I can’t yet compete with 40 years of experience, but I’d like to think my homemade fresh mozzarella at least comes close to that of Giuseppe’s, the master cheese-maker at Caputo’s in Brooklyn.
Since I was young, one of my favorite things to eat was creamy mozzarella cheese with fruity olive oil and tomatoes from our garden – my parents fed us well. But, my standards rose with age, and after traveling through Italy and living in the old Italian neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, mozzarella must be super creamy and rich to get my stamp of approval.
It’s rare these days to find fresh mozzarella with the texture and flavor that I once took for granted, so I often rely on my own two hands to get the cheese I want. It’s actually quite easy – I use the recipe from Ricki’s Mozzarella Cheesemaking Kit, which I purchased two seconds after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal. Vegetable. Miracle.
I’ve made this cheese many times, and small tweaks have transformed it from great melting cheese, to cheese you want to savor all on its own. The quality of the milk makes a huge difference. My top choice is organic, whole, cream-on-top milk from Straus Family Creamery. I’ve also used their raw milk with great results, but I like the flavor of whole milk better. On their website, Straus explains it’s the combination of fog, salty coastal air and special vegetarian diet they feed their cows that give the milk its unique aroma and taste. I can’t attest to their methods, but I can say their milk is one the best I’ve tasted – probably even second best. First place goes to the almost mythical dairy products that come from Valle d’Aosta in Italy.
Another trick to this cheese is the kneading process. Work the cheese as little as possible. Ricki suggests stretching the cheese before you shape it into a ball, but I often leave that step out to produce an ultra-creamy texture similar to mozzarella di bufala. It also improves the texture if you let the curds set for three minutes instead of five. It may take a few turns to get your cheese exactly how you like it, but I’m sure every batch will be tastier than the last. And the best part? It takes a half hour to make.
See the photo under “About Local Lemons”? That’s me making cheese in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen. When I told my neighbor I was making homemade mozzarella, he ran over and take a picture. You’ll find that’s a common response when you tell people you’re making cheese from scratch.
Ingredients for Fresh Mozzarella Like Guiseppe
(Adapted from Ricki’s Cheesemaking Recipe)
1 gallon of organic milk – the cheese will not work if you use ultra-pasteurized milk. It must be pasteurized at low temperatures or raw to make cheese. Cream-topped milk works great, and you can usually find it at your local farmers’ market.
1 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid
1/4 tablet of vegetable rennet, crushed and dissolved in 1/4 cup of cold water
cheese salt or sea salt
thermometer that starts at 80F
8 quart stainless steel pot
large glass bowl
stainless steel slotted spoon
Warm the milk
Pour milk into a stainless steel pot, and put the burner on low. Stir in citric acid, and slowly heat the milk to 95F. Turn the heat off and pour in the dissolved rennet. Stir continuously for exactly 30 seconds. Let the milk sit completely still for three minutes. At this point, the curds will separate from the whey. Run a sharp knife through the curd horizontally and vertically into one inch cubes. Be sure to cut all the way to the bottom of the pot. It should look like squares of curds with whey floating in between. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the curds into a large glass bowl. Drain as much of the whey as you can from the bowl.
Form the cheese
Put the glass bowl in a microwave on high for one minute. Remove and drain more of the whey, pressing down on the cheese with your hands to remove as possible. Microwave again for 30 seconds, and again drain the whey. Use can use a double-boiler instead of a microwave if you want.
This recipe is part of La Fête du Fromage over at Chez Loulou.
Check out her beautiful recipes and a get a taste of south France.