Saturday, March 28, 2009

I'm so Dizzy, My Cheese is Spinnin' - Mozzarella Mania Part 3

Fresh Mozzarella part 3
If you are just joining you might want to check out:

Fresh Mozzarella part 1 - Say Cheese!!!!

Fresh Mozzarella part 2 - Whey to Go, Curds!!!

This is the best part of the WHOLE process… Making the cheese balls.
Now I had issues with this part and I had several theories as to why, but I will go into that at the end. Suffice it to say that I should have picked up some litmus paper or an pH probe. I think my cheese was not quite acidic enough.
This was what my curd looked like, kind of a large disk of cheese curd.

The first thing that needs to be done, though, is to make the brine:

2 cups Whey
2 cups distilled water
1 TB kosher or pickling salt

Stir to combine then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

OK, the "spinning" curd part
By now your curd should be at least 5.2 pH or lower, preferably in the 4.9 arena.
I can see you looking at me like, “HUH?? How am I suppose to know that?”

I will explain. To check for “spinnability” heat 2 cups of water to 185 degrees.
break off a tiny bit of the curd and dip it in the hot water and wait a little bit.
Scoop it out with a spoon and see if you can make it stretch a little without breaking.
If it stretches, it’s ready… If it breaks, your curd is not acidic enough, cover and let it sit another couple of hours and try again.

Pretty cool, huh? Wanna know why? Aw, heck I’ll tell ya anyway….

Food Science Geek Tangent - Proteins 101….. If you really don’t want to know, go ahead and skip forward, I will not be offended, I promise.….

This “spinning” of cheese curd is closely akin to making a meringue. I am not trying to confuse, just bear with me, it will make sense in the end…

Meringue is made with egg proteins (Albumen) that are whipped until they “stretch” to encapsulate air and water, thus creating foam. If you want a stable Meringue, you add acid such rubbing a copper bowl with Vinegar or sprinkling in a dry acid like Cream of Tarter. This helps to “stabilize” the albumen during the whipping process.

What does stabilize actually mean?

In an acidic environment, protein molecules become more flexible and “stretchy” if you will. Thus, with added acid, your albumen can stretch further before breaking, in effect “stabilizing” it’s ability to hold a foam without collapsing. The result? Fluffy Meringue!

Or in our case, the Milk protein (Casein) in the curd can stretch enough to form layer upon layer of folded mozzarella goodness.
...OK, Tanget over...

Back to cheese:

If your curd is ‘spin’able, then it is time to heat up a lot of water, while that is happening, break up the curds into small chunks, to facilitate even warming.

Also prepare a bowl with about 2 cups of cold water and a few ice cubes.

I like to divide my curd into 4 oz piles and work with 1 pile at a time (4 oz is about the size of a lemon)
Place the curd in a shallow dish.

Pour 191 degree water over it and let is sit for about 1 minute.

Using a spoon, collect the curd to 1 side then press on it with the back of the spoon, it should kind of merge into 1 large curd.
Keep collecting curds and pressing them together until you have a large mass which will begin to stick to the spoon.

Begin folding it over onto itself and pressing it together with the back of the spoon… repeat a couple times.
Pull the curd from the hot water (it will still be hot, so where gloves) and start folding and pressing, and folding and pressing. (I need a second pair of hands to take pictures)
The curd will become shiny on the outside, that means it is done.
Drop it into ice water to firm it up.

Empty the water from the dish and re-heat your distilled water to 185 degrees…. Place aother 4 oz in the bowl and repeat the steps above to make your second, third and fourth mozzarella balls. (you will get about a pound of Mozzarella from 1 gallon of milk.)
When they are all chilled in the ice water, go ahead and move them to the brine.

Store in the refrigerator for 3 hours before eating.

Mozzarella is best consumed within 3 days of this process…..
It will keep for about 10 days though, it’s just better the first 3.

Things I learned from this process….
First of all, I will not try to do this during a work week, this is a weekend project, but OH YES!! I WILL be doing this again….
I wrecked my 1st ball because my water was too hot and the curd melted into nothingness….
The second one, I ate before it even went into the salt brine… LOL
The third and forth, I got a little carried away and kept folding the cheese after it was getting too cool, so I lost my shiny coating on the outside. Still tasted good though…
Why did I go to all this trouble of making homemade mozzarella?
For this-----

Pizza Margharita!!!

the BESTEST EVER Pizza Margharita, I swear!!!


Michele said...

Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You really are dedicated to your projects! I love that about you!

Bob said...

Very interesting stuff. I don't think I'd have the patience/energy to do it myself though. Heh.

alisa@foodista said...

That is amazing! What a great project! Will have to try this out one day :)

DDpie said...

Holy Cow! Er, uhm, I mean buffalo! I'm with Bob, I don't have the about ya just vacuum pac one of those baby balls and mail it to me? possible? No? I'll swap ya a cake? [sigh] Seriously tho, what an accomplishment, take a bow dude! ;)

Aline said...

Wow! Congratulations, Shane! I'd never thought home-made cheese was possible outside a farm, but you just proved me wrong! Hats off to you!

Patti T. said...

Shane, ever since I saw Emeril make his own mozzarella I thought it was the coolest thing. Congratulations, and what a great payoff for all your hard work. Mmmmmmm.