I can’t yet compete with 40 years of experience, but I’d like to think that my homemade fresh mozzarella at least comes close to that of Giuseppe’s, the master cheesemaker at Caputo’s in Brooklyn.
Since I was young, one of my favorite things to eat was creamy mozzarella cheese with olive oil and tomatoes from our garden – I know, my parents fed us well. But, my standards rose along with my age, and after traveling through Italy and living in the old Italian neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, the mozzarella must be exceptional to get my stamp of approval.
It’s rare these days to find fresh mozzarella with the texture and richness 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 about two seconds after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal. Vegetable. Miracle.
I’ve made this cheese many times, and a few small tweaks have transformed it into cheese that’s great melted on something, to cheese that you want to savor all on its own. First, the quality of the milk is the most important. My top choice is the 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 their whole milk better. On their website, Straus explains it’s the combination of the 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 that their milk is the best I’ve ever had – actually the 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. I try to 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 only 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 even tastier than the last. And the best part? It only take a half hour to make.
See the “About me” photo at the top of the page? That’s me making cheese in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen. When I told my neighbor I was making homemade cheese, he just had to run 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
thermometer that starts at 80F
8 quart stainless steel pot
large glass bowl
stainless steel slotted spoon
First, warm the milk
Pour the milk into the stainless steel pot, and put the burner on low. Stir in the citric acid, and slowly heat the milk to 93F. Turn the heat off when the thermometer reads 93F, and pour in the dissolved rennet. Stir continuously for exactly 30 seconds. Then, let the milk sit still for three minutes. At this point, the curds will separate from the whey. Take a sharp knife, and cut the curds into one inch cubes while still in the pot. Be sure to cut all the way to the bottom of the pot. Next take the slotted spoon and scoop out the curds into the glass bowl. Try to drain as much of the whey as you can from the bowl.
Next, form the cheese
Put the glass bowl in the microwave on high for one minute. Then, drain out more of the whey, pressing down on the cheese with your hands to remove as much of the whey as possible. Microwave again for 30 seconds, and again drain the whey.
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.