All the way back in December a friend of mine gave me the gift of a cheese making kit. Or rather an online gift certificate for a kit to be ordered and sent to my home upon my request. As soon as I could I ordered it. So excited, I couldn’t wait to try it out. I waited for its arrival, patiently; ok impatiently, but I waited and waited and waited. You see the kit will not ship in extreme temperatures due to the sensitivity of the rennet (coagulant). Did I mention I currently live in northern Vermont? I do and something you may not be aware of it that it can get pretty darn cold in January. In fact this year we saw record inducing lows; think in the range of -15. You see when it gets that cold I just hibernate; I don’t look at the temperatures I just feed the fire and stay indoors. The farm sending me the kit deemed those temps to be in the extreme and I had to wait and wait I did, till MARCH!
Now I am not bitter, not in the least. I got my kit and went straight out to buy whole, organic milk from my local farmers market/COOP. I then began researching for the best recipe and technique to making fresh mozzarella. This took me to YouTube primarily. I watched old Italian ladies pull cheese over and over again, I watched talented young chefs give demonstrations, and finally I watched some home cooks who were as excited as I was to make their own cheese. After all this “research” I came up with what I was calling “My technique” an amalgamation of all that I had watched. Next I set up my station; 2 stainless steel work bowls, 1 large stainless pot, a spider, chef’s knife, latex gloves, cheese cloth, thermometer and a binder clip. I began with 1 gallon of whole organic local milk and poured it all in the pot and began to bring it slowly up to temp, 86 degrees. I then followed the farm kit instructions on adding citric acid, lipase powder (optional), calcium chloride, and rennet. Once I had the desired curds I let them set for a bit in the pot. I sliced through the curds with the chef’s knife and scooped up all the curds with the spider into the prepared cheese cloth. I gathered everything up, secured the bundle without pressing on the delicate curds and hung with a binder clip over the small stainless bowl for 2 hours. I reserved the leftover whey and rinsed out the pot so that I could boil the water to pull the cheese. I recut the drained curds into manageable slices and placed in the second (large) stainless steel work bowl. In the small bowl I added warm water and to the pot of boiling water I added a lot of sea salt. On a side note did you know that in Naples Italy it is tradition to use water straight from the sea to pull the mozzarella? I thought that was a cool tip and seasoned my water accordingly. I donned my gloves, I double gloved, this will get very warm! To the bowl with the cheese curd I added a small amount of the warm water and a ladleful of the boiling water and began working the cheese. As the water cooled I drained it and added more and more boiling water till the cheese was nice and melty. Now the fun part, using mainly my hands I grabbed a large handful of cheese and began to pull. The cheese will get very shiny. As it did I rolled and tucked the cheese ball as if I was working with a small ball of pizza dough. Then when I was happy with the ball I squeezed it off into the cool bowl of water. I did this with the remaining cheese curd and ended up with 3 medium sized balls of cheese. I let them cool and set up in the cool water then went to town! I ate one right off the bat with some salt; delightful. Then I made a small mixed greens salad with basil and small grape tomatoes topped with slices of the fresh mozzarella and a quality Italian olive oil saved for special occasions that I got from my last trip to Eatily in NYC and a little sprinkling of flaky sea salt. It was sublime! I encourage anyone who thinks they want to try this to give it a go. It is surprisingly simple once you have the chemistry part down and that’s what the internet is for right!