I've had a lot of time on my hands.
With my schedule quickly filling up, I stepped back and took a whopping 9 day vacation. Boom. In the middle of January. A vacation. Other than celebrating Michael's birthday with a short jaunt out of town, I had nothing planned. Nada. Nothing. I wore pajamas every day and puttered around the kitchen. The fun kind of puttering. Relaxed. No agenda. No one to please. No costing, pricing, ordering, prepping, or cooking for big crowds. Just puttering.
A while back, Michael gave me a cheese making packet for my birthday. While I've already gone down the simple homemade ricotta cheese route, I haven't tried other cheeses because I knew they required stuff. Stuff I probably wouldn't understand. As it turned out, the process was fairly straightforward.
Armed with my handy dandy Urban Cheesecrafter brown paper packets, I spent a fabulous day making homemade mozzarella cheese. Aside from a couple of missteps, I had a blast.
**The Urban Cheesecrafter Kit included easy and precise instructions. Easy? Check. Precise? My fail. Apparently, precision and attention to detail should have been the order of the day. Who knew? Unfortunately, I've never been much of a rule follower. I didn't use chlorine-free water to proof the vegetable-based rennet and citric acid. I used tap water. I thought I had enough whole milk. I didn't. My first batch of "cheese" left me with a huge pot of crap. A chemistry experiment gone terribly wrong. I was terrified to pour the gurgling non-cheese down the drain, so I ladled the festering mess into bags and buried them in the trash.
I shook up a very strong Bloody Mary, poured it over shaved ice, and started over.
Before getting started, I dissolved 1/4 rennet tablet in 1/2 cup chlorine-free water and 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid in 1 cup chlorine free water.
After adding the dissolved citric acid to a gallon of farm direct whole pasteurized Chaney's milk, I warmed the milk over low heat. When the milk reached 90 degrees, I pulled it from the heat and carefully added the rennet.
The reaction was almost immediate. I placed the pot back over the flame and (without stirring) gently moved the tiny curds around with an up and down motion until they started to thicken and coagulate. Within seconds, the curds separated from the whey and pulled away from the sides of the pot. When they reached 105 degrees, I ladled the curds into a cheesecloth-lined colander to drain.
I dumped the curds into a large microwavable bowl and heated them in the microwave for 1 minute. After folding them over several times to evenly distribute the heat, I drained off some additional whey and microwaved the curds for 30 seconds more. As I folded them over again, the curds started to feel like mozzarella cheese.
Using an instant read thermometer, I checked to make sure the cheese was 135 degrees before adding the cheese salt (fine kosher salt). After stretching and folding the cheese to incorporate the salt, I formed the hot cheese into a ball and dropped it into a bowl of ice water to chill.
Soft. Light. Fresh. Fabulous.
We snacked on a small hunk of the mozzarella before I wrapped up the remaining cheese and slid it into the refrigerator to rest for another day.
I had big plans for that cheese ball...