Making Your Own Cheese: What’s All the Stink About?

August 31, 2009 at 11:59 am 2 comments

Jeff's nicely-formed cheese ball

Jeff's nicely-formed cheese ball

Not too long ago, I went on a vitriolic rant about how making your own pizza is not, in fact, easy as pie.  But it turns out the culprit wasn’t the pizza as a whole.  The real stinker was the mozzarella.

Now, I’ve had luck with other homemade dairy, including yogurt and paneer.  But I had firsthand experiences of those processes from watching my mom and aunties…  When it came to mozzarella, regardless of the fact that I grew up in a super Italian Jersey town, it turns out you don’t pick up cheesemaking by cultural osmosis.

As I’ve discovered through the course of this cooking from scratch saga, cheesemaking is a fuzzy intersection between science and art.  You need to follow directions exactly — warming the milk slowly to a precise temperature, adding the right balance of acid and rennet, and separating the curd at a certain thickness.

But much like I found with my breadbaking travails, it’s not enough to follow directions.  You have to be able to feel it… Is the curd the right thickness?  Is the cheese that’s forming too hard or too soft?  What steps can you take to salvage your cheese so you don’t turn out a ball of stinking goo?

It turns out, there were a couple mistakes I made with my mozzarella, both of which were discovered by the always impeccable Jeff:

1.) I’m impatient.  So when the recipe said to heat the milk slowly to 90 degrees, I thought I’d speed things up a little and cranked the burner up to high.  Oops.  Turns out if there were a shortcut, somebody would’ve discovered it by now…

2.) Not all rennet is equal.  Buyer beware.  The rennet I bought was actually custard and gelatin rennet.  So, rather than the cheese forming in a matter of minutes, it actually took 1-2 hours.  Nonetheless, Jeff’s mozzarella?  Freaking beautiful…

The conclusion?  Mozzarella is totally sexist. Actually, it seems to me like the cheese learning curve is pretty steep compared to some of the other items I’ve been making from scratch.  Will I try it again?  Well, obviously you have to question my sanity at this point in the game, so let’s just wait and see…


Entry filed under: Dairy, Equipment, Italian Food, Preparation. Tags: , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Pammy  |  September 1, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Mmmmmmmmmmmmm, cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease.

  • 2. jennifer  |  September 2, 2009 at 10:55 am

    i love the word vitriolic.
    spelt just like it sounds/means. ^_^


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