I'm new on the forum, but not new to cheese making. My husband and I milk seven cows and 15 goats every day. We've done it for years. I make cheese with the milk.
Long ago, I learned to make Mozzarella from an Italian fellow. He has passed on now, God bless him, he was a great cheese maker, and a good teacher. He told me that "mozzare" means "to pinch off", that is where it got it's name, a mozzarella is a "little pinch". He taught me to make mozzarella the way he learned, from his family. The best is made from Water buffalo milk, which we've done...owning water buffalo in the past...but that's another story...
I've made a lot of batches of mozzarella since learning how, hundreds of them. It's not hard if you understand the basics. These days I make about 20 pounds, two batches a week of the yummy stuff. I rarely have failures. I've tweeked the recipe over the years, and come up with what works for me. I've also learned over the years that there are as many ways to make mozzarella, as there are mozzarella makers.
I usually use morning milk, nine and a half gallons, filtered and fresh from the cows (and/or goats). We finish milking around 12 noon. The milk is around 100f and 6.6 to 6.5 PH when it comes in. Timing is a factor here, the cheese start time depends on the time of year. In the summer, I let the milk sit covered, at room temp., undisturbed until 3pm, by then it has cooled to around 88f. During this time it acidifies a bit due to the action of native bacteria. In the fall and winter, if it is a cool in the kitchen, under 70f, I begin earlier, when ever the milk reaches 88f, it is important that the milk acidifies a bit before adding cultures. At that time I add 1/4 ts. MESOPHELIC culture, I like choozit mm100-101. I sprinkle the freeze dried powder on top of the milk, wait a few minutes for it to hydrate and then stir it into the milk vigorously for about half a min. and cover the milk up again. I set my handy timer for an hour, and go do some other work. After an hour, I rennet the milk, I use an organic freeze dried animal rennet purchased from www.thecheesemaker.com
, according to the directions, a little more than 1/4 ts for 9.5 gallons. I also sprinkle this powder on the surface of the milk, and stir it in, gently, for count of fifteen seconds, with an up down motion. I cover the milk again and let it sit undisturbed. If I floculate, (which I rarely do anymore) I use a multiplier of 3. which gives me a coagulation time of between 45 to 60 min.. When I have a clean break, or according to floculation multiplier timing, I stir the curd down. To do this I wash my arm past my elbow, then start slowly, stirring the curd from the top, with my hand, moving it in a circular motion, fingers splayed, slowly going down as I go round, until I reach the bottom of the curd, then I give the whole curd a few more stirs, looking for big lumps I missed and breaking them up. I let the curd settle for ten or fifteen min. more and begin dipping whey out, into my ricotta pot. The curd usually will sink to the bottom 1/3 of the pot by that time, when I've dipped out enough whey to see the curd mass, I ladle the curd out with a large perforated plastic "dipper", letting some whey escape from each dipper full, before putting the curd into an unlined cheese mold, 10" high x 6" wide (a colander large enough to hold the curd will also work). I usually have to wait for the curd to settle in the mould somewhat, in order to get all the curd in. I have the mold set up on an overturned soup bowl, in a larger stainless bowl, so the whey can drain off, and collect under the mould in the stainless bowl, without touching the curd. At this point I taste the curd, memorizing the taste for comparison down the line; it should taste sweet, and distinctly milky.
Once all the curd is in, I cover the filled mould and bowl with a large clean linen cloth, to hold in the heat, and let it sit and drain further for another five orsix hours, dumping out the whey catch bowl in about 20 min. to make sure the draining whey does not over flow the big bowl or touch the curd above it. If it is a cold day,( under 70F) I set the bowl, with curd, mould, cloth and all, on top of my stove which is an old fashioned one having a pilot light. The point is to keep the curd warm (75 to 85f) enough for it to slowly develop some more acidity. After five or six hours, I taste the curd for comparison, it should taste a little "cheesy" by then. Next I put the curd, still in the mould, into my fridge over night. It continues to develop a little acid, in the fridge, but hardly any, after the curd gets cold.
Next morning I take out the curd, and taste it again, it should be "cheesy" leave a slight acid tang at the back of your tongue, and no longer taste so "sweet". If you have a PH meter, it should test close to 5.3 PH in order to melt well. I upend the curd in a baking pan (some whey will still run out), and slice off a thin slice, the surface of the cut should feel a little slippery, almost creamy. If it is squeeky and not slick to the touch it probably isn't ready yet. If it seems ready I set up for my melt, you will need a large 2 gallon pan half filled with cold water, to which a tablespoon of UN-IODIZED salt has been added st on the side to drop your finished balls of mozzarella in. A pan to melt the cheese curd in, a wooden spoon to work the curd, a thermometer, un-iodized salt, a long knife to cut the curd and some latex or rubber gloves to protect your hands from the hot water.
For the next part (melting the curd and forming the balls) it is good to wear rubber or latex gloves to protect your hands from the heat. I melt the curd in small batches, using a 4 quart pan filled 2/3 's full with slightly salted water, always track your water temp with a thermometer in the water, heat, to 140-145f, any higher temperature and your curd could just melt away, you have to keep adjusting the heat as you go along. I keep a cup and a pan of cold water handy to add to the melt water, if I need to cool it off quickly. Slice off four or five 1/4 inch thick pieces and drop them in the hot water, then wait a minute or two to start working them with a wooden spoon, or spatula. If the curd is ready, it will start melting in about 30 seconds to a minute. The curd should string out when pulled, with very little resistance, getting thinner and thinner...if it stretches a little, but then suddenly breaks, it is not quite ready, you'll have to wait till it develops enough acidity. If it is melting correctly, slowly press the curd, gathering it to itself into a mass, work the mass between your gloved hands and your spoon, forming a plane like mass, like a pancake, about 3/4 inch thick or so. There will be areas of smooth melted curd with rough spots of unmelted curd. Use your fingers to expose the unmelted grandular feeling lumps of curd to the hot water, by peeling back the smooth melted curd covering the lumps... the outside of the curd mass gets hotter and melts first, so you have to manipulate the curd some to get it all the same smoothness. One secret to understanding how to get good mozzarella texture: stretching the curd a little makes it tender, however after that tenderness is achieved, more stretching is not better, but worse, as soon as the curd is soft, pliable and lump free, stop stretching, more stretching makes it get tough and dry. It takes practice to make good mozzarella balls. To form them, cup a lump of melted curd between your two hands, letting the middle flow down between them, take your thumbs and fold-push curd into the middle of the ball along with a little of the white liquid. Catch the top of the ball between your thumb and index finger, and pinch off the excess, and dump the ball in a pan of cold water to harden. It should kind of look like an large boiled egg.
Slice another batch of curd and do the same thing again, add 1/4 teaspoon more or less of salt to each batch of melting curd, or your cheese will loose texture in the cold water bath. Add each ball to the cold water as soon as its formed. Remember, wait till your curd is ready to "stretch", and once it is, don't overstretch the curd, practice makes perfect. Happy cheese making!