Second Attempt at Mozzarella Cheesemaking

A week ago I tried making homemade mozzarella cheese, using milk bought at the local grocery store.  The results didn’t come together – literally.  Analyzing it, I figured it was either due to an insufficient amount of rennet, the enzyme that helps the proteins in the milk coagulate, or else it was due to the milk being pasteurized at too high a heat.  Undaunted, I wanted to try again and learn how to do this.

While I originally put more weight in theory that the pasteurization was the cause, now that I look back on what I’ve learned, I suspect the insufficient rennet was probably more likely the problem.  But hindsight, as they say, is 20-20.

In the wake of my first attempt, a German-Thai friend suggested I try buying milk from Murrah Dairy, the only water buffalo dairy in Thailand.  Great idea, especially considering that the original Italian mozzarella is mozzarella di bufala – buffalo milk mozzarella.  So I ended up driving to their retail store and bought five litres of raw buffalo milk.  The best way to address the pasteurization issue is to use unpasteurized milk, right?

Sadly, I don’t have many pictures of the second attempt.  You’re welcome to watch the video and/or read the description below.

After sanitizing everything in the kitchen, I started heating the milk.  One challenge I encountered was that my recipe is in imperial measurements but the dairy sold the milk in metric measurements.  Being an American (even a fairy metric-savvy one) I made a few errors in calculation and initially thought I was working with two gallons of milk, when in fact I had only about one gallon.  Because of this, I prepared citric acid and rennet solutions that were twice as strong as necessary.

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Thankfully, I realized this before adding the solutions into the milk, and added only about half of each solution.  The proteins came together much more nicely than in the first attempt, although they still didn’t have the nearly-solid, soft tofu-like consistency shown in the recipe’s pictures.  I strained the curds from the whey and ended up with a pretty nice mass to work with.

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My next problem came from a lack of understanding of what was meant to happen in the next step.  As a learner, it is helpful for me to know not only what a particular step is but the rationale behind the step.  The recipe told me to either microwave the curds and then knead them, or else to put the curds in hot water (about 170 F) and use a spoon to fold them together, then pull them out and knead them.

The problem was two-fold.  First, I don’t have a microwave.  There goes the easy option. Second, I was hesitant to put the curds in the water because I thought they would just dissolve.  Knowing what I know now, I realize that the whole point of microwaving or putting them in the water is that the cheese begins to melt a bit, helping it form more elasticky strands that you can knead.  No heat and no melting means no kneading.

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Before I figured this out, I tried placing the curds, still in the cheesecloth, above some boiling water – kind of a bain-marie.  This resulted in the bottom of the curds melting into the cheesecloth, while the tops of the curds didn’t change.  Finally, I figured it out and put the curds into the water and used a spoon to shape them.

Of course, I didn’t have rubber gloves, so kneading the hot cheese was a little painful!  Long story short, having a microwave would have been a huge help.

In the end, I wound up with a ball of mozzarella that was a bit tough and overworked, not nearly as elastic as it should be, and it had picked up a little bit of a greyish cast, possibly from the bread board I was using to knead it on.  Also, cleanup was a pain as the curds cling to everything, especially the metal utensils!

The important question is, how did it taste?

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Well, after a few hours soaking in a brine/whey solution, the cheese turned out okay. I used it on a pizza in a taste test, half of the pizza covered with my cheese and half with the Murrah Dairy’s cheese.  My cheese was much more rubbery and not as bright white, but it actually tasted fine, like real mozzarella cheese.

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Conclusion: This is a product that is probably worth buying in the store, even if it is a bit pricey.  Making it is very time and effort consuming.  That said, I’m kind of curious to try another time using store-bought milk, just to confirm my new understanding that the pasteurization wasn’t the issue.  I still like the idea of making my own cheese, and if I had an opportunity to apprentice with a cheese-maker, I would jump at it.  But the constraints of my Bangkok condo kitchen are such that I don’t think I’ll become a regular cheese-maker.

Okay, what’s the next thing to try?

 

 

0 thoughts on “Second Attempt at Mozzarella Cheesemaking

  1. ” fuckin first day or last day christ?! get your shit cleaned up right now ”  is what i would have said if you were working in our kitchen lol.. seeing the mess you’ve made! however, good job man! i admire you to have the courage to attempt this!

  2. Kudos to you for trying again … the pizza looks delicious. But I admit — I thought, “YOU DON’T HAVE A MICROWAVE?!?!” upon reading that little fact. That’s my staple appliance… it blows my mind, but… maybe that’s why you make “real,” beautiful food, while I stick to processed.

  3. @Passionflwr86 –  Ha ha! Your response is pretty typical, I think. We used to have a microwave in our apartment but when we bought this condo, kitchen space shrunk. I really only used the microwave for oatmeal in the morning and reheating leftovers, both of which can be done on the stove top for most of the time…@Roadlesstaken –  I’ll sign you up, Alex!@CurryPuffy –  Nope, I clean up my own mess Gary. I never conscript Tawn into service.

  4. I can’t help but notice how clean… CLEAN your kitchen is (Jack’s input aside). That was a great video – really enjoyed it. I was also wondering where Tawn was in the second video and right on cue, you mentioned it and his hands appeared!

  5. wow, so it sort of worked out, that is great! after seeing this, though, i have confirmed that i have no real desire to try making cheese. eating it, on the other hand, is another matter altogether =D

  6. You are amazing. Yeah, I would probably opt to get the Mozarella cheese at the store. You want to try it again??? to prove a point about pasteurization vs the amount of rennett used?? Jeez Chris, enough already!

  7. Hehe! You are so brave or crazy – depending on the point of view. I have to agree that store bought is probably much easier and  cheaper once you factor in the time and mess… still it was entertaining to see. And the pizza looked delicious.

  8. Loved the video Chris.  Just wish I could taste the pizza  because it looked delicious.What recipe do you use to make the pizza dough?

  9. @venice –  I’m not consistent with the recipe I use. Many seem to be good and I am always open to trying another one. This time I tried a recipe from Peter Reinhart’s “Bread Baker’s Apprentice” book and used Italian 00 flour, which is ground finer (think talcum powder) than regular flour. It produces a crisper, thinner dough than all-purpose flour.@murisopsis –  Brave or crazy? Is there a third option? Ha ha… seriously, I do these things just because I want to understand what the process and technique is. Expand my mind, broaden my horizons, and all that.@ZSA_MD –  Well, I still have one more tablet of rennet to use… can’t let it go to waste!@kunhuo42 –  Yes, the cheese course is something I really miss! Tend not to have it here and if they do, it is prohibitively expensive.@ElusiveWords –  Yeah, Jack’s comment referenced the aftermath of the cooking. During the process, though, I’m particular about keeping the counters clean and organized and, for the most part, I’m a clean-as-you-go type.

  10. I was also wondering why you did not wait for Tawn to start dinner, lol.  Maybe next time consider asking Tawn to do the blind taste test, wonder if he is game?

  11. at least you took the time to try it. not many people would thought about making their own cheese, let alone took the time to do so. i’m sure it was a very satisfying result. 2 thumbs up!

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