I've recently bought some rennet from Rainbow Grocery that I am excited to turn into cheese. I know that mozzarella and goat cheese are supposed to be the easiest to make, but I'm wondering if any of The Kitchn readers have a good recipe for a beginner cheesemaker (who has no microwave)? As The Kitchn Cheesemonger, I felt it only necessary to spend all weekend making cheese to properly answer this question.
Start I did by making mozzarella, one of the easiest cheeses made with rennet to attempt at home. A great rennetless cheese alternative for beginners would be ricotta.
I followed a recipe by Ricki Carroll, long considered the grandmother of American cheesemaking at home. For even more options try her book Home Cheese Making, which details 75 cheeses and their recipes. Many of our country's best cheesemakers owe their start to this book (and their kitchen sink).
Before you start, some key points to remember:
- Always use the best quality whole milk you can find. NEVER use ultra pasteurized milk.
- If you can, use homogenized milk. I had successful results taste-wise using unhomogenized milk but the texture suffered. You'll have a smoother curd using homogenized.
- All utensils and cookware should be as clean as can be!
- Make sure all of this cookware is either stainless steel, glass, or enamel.
1 Gallon Milk
1 1/2 tsp. Citric Acid
1/4 Rennet Tablet or 1/4 tsp. Liquid Rennet
Dissolve rennet tablet or dilute liquid rennet in 1/4 C. cool water. Set aside.
Into a 4 qt. pot pour 1/2 C. cool water and stir in citric acid until disolved. Pour in 1 gallon of milk and heat over medium heat to 88 degrees. Substitute 1 pint of heavy cream for one pint of the milk for a creamier cheese.
At 88 degrees remove your pot from the heat and add your rennet solution. Stir gently for 30 seconds to one minute. You'll notice that the milk will become thicker. At this point, allow your curd to set for 5 to 8 minutes. The curd should be fairly set before you move onto the next step, like a thick pudding or yogurt.
With a knife that reaches down to the bottom of your pot cut the curd into 1-2" cubes. Larger cubes make it easier to ladle initially, but you may have a wetter curd to drain by hand.
With a slotted spoon or small, circular fine meshed sieve, ladle the curds into a bowl, pressing gently as you go to exude as much liquid (whey) as possible. Drain this whey and any whey that accumulates in your bowl back into the pot. I found that transferring the whey into a smaller pot made submerging your mozzarella in the next step a bit easier. Form the curd into a ball or several small balls. The curd should still be quite wet.
Heat the whey to at least 185 degrees (just below boiling) and submerge your ball or balls of curd with a spoon or ladle for 10-20 seconds. Repeat several times, kneading with spoons or your hands between dipping. A purchase of thick rubber gloves may be in your future. The internal temperature of the curd must be at least 135 degrees in order to stretch. Try hold your mozzarella in the hot whey for a longer period of time depending on how long it cools in between dips. You'll have to repeat the dunking process 4 or more times.
Ideally, you should have a happy harmony between creaminess and firmness. You don't want to drain off too much whey or else your cheese will be rubbery and dry. Have a light hand! Pretend you are handling a pie crust or biscuit dough. When you've achieved the shine and stretch of taffy your cheese is done!
Eat warm or cool in an ice bath. Melts beautifully. If you don't succeed the first time, don't give up!
Thanks to Ricki Carroll for this great recipe and all that she's done to promote cheesemaking. Check out her website for cheesemaking kits and other cheesemaking supplies like the rennet and citric acid in this recipe.
(All images: Nora Singley)