Little Miss Muffet
Sat on her Tuffet
Eating her curds and whey …
Did you ever wonder what curds and whey were? I did, so I looked it up. They are the by-products of the cheese making process; the curds are the part that turn into cheese and the whey is the liquid left over after making cheese. I have long wanted to try my hand at making cheese. I actually bought myself a “Make your own Goat Cheese” kit for Christmas but never got around to making it. A few weeks ago, I saw a post on The Kitch’n about making Mozzarella cheese, and I thought, wouldn’t it be neat if I could take a round of homemade mozzarella cheese to a Mother’s Day party, bridal shower or girl’s night? So, inspired, I checked my pantry and discovered I had most of the ingredients with the exception of rennet. I had to go to several grocery stores in order to find this, and then the only brand I could find was Junket, the brand that the recipe said to avoid. Oh well.
I waited for a night when my husband was out to a meeting so I would have the kitchen to myself for a few hours. Good thing I had planned this because this recipe does take some paying attention to, so a distraction free environment was (and is) a good idea!
But despite the time it took to make this, it was fun, and oh so gratifying to see the mixture I had coaxed together turning into cheese! So, don’t be afraid! Doing this is so worth it!
This makes about 1 pound of cheese, so plan to share!
1 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 t citric acid
2 tablets Junket rennet
1 gallon milk, whole or 2% (Not ultra-pasteurized)*
1 t kosher salt
5 quart or larger nonreactive pot
8 ” knife
Slotted spoon or small wire mesh colander with handle
Rubber gloves (New or very, very clean!)
Prepare the Citric Acid and Rennet: Measure out 1 cup of water. Stir in the citric acid until dissolved. Measure out 1/4 cup of water in a separate bowl or cup. Stir in the rennet until dissolved.
Warm the Milk: Pour the milk into the pot. Stir in the citric acid solution. Set the pot over medium-high heat and warm to 90 °F, stirring gently.
Add the Rennet: Remove the pot from heat and gently stir in the rennet solution. Count to 30, during which time the milk will thicken. Stop stirring, cover the pot, and let it sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. Curds will begin forming.
Cut the Curds: After five minutes, the milk should have set, and it should look and feel like soft tofu. If it is still liquidy, (mine was), re-cover the pot and let it sit for another five minutes. Once the milk has set, cut it into uniform curds. Make three parallel cuts vertically through the curds and then three cuts horizontally, creating a tic-tac-toe like pattern. Make sure your knife reaches all the way to the bottom of the pot. (Pix below is before I made the cuts in the curds…)
Cook the Curds: Place the pot back on the stove over medium heat, attach a thermometer, and warm the curds to 105 °F. Stir slowly as the curds warm, but try not to break them up too much. The curds will eventually clump together and separate from the yellow whey.
Remove the Curds from Heat and Stir: Remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring gently for another 5 minutes.
Separate the Curds from the Whey: Ladle the curds into a microwave-safe bowl with either the slotted spoon or wire mesh colander. Retain and set aside the whey.
Microwave the Curds**: Microwave the curds for one minute. Drain off the whey as much as possible by pressing gently into the curds to release moisture. Put on your rubber gloves and fold the curds over on themselves a few times. At this point, the curds will be resemble cottage-cheese. (**If you do not have a microwave, see Notes section below.)
Microwave Curds again to 135 °F. Microwave the curds for another 30 seconds and check their internal temperature. If the temperature has reached 135° F, continue stretching the curds. If not, continue microwaving in 30-second bursts until they reach temperature. This is necessary in order for the curds to stretch properly.
Stretch and shape the curds: This is the fun part! Sprinkle the 1 t salt over the cheese and squish it with your fingers to incorporate. Using both hands, stretch and fold the curds repeatedly until the mass begins to tighten, become firm and begins to take on a glossy sheen. When this happens, you are ready to shape the mozzarella. You can make one large ball, two smaller balls, or several bite-sized balls. Try not to overwork the mozzarella.
Using and Storing Your Mozzarella: Your fresh batch of cheese can be used immediately, or kept refrigerated for a week. To refrigerate, place mozzarella in a small container. Mix a teaspoon of salt with a cup of cool whey and pour this over the mozzarella. Cover and refrigerate. When ready to serve, remove mozzarella ball gently from container and pat dry with paper towels to remove moisture before plating.
Ultra-Pasteurized Milk: Do not use because the proteins in Ultra High Temperature (UHT) milk will not form into curds.
Leftover Whey: This is a great substitute for either water or buttermilk, and can be used for drinking or in soups and smoothies.
Making Mozzarella Sans Microwave: Instead of microwaving the curds to make mozzarella, warm a large pot of water to just below boiling (about 190°F). Pour the curds into a strainer and nestle the strainer into the pot so the curds are submerged in the hot water. Let the curds sit for about five minutes. Wearing rubber gloves, fold the curds under the water and check their internal temperature. If it has not reached 135°F, let the curds sit for another few minutes until it does. Once the curds have reached 135°, lift them from the water and stretch as directed.
I hope you will enjoy your first adventure in cheese-making! It really is fun, and you will feel so proud of yourself for doing this! Put your cheese on a pretty plate, dress it up with herbs and flowers, and take it on down to the party!
Until next week, wishing all the moms out there a Happy Mother’s Day (You’re the best!), all of God’s blessings and Happy Eating!
Blessings and smiles,
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