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Mozzarella in Minutes

mozzarellaStrictly speaking, it's a cheater's cheese, as there's not even any culture added. But it's a big hit for when you're short of time or wanting to impress your friends by making your own cheese for the homemade pizza or summer salad of fresh mozzarella, fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes and basil leaves, drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with flaky sea salt and a dash of freshly ground pepper.

For this recipe, you'll need 4 litres of milk, either goat or cow. If you're using store-bought cow's milk, you're best using full fat, non-homogenised milk.

  • 1 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1 tsp Renco rennet diluted in ¼ cup cool non-chlorinated water
  • lipase (optional if using cow's milk)
  • fine salt

You'll want to start with the milk at 12-13C, which is slightly warmer than it comes out of the fridge. I usually pour out the milk in to my pot, cover it, and leave it on the bench for about half on hour before beginning.

Add the citric acid to the milk and stir will. This will start the slow curdling process.

Heat the milk to 31C over a medium heat, and then add the dilute rennet, stirring it in very slowly. Increase the heat to 37°C-40°C, and remove from heat. The milk will have set into a solid, gelatinous mass, and will have pulled away from the side of the pot just a little bit.

NOTE: If you are going to use lipase, which will give a slightly stronger flavour to the cow milk mozzarella, use more rennet, or the cheese will be too soft. However, using fresh-from-the-cow milk has its own lovely flavour, so I don't use lipase. For goat milk mozzarella, definitely use less rennet, as goat milk naturally contains lipase. Alternatively, I've found that the extra softness and stretchiness of the goat milk mozzarella lends itself to making 'string cheese' (see below). You'll have to experiment a bit, especially with fresh milk, as the acidity of the milk will vary for many reasons, so don't always expect identical results.

Scoop the curds, which should have the consistency of a thick yoghurt, into a colander over a large bowl and let it rest for a minute or two, to drain off more of the whey. Reserve the whey in which to store your mozzarella.

Place the curds into a microwaveable bowl (I prefer glass). Microwave on high for 1 minute 30 seconds. Wear clean dishwashing gloves or use wooden spoons or butter pats to fold the curd mass over and over on itself, to remove excess whey. Microwave again for 30 seconds, and repeat the folding/kneading motion. Repeat a third time, and this last time, knead in about 1 teaspoon of fine salt. I've tried sea salt for this one, and the flakes are just too large to be properly incorporated. At this stage, the curds should be quite elastic, and you can form them into small balls for eating warm, or chill in ice water for storage in lightly salted whey.

This whole process takes no more than half on hour once you become proficient, and the results usually don't last even that long when you serve it up fresh and warm!

String Cheese (not the traditional Armenian cheese, though I suppose if you could find the right spices it could be a reasonable facsimile!)

This works best with goat cheese mozzarella. Following the instructions, before you remove the curds from the pot, the cheese will have gone very soft and stretchy, and will not need to be microwaved. Remove from the pot of whey and allow to cool to the point where you can handle it wearing clean dishwashing gloves. You'll have a roundish blob on a plate. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon fine salt, and press the salt in. Make a hole in the centre, so it's now the shape of a donut. Pull it gently to make a loop, but not so far that you break the loop. You'll have a very saggy loop hanging down. Fold it over on itself, and stretch again, and repeat several times. At the last time, twist the ends in opposite directions, and then fold the twist back in half over itself and twist again into a solid-ish column of cheese. Chill in ice water and then refrigerate. Once it is throughly chilled, 'strings' of cheese should pull off the column of cheese. This is a particular favourite with children.

As with most homemade cheese recipes, this will last in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

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