Author Topic: Microwave Mozzarella - Baby Steps  (Read 736 times)

Offline Tatoosh

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Microwave Mozzarella - Baby Steps
« on: June 17, 2013, 04:03:32 AM »
Hello, long time since I posted, but I am back starting to try cheese making again.  I don't have thermophilic starter available here in the Philippines, but a friend brought in Rennet and Citric Acid.  So we have started making Microwave Mozzarella.  The product seems to be a bit variable in terms of amount produced and the cheese's characteristics.  We use 4 liters of milk and get 370 to 490 grams (450  grams = 1 pound). 

The last batch we made tasted fine, but was not stretchy.  It would start to stretch, then break.  Not sure why since we used exactly the same amounts and temperatures as previously.

The process:

4 liters low temp pasteurized milk (we get it raw and pasteurize ourselves - 1.06 gallons = 4 liters)
Bring to 55F - 75F and add citric acid - 1 1/4 teaspoons
Raise to 90F and add 1/8 teaspoon Liquid Vegetable Rennet
Take off heat and let sit 5 minutes covered
Check for a good break, then slice into 1 inch sections (vertically, not horizontally)
Return to heat, bringing it up to 105F, stirring very gently between the cuts. 
Take off heat. 
Spoon curds out into colander, the roll it around in the colander to help remove whey
Let sit for a few minutes to drain - normally around 450 grams or 1 pound of mozzarella - sometimes more, sometimes less

Stretching:
We split into 2 batches, microwave for 45 seconds
Remove ... fold and stretch without pressing too much, then drain any whey off
Return to microwave for 30 seconds - stretch and drain - add salt and any spices/herbs if used
Return to microwave for 20 seconds   stretch and drain - eat or package for storage

We do a semi-smoked version using liquid smoke by adding 1/8 teaspoon at the same time we add citric acid.   

So, what I want to do is improve what our cheese, the vast majority that ends up on a Weber/KettlePizza setup for doing 3 minute wood fired pizza.  I don't have cold smoke capabilities, so I use better quality liquid smoke to add some depth of flavor to the mozzarella. 

I will start monitoring the pH of the whey when we add citric acid, to see if we are getting the same result each time.  I also want to step away from the microwave heating and stretching.  I would like to move to either doing it in hot whey solution or salt water solution.  And, of course, if we find a reasonably priced, reliable source of thermophilic starter, I will move to the more traditional mozzarella procedures.  But for now, it is likely we will have to do the citric acid/rennet approach.

Any suggestions on improving quality and consistency of our yield?  Or links to better procedures, given our current limitations?
Retired Americano adventuring abroad


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Offline MrsKK

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Re: Microwave Mozzarella - Baby Steps
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2013, 02:34:22 PM »
My guess is that the variable results are coming from the milk.  Always use the freshest milk possible.  If you are able to find a good clean source of raw milk, that would be even better, but I don't know if you'll find that where you are.  Can you get yogurt?  I use that as a thermophilic culture for making mozzarella all the time.

Offline Tatoosh

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Re: Microwave Mozzarella - Baby Steps
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2013, 05:12:55 AM »
The local dairy used to sell a yogurt drink they made.  Since then they apparently have no milk cows and are buying and reselling milk from other dairies.  Heckers!  We do have raw milk, that is quite common here and easy to purchase.  We pasteurize it since we are very unsure of the hygiene and handling practices of the supply chain, but we do a low temperature pasteurization - 145F for 30 minutes - very closely controlled in terms of temperature.  I have a sous vide set up and it works great for pasteurizing - holding the temperatures within 1 degree, often within .5 degree variance. 

I was thinking the milk fat too.   I don't know a simple way or even affordable instrument to give me an easy and reliable fat content check on the fat.  I am checking the pH of the whey when we start, since I read somewhere that might affect the cheese too.   We are doing 10 liters of milk today for two batches of mozzarella and a half batch test for a whole milk ricotta using Ricki Carroll's guide I found over at Mother Earths website. 

I very much want to get to a thermophilic culture for my mozzarella and away from the "microwave" but even the microwave is an improvement.  We will work on our cheese here and I hope to take classes for it when we come back to the States next year, depending on where we settle. 

Another wood-fired pizza night on the Weber coming up.  I'm so happy that we are making the cheese for it instead of buying it.  We end up with a better quality cheese than what is available from most stores in the Philippines and it is less expensive.  About 50% of the cost in terms of ingredients. 
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Offline Tatoosh

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Re: Microwave Mozzarella - Baby Steps
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2013, 05:52:24 AM »
We did a second mozzarella - making two batches of 4 liters each.  We got our raw milk in a 10 liter bottle, pasteurized it all at 145F for 30 minutes.  Mozzarella recipe from Ricki Carroll - citric acid and rennet - we used 1 1/2 teaspoon of Citric Acid (well mixed in 1/2 cup of water) and 1/4 teaspoon of veg rennet (well mixed in a 1/4 cup of water).  Two very different results even though we used the same equipment and ingredients.  First batch was 580 grams of nice stretch mozzarella, second batch was 280 grams of not very stretchy cheese that was tougher and didn't melt nearly as well. 

The equipment was washed between batches.  Timing was the same.  Milk was at 6.7 pH.  First batch of mozzarella, after adding the citric acid dropped to 5.5 pH or so, second batch only came down to 5.9 pH.  We measured after stirring in the citric acid. So maybe something do with the acidification, but given we measured each the same it was a strange result.   

Even with my strange results, I'm very happy to make my own.  It is about 50% the price of store bought and easily the same quality as the best sold here in the stores.  I am anticipating making it with a thermophilic starter down the road and seeing what sort of improvement that makes in flavor. 

We used the whey in our pizza dough which I found improved its flavor substantially.  I hope to use the left over whey for both dough and ricotta. 
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Offline John@PC

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Re: Microwave Mozzarella - Baby Steps
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2013, 08:08:22 AM »
You really ought to consider cold smoking.  I purchased an Amazing Smoker (the 6" x 6") from the link below and love it.  You don't really need much for the enclosure; an old bbq grill does quite nicely.  There a lot of other ideas from "smoking coolers" to upside-down plastic bins you can google.  Cheese will smoke nicely in 2 or 3 hours, and your mozzerella will be delicious.  You do have to watch the temperature and make sure the ambient air around your cheese is below 80 deg.  The little smoker doesn't put out that much heat but it is enough to raise the enclosure temperature 20 or so deg. so cold smoking is best done at ambient temperatures below 60.  I'm in the south so I don't smoke during the summer unless we have an unusually cool weather. 

http://www.amazenproducts.com/SearchResults.asp?Cat=12


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Offline MrsKK

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Re: Microwave Mozzarella - Baby Steps
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2013, 09:06:47 AM »
Even though you are making two batches of cheese with "the same" measurements, even a slight variation in how much was in your 1 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid could be enough to change things.  Or, if the rennet for the lesser batch was mixed up and left to sit longer than it was for the first, as rennet should be diluted just before adding to the milk for best effect - it weakens rapidly after it has been diluted.  Or if your milk was warmer when you started the second batch than it was when you started the first batch.

This is an excellent example of how very slight differences - that we may not even notice - can change the outcomes when making cheese.  To get exactly the same results, you need almost scientifically precise measurement tools, from that used to measure the ingredients to temperature.

You are getting a really good start on making mozzarella, though, and I applaud you for having success with Ricki Carroll's method...because I had nothing but disaster when using her recipes, except for the very first time.

Offline BobE102330

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Re: Microwave Mozzarella - Baby Steps
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2013, 01:40:43 PM »
Try http://artisangeek.com/  Yoav ships internationally and may be able to get cultures to you. 

Offline Tatoosh

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Re: Microwave Mozzarella - Baby Steps
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2013, 04:16:49 AM »
Thank you for the encouragement!  We did do "mise en place" for each as we went, so nothing sat long.  We leveled the measuring spoons in traditional manner, no heaping or hump backed measuring.   Rennet is liquid and we tried to be very consistent with it as well.  Dunno ... dunno ... dunno.  I did see that difference in acidity so it really makes me think we messed up with the citric acid. 

And I do so very much want to do cold smoking!  It is utter laziness on my part that I am not doing it yet.  I've watched Alton Brown and others showing how to do it easily.  Todd of the A-Maze-ing Smoker provided me with my first wood chips.  He is a great guy and his product is first on my list when we go back to the USA next year. 

I will check for shipping.  I tried to get a good starter before, but it was temperature sensitive and died sitting on a shelf while Philippine Customs decided if I should be paying something for bringing it in.  Drat!   
Retired Americano adventuring abroad