We Haven’t Any Cheese!

I hear the words of Wallace to his dog Gromit repeated often in my home. The situation that sparked their epic journey to the moon is serious. What does one do when there is no cheese, no mozzarella, and you were hoping to make pizza? Well, as for me, I procure some raw milk and make some curd.

Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ introduced me and many others to the idea of making mozzarella. That this was a Friday after-work, make-it-for-dinner-that-night kind of task was captivating. My spouse hooked me up with the rennet, citric acid & cheese salt and away I went. I read that ultra-pasteurized milk wouldn’t produce anything like cheese, so sought product that was just pasteurized or, better yet, milk that was ‘low-vat’ pasteurized. The dairy pasteurized this milk at the lowest temperatures possible, allowing it to retain some of the helpful enzymes that make cheese happen. Initially, I was able to have curds form with the low-vat pasteurized milk. I stopped using the low-vat pasteurized milk after two curd failures in a row, on the same evening, resulting in a trip to the store to buy ready-made mozzarella.

I had done reading on raw milk and knew of the general benefits to the human body: since the milk is not treated, the bacteria that lives in milk aiding with digestion remains. Raw milk is easier for the human body to digest. These same bacteria kill off harmful bacteria that may cause illness in humans. Raw milk also spawns concern: like any prepared food, if the producer is not clean and careful, disease can spread quickly through a product not heated to kill harmful organisms. Purchase raw milk only from careful and conscientious producers.

I get mine from Dungeness Valley Creamery. The milk is beautiful. I have separated the cream and transformed it into whipped cream, creme freche and butter. Until I have a cream separator, I most often use all the milk for mozzarella.

The process:

Dissolve 1 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid into 1/4-cup chlorine-free water

Combine 1/8 teaspoon liquid GMO-free vegetarian rennet with 1/4-cup chlorine-free water

Pour a gallon of milk into a stainless steel pot.

Stir the milk gently while slowly adding the citric acid solution. Continue stirring until milk reaches 90F.

Remove pot from heat and slowly add the rennet solution while stirring in an up-and-down motion for a total of 30 seconds.

Cover pot and let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

Uncover the pot and push down gently on the mass of milk. The curd is ready when it is firm and pulls away from the sides of the pot. Cut the curd into large squares using a long knife. Put the pot back on the heat. Stir the curds slowly until the temperature reaches 110F.

Ladle the curds into a colander. Turn the curds over a few times with your spoon, draining the whey, until the mass looks dry.

Place the curds into a bowl of 180F water. After the curd sits for at least 3 minutes, don protective gloves and begin to stretch the curd. Pull the curd like taffy. If it does not pull easily, submerge the curd back in the hot water until it is very pliable. Stretch the curd, folding it under until smooth. Work the curd as little as possible to keep the cheese tender. Place the curd in ice water to stop the effects of the heat. Use the cheese immediately or wrap tightly and freeze.

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