My first attempt at making mozzarella was a miserable failure. I was overly optimistic. I started with 5 gallons of milk and ended up with 5 pounds of ricotta. It was fine ricotta, but it wasn't the pasta filata that I had hoped for. My family ate lots of lasagna that week.
My second attempt produced the same results. Ditto for the third. And the fourth.
I was obviously missing a piece of the puzzle. The recipe that I used was from a reliable source, complete with detailed, step-by-step instructions, but I could not make it past the second step where rennet was added to the inoculated milk. At this point, it was supposed to coagulate into a solid mass and separate from the whey, instead it formed small curds that would not "spin" or melt together. I tried different types of inoculants from citric acid to buttermilk to yogurt. I tried varying the amount of rennet. I tried different brands of milk--all to no avail. I'm not easily discouraged, but even I know when to let sleeping dogs lie.
I decided that it was time to revisit the mozz when a unique application recently caught my interest. More on that later. After further research, I found the missing piece: raw milk. While I found many accounts of mozzarella being successfully made from homogenized and pasteurized milk, I went directly to the source: real milk, straight from the cow, unhomogenized and unpasteurized.
The real advantage of making fresh mozzarella from raw milk is that I can produce a product that is superior to anything that I can buy in terms of flavor, texture, and nutritional content. On a socioeconomic level, it allows me to lighten my carbon footprint while supporting local farms. An added perk of raw milk is that in the summer, when cows graze on fresh grass and clover, the milk is rich, buttery, and yellow...pure sunshine.
yields about one pound
1 gallon raw milk
3 Tblsps plain yogurt
3 Tblsps buttermilk
1/2 tablet rennet
Step 1: Inoculation
Pour the milk into a large stainless steel pan. Set over medium heat and bring to 32C (89F). While milk is warming, stir together the yogurt and buttermilk. Add about 1/4 cup of milk from pan and blend well. Cover the pan and maintain the temperature at 32C for 10 minutes to allow the live cultures and bacteria to activate.
Step 2: Coagulation
While the milk is activating, dissolve the rennet in 1/4 cup of tepid water. Stir the dissolved rennet into the milk gently, but quickly. Cover the pan and set aside, undisturbed, for 2-3 hours in a warm, protected place until it coagulates into a solid mass that will pull away from the side of the pan.
Note: I place the pan in a large bowl of warm water and monitor the temperature of the water, maintaining it at 32C. It is important to not disturb the curd while it is coagulating.
Step 3: Cutting the curd
After 2 hours, check the curd for a clean break by poking a finger into the coagulated curd and lifting. If the curd does not break cleanly, allow it to sit, undisturbed until it does. Be patient.
When a clean break is achieved, cut the curd with a long, thin knife into 1/2" cubes. Stir the cut curds gently, breaking up any large curds.
Set the pan over medium heat and bring the temperature up to 36C (97F) with constant, gentle stirring. The curds will continue to break up.
Step 4: Acidification.
In order for the curd to spin, or melt together and stretch, it must be acidified to a PH of about 5.3. To achieve this, cover the pan tightly and set aside in a warm place for 8-10 hours. After 8 hours, check to see if it will spin by removing a walnut-sized piece of curd and dropping it into a bowl of water at 71C (160F). When it is lifted out and pulled, it should stretch without breaking. If it breaks, allow the curds to acidify further.
Step 5: Melting
Once the curds spin, heat a half gallon of water to 71C (160F). Drain the acidified curds in a colander (reserve a quart of the whey to make a brine if you will not be consuming the mozzarella immediately). Break up the mass of curds and place into a large bowl. Pour the hot water over the curds.
Allow them to soften for a few minutes, stirring gently, until they begin to melt.
Step 6: Molding
When the curds melt and fuse together, pull off a lemon-sized piece and with two hands, pull and stretch like taffy. Fold it onto itself and continue the stretching and folding until it is smooth, glossy, and elastic. If it begins to stiffen while working, let it soften in the hot water before molding.
Roll the sheet of stretched curd upon itself, working it into a smooth ball.
If you do not intend to consume the mozzarella immediately (I recommend that you do), the balls can be stored for up to two days in brine.
To make a brine: dissolve 1/4 cup of salt in 1 cup of hot water. Mix in the reserved quart of whey. Cool.