I have been wanting to delve into the world of cheese making for years. I have owned Ricki Carrol’s “Home Cheese Making” book for almost 5 years, with nothing to show for it during that time. Until now. A few weeks ago I finally ordered a cheese making kit for mozzarella and ricotta, the most basic, idiot-proof cheeses you can make. Supposedly. I mean, it doesn’t get more simple than heating a gallon of milk, adding citric acid and rennet, stir, stretch, and shape. You are done! The magic works and you have cheese that you made All. By. Yourself. You CANNOT screw this up, right? The recipe I used is called 30-minute mozzarella, and even though it took me more than half an hour (I got distracted by a friend who called pleading to use my garden hose to wash off her friend’s dog that rolled in poop on a hike), it didn’t take much longer than 30 minutes. Now that I am more familiar with the process, and I know that it actually works, it won’t take me nearly as long the next time I make it. Check out the finished product on bruschetta. Yummmmmm.
Here is the quick and dirty process on how to make your very own batch of mozzarella. After you heat the milk with the citric acid and rennet, you let it sit for a few minutes to let the curd develop. Once it is ready, you cut the curd into pieces, then slowly stir it. This separates the curd from the whey. You pour off the whey and can use it for other things. I love it in pancakes, it give them a nice twangy flavor. Chickens also love whey. The photo below is during the curd-stirring process. I know it doesn’t look great, and this was also the point where I was telling myself, “This doesn’t seem right. I don’t think this is going to work….” Oh, me of little faith.
Once you pour off the whey, you microwave the curds, which causes them to sort of melt into one another. The you mash the curd into one piece, pour off any additional whey, and then stretch it like taffy. It’s kind of fun! After I microwaved it, I knew it was going to work. The first thought in my head was, “Holy shit! This is actually going to work!” That was followed by huge relief that it was actually going to work.
Once the mozzarella has been stretched, you shape it how you want. I chose to shape mine into little discs a la bocconcini. That’s it! Easy, idiot-proof cheese made in your kitchen in about half an hour.
Finally, a sad note: when I got home from work on Friday afternoon, I had a note from my neighbors about one of my chickens. Something had killed my Barred Rock and hauled her into my neighbors’ yard, strewing feathers all over the place. My best guess is that it was a hawk or a falcon as I could find no evidence of entry through the fence, and the injury seems consistent with a bird of prey and not like a dog or cat bite. I was pretty melancholy on Friday evening, and I felt bad for my one remaining adult chicken who seemed a little lonely. My 4 baby chicks are growing fast, so it won’t be too much longer and they will all be coopmates. RIP little Barred Rock, I will miss your enthusiastic greeting every time I opened the back door, whether it was to come see you or not.