt at an ethnic grocery it will be a fraction of the whole foods price, is plain full fat yogurt with honey and walnuts or pistachios. Blueberries work in there too.

jccvi said...

I did some googling for you. Try Mediterranean Foods on Greensprings behind Lovoy's (in the same shopping center with the Vietnamese place).

There are enough Lebanese people in Birmingham that you should be able to get some food items for cheap (yogurt, tahini, fava beans, lentils, cashews, pine nuts, etc.) that normally have a foodie tax at other grocery stores.

Look for a red spice called sumac. It looks like a deep red paprika and tastes lemony. Sprinkle it on top of hummus.

A said...

Sweet! I've actually been to that Medit grocery once, but didn't pick anything up. You can get a TON of spices really cheap (but then you end up with a TON of spices that dont get used).

I'll check it out for the Greek/Leb yogurt . . . although believe you, me, the Mrs. and I only shop @ WF for "special" hard to find ingredients (and sometimes fancy beer). I think the Greek Yogurt @ Publix is like $3.50??

jonathanharden said...

Food blog!!!!

jccvi said...

Please don't tell me how awesome Publix is.

Whitney said...

I love Oikos Greek Yogurt (Whole Foods, Publix, etc.)! Click the link below and register to get some coupons. :) Waiting for sweet Ruthie...

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