Cheese, cheese…help please!

I showed off my fun mother’s day gift a while ago, Ricki’s 30 minute mozzarella.  It’s also  made an appearance in a pizza where it was pretty tasty.  What I haven’t told you is I am having some rather frustrating technical difficulties.

There’s lots of specifications involved in cheesemaking–nothing necessarily hard to find, but it’s not as simple as just buying “milk” and dissolveing your rennet in water.  It needs to be milk that has not been ultrapasteurized (take a look at the store–it’s rather prevalent) and water that is chlorine free. 

The problem with ultrapasteurized milk is that it won’t form a curd; rather you get a ricotta looking mess that never comes together.  If you’ve ever seen those travel/food shows where they make mozzarella, you know it’s super-stretchy when they are making it–just like you want it to be on a pizza.  Certainly not grainy and like some sort of ricotta gone bad. 

What you do is dissolve citric acid in water, stir it into milk and heat.  Then you add dissolved rennet, stir, and let sit.  It should form a curd that is solid enough to slice up, a curd which separates from the whey.  You re-heat, drain off the whey, heat again, and stretch and knead until you get mozzarella.

I have made this cheese several times but each time I don’t get the nice solid curd you are supposed to get after adding the rennet.  It’s just too soft and falls apart.   However, I have persevered and after straining through cheesecloth, have gotten mozzarella that looks and tastes just like it’s supposed to.  So while the end result came out, the process wasn’t right, and it was awfully messy (getting the curds that stick to the cheesecloth off is not fun.  And you are nto supposed to even need cheesecloth for this recipe!).

Of course the traditional culprit is milk, but I wonder if that’s the problem in my case where I do get mozzarella at the end.  Even so, I have tried several milk brands, and even found one that is pasteurized at only 145F (yes, I actually emailed them!).  Milk at 175F will even work, supposedly, so I was really frustrated when my 145F milk did not set.  I’ve pretty much maxed out all available milk brands, and I can’t imagine it’s that hard to find the right milk.  I’ve tried using extra rennet as it was store bought milk, I’ve tried dissolving well in advance, I’ve used bottled water, I’ve been careful not to over-stir (30 seconds only per the recipe after adding rennet, once up to a minute), I’ve googled and searched on the internet, I have emailed the company, but have not gotten anywhere.  It’s always the same result.

I’m pretty sure it’s not the milk, because I do get cheese in the end–my understanding is that you do not get cheese at all with ultrapasteurized milk.  I’ve understood from my cousin in law who has had success that distilled water may be better, as some bottled water contains chlorine.  (Chlorine inactivates rennet)–maybe I will try that, but right now I need a “time out.”

I’m quite frustrated as I would love to try to make other types of cheese, but don’t want to try the “advanced” recipes until I figure out what is going on with the “easiest” one.  Any suggestions/advice out there from the blogosphere?

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2 thoughts on “Cheese, cheese…help please!

  1. Sara, I’m so sorry that you’ve struggled on the cheese-making front! I’ve only made some very basic soft cheeses, heating milk, using acidic apple cider vinegar to create a curd, and always straining with a cheesecloth. I’ve tried this with the “organic” milk that I usually buy, and just some generic Shaw’s brand, and I’ve succeeded. I use the whey in my bread afterward, and then that tastes cheesy too, which is delicious.

    If you do want to try some other milk, the other day I noticed that Kickass Cupcakes (http://www.kickasscupcakes.com) on Highland Ave in Davis Square sells a whole range of local dairy products. I’m not sure what the processing is like on them, but they are certainly from smaller dairies than most of our milk. Might be worth a try.

    Maybe I’ll try your mozz recipe and see if I can make anything remotely cheese-like! Good luck to you until then.

  2. Thanks Amy! Actually the milk I fuond that is low pasteurized is the same brand at kickass cupcakes (though I have not been there, which is ridiculous, as I live close to Davis Square and there are so many cool food places there).

    I do think it tastes better, as milk goes, regardless. Your recipe sounds interesting–apple cider vinegar!

    Also–yay for sun finally!

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