Last Christmas my hubby bought me a cheese making kit for making mozzarella and ricotta (ricotta is basically lor). While making ricotta was as easy as ever, I had a few issues when trying to make the mozzarella. Simply put, my curds would not stick together! After several tries, however, I did succeed.
I don’t know, maybe I’m a weirdo, but I love adhering to some of the traditional roles of a house wife. I love to cook, especially baking breads from scratch, making yogurt and pasta (makarna), making cheese… gardening is also a great joy of mine, although at the moment I am confined to planters on a balcony…I desperately want to learn to sew… and on another note, painting and art is another great passion of mine, and I look forward to being a stay-at-home mom in the future, inshallah. Not to say that the “progressive” career woman should be shamed, of course not. I used to think that was the path for me, but with time and experience I learned that, regardless of the job I was in, I did not feel fulfilled. It’s a personal thing, I guess, and I- as a progressive and a feminist- think that women should do whatever they enjoy…be it career oriented or family oriented.
Anyway, back to the cheese.
Between the trouble shooting guide and my own food science background, I was able to figure out what had gone wrong during the various times my mozzarella was unsuccessful. I hope any cheese makers out there find this helpful.
Basically, if your milk gets too hot when you are initially heating it, then your curds will be loose. Temperature is one of the parameters used to denature the milk proteins, allowing them to clump up together and fall out of suspension. For ricotta it doesn’t matter if it gets a little too toasty in that milk matrix…but for mozzarella, you need to hit that exact temperature, no more, no less.
Time goes hand-in-hand with temperature. Basically, if you don’t let the initial temperature rise go slowly, you are likely to overshoot the temperature before your thermometer can catch up, or scald the milk at the bottom of the pan while the rest is still too cool. Keep your burner at medium low. It may take a while, but it is worth it in the end.
Also, don’t forget to let everything rest appropriately. After adding the rennet, after cutting the curds, after stirring them, etc. Follow the directions, and if anything, add MORE time. Rome wasn’t built in a day…
I guess this is kind of temperature also…when the time comes to immerse your curds in a water bath/ microwave to melt the curds and stretch them- you are doing just that…melting them! I see time and time again that people get anxious and don’t let their curds get hot enough at this point. I like to use a colander-like spoon (I don’t know what it is called- it is wide, flat, and has holes instead of slots), spreading the curds out fairly evenly instead of leaving them in a clump, then submersing the mass into the water bath. They should look like a melty mass before you pull them back out. When you stretch them, it should be so hot you almost scald your fingers… hey, wear gloves.
Also, don’t over-stretch the curds. As soon as they look shiney (maybe three or four turns in the water bath, four or five stretches each time), round it off and throw the mozzarella balls into the ice bath. Over stretching results in a dry and rubbery cheese.
Good luck cheesy people!