Both Alisse and Becca have asked, so I thought I better hurry up and explain how I went about making fresh mozzarella, mostly based off this recipe.
It all starts with milk.
That seems obvious: Cheese = milk + mold + magic, or something like that? I don't think there was any mold in my process, but there definitely was milk, and the rest seemed like magic!
So, we start with the milk:
When looking for milk to make cheese out of, reportedly raw milk is best- but that's mostly illegal- and the next best thing is whole milk that is NOT homogenized and NOT ultra-pasteurized. To be on the safe side, I got whole organic milk that was as minimally processed as I could find. I bought a half-gallon because I wasn't sure how this was going to work, and I'm cheap.
The other critical supplies:
Rennet and Citric Acid.
I found both at a natural foods store. I had to ask where to look in the store- I had no idea. Luckily, I had a friend who WORKS in a natural foods store along with me on the trip, and he was able to give me some ideas. Hint: Rennet is refrigerated.
Dilute 1/8 tsp rennet in 1/8 C (2 Tbsp) water. Set aside.
In a good-sized pot, mix 1/4 C water with 3/4 tsp citric acid. Add the milk.
At this point, it looks like we have milk in a pot:
Heat to 88 degrees. I only had a meat thermometer, which is probably not the best tool, but it worked. Remove the pot from the heat and add the rennet solution. Use a wooden spoon to stir with an up-and-down motion for 30 seconds to a minute, then leave the pot alone for about 10 minutes. This is the "magic" part"
While you're stirring, the curd will start to thicken.
After 8-10 minutes, the pot will (hopefully) look like this:
The curd pulled away from the sides of the pot and is now one big mass. Using a knife long enough to reach the bottom of the pot, cut lines in the curd to make cubes. I found out this is not as easy as the instructions make it sound. Hopefully yours will be prettier:
It doesn't really matter, though, because when you scoop out the curd using a slotted spoon, it won't hold its shape anyway:
OK, Miss Muffet fans, what had we just done?? Separated the CURD from the WHEY. Watch for spiders.
As you scoop the curd, squeeze as much liquid as possible from the curd. This won't be easy. Once the curd's in the bowl, even more whey will drain out of it. Pour as much whey as you can back into the pot of whey. Form the curd into one ball or a few smaller balls.
Put the pot of whey back on the stove, and heat till not-quite-boiling. Dip a ball into the hot whey until heated, then take it out and knead or stretch it until it cools and ceases to be pliable. This motion is working out more whey from the curd. You'll have to do this 5 or so times. Rumor has it, this is where you'd salt your cheese. My directions didn't exactly say when to do it, and I forgot. I recommend adding some salt- the resulting salt-less cheese is kinda tasteless.
When you've finally reached "fresh mozzarella consistency," heat the ball one last time, and form it into a well-shaped ball. Dip in ice water to cool, and store in water or wrapped tightly in the fridge. A half-gallon of milk created a ball of cheese bigger than a tennis ball but smaller than a baseball.
As for me? The cheese didn't last long. Less than 24 hours, in fact. With fresh tomatoes around, that is to be expected.