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Fat Guy

Making mozzarella @ home

100 posts in this topic

As much as I'd love this topic to consist of me teaching all of you how to do this, the sad truth is that it has to be the other way around.

The science fair is coming up at my son PJ's school (he is in first grade) and we figured we'd try making mozzarella. The plan is to document the making of the cheese, do a display board about the science stuff involved, and bring in samples of our cheese for folks to try. We have two weeks to get it together. We are not off to an auspicious start.

I found this video on YouTube and it made the process look so easy:

Trouble is, our curds and whey wouldn't separate enough to produce mozzarella. The curds came together and could be removed from the whey, but they wouldn't release enough of their liquid to allow for kneading into mozzarella.

We tried twice with milk from the local supermarket, the Farmland brand, and then thought maybe the milk was at fault -- perhaps it was heat treated at too high a temperature. So we got Tuscan milk from another local supermarket and had exactly the same problem.

For dissolving the tap water, I used tap water filtered through the Brita so there shouldn't be a chlorine problem.

What are other possible issues?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Was the milk pasteurized or ultrapasteurized?

My internet connection is slow, so watching the video would take forever. What did you use to acidify the milk?

Jess


Edited by tikidoc (log)

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All I can say is that I've tried several times, and have never been successful at making anything other than what amounted to polly-o rubber-ball mozzarella. So while I've made it past the stage you got to (I guess I was able to knead something...) that alone doesn't guarantee a good product... Might I suggest making ricotta as your science fair project instead? ;-)

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Sounds like it could be a pH problem. A pH meter really helps. You need be in a certain pH range so the proteins are in shape for the stretching process.

If you're using culture, you'd need to age your curds some more. Or if you're using the direct acid method, need more acid.

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Was the milk pasteurized or ultrapasteurized?

My internet connection is slow, so watching the video would take forever. What did you use to acidify the milk?

Jess

Both brands were labeled just "pasteurized," not ultra.

I used 1.5 teaspoons of citric acid dissolved in 1 cup of filtered water.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Steven, my internet connection is very slow today so i cannot watch the vid. Did you press the curds under weight? When paneer is made, the curds are separated from the whey and then if a firm cheese is required, it is tied up in cloth and pressed under a weight for a while (from 20 minutes to several hours). This presses the liquid out.

I'm also intrigued - why did you add water to the citric acid? When I curdle milk for cheese I simply bring the milk to the boil, turn the heat down to ultra low and then add lemon juice, or actually more commonly I add slightly soured yoghurt. In addition, if you are using an acid, why is rennet also required? This is just a question out of curiousity, I do not claim to know anything at all! I have never made mozzarella but this looks very interesting.


Edited by Jenni (log)

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All I can say is that I've tried several times, and have never been successful at making anything other than what amounted to polly-o rubber-ball mozzarella. So while I've made it past the stage you got to (I guess I was able to knead something...) that alone doesn't guarantee a good product... Might I suggest making ricotta as your science fair project instead? ;-)

The ricotta-like failures we had today (I hesitate to call the product ricotta, since it wasn't made from whey -- then again I guess neither is most ricotta in stores) had the benefit of inspiring a very good baked-ziti casserole for dinner.

2012-04-28_18-22-01_275.jpg

I may put some on pizza tomorrow. Still, I'd rather figure out how to make mozzarella. It seems like something that plenty of people are pulling off without a hitch. So what's wrong with me? (Don't answer, please.)


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Sounds like it could be a pH problem. A pH meter really helps. You need be in a certain pH range so the proteins are in shape for the stretching process.

If you're using culture, you'd need to age your curds some more. Or if you're using the direct acid method, need more acid.

I think a pH meter will be a last resort. Or, I may give up before getting to that point. In any event, I don't understand how all these people are doing it without any equipment of that nature.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Did you press the curds under weight?

This doesn't appear to be part of the process for mozzarella.

I'm also intrigued - why did you add water to the citric acid? When I curdle milk for cheese I simply bring the milk to the boil, turn the heat down to ultra low and then add lemon juice, or actually more commonly I add slightly soured yoghurt.

The milk for mozzarella is only heated to 105F/40.5C, so it's recommended that the citric acid crystals be pre-dissolved in something before adding to the milk.

In addition, if you are using an acid, why is rennet also required? This is just a question out of curiousity, I do not claim to know anything at all! I have never made mozzarella but this looks very interesting.

The overwhelming sentiment of people reporting online about their mozzarella projects is that you need rennet.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Even if your recipe doesn't call for it, maybe pressing would help get the excess water out. I suppose the citric acid does need to be dissolved, but the amount of water you added seems like a lot to me...

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The first time I did it, it was okay and pretty fun, but the next two times (the third being the last), it didn't come out right. I did a lot of internet searching, and the culprit (besides me) seemed to be the temperature the milk was brought up to by the dairy before it is sold. There is a safe spot, but then each dairy seems to bring their milk up beyond that just to be safe, and there is no way to find out that EXACT temperature unless you call and ask the dairies, and then you have to trust them that what they are saying is the truth. The thing that was bad, was that I bought three different brands of milk, and I didn't remember which one I used first, the only one that worked because I did the batches on different days and at first chalked it up to flukes. I'm thinking that the milk you're using was brought up to too high of a temperature to work on your cheese.

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That's my primary working theory. I'm going to try one of the artisanal, local brands tomorrow where the packaging specifies low-temperature treatment. At which point, making my own will cost more per pound than just buying the cheese. But I guess this isn't about saving money.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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In addition, if you are using an acid, why is rennet also required? This is just a question out of curiousity, I do not claim to know anything at all! I have never made mozzarella but this looks very interesting.

The overwhelming sentiment of people reporting online about their mozzarella projects is that you need rennet.

Acid coagulation much different from rennet coagulation. Also the pH needs to be lowered slightly for the rennet to do it's thing, hence the acid or culture.

That's my primary working theory. I'm going to try one of the artisanal, local brands tomorrow where the packaging specifies low-temperature treatment. At which point, making my own will cost more per pound than just buying the cheese. But I guess this isn't about saving money.

Have you tried adding calcium chloride to the milk? That helps a lot in solving the over pastaurized milk problem.

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Added calcium chloride helps make a firmer curd when using pasteurized milk. I'm fairly certain it will actually interfere with proper stretching with mozzarella and is not used for that cheese. (and checking now, New England Cheesemaking Company agrees.)


Edited by SJMitch (log)

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Trouble is, our curds and whey wouldn't separate enough to produce mozzarella. The curds came together and could be removed from the whey, but they wouldn't release enough of their liquid to allow for kneading into mozzarella.

That you had good curd formation leads me to suspect that milk pasteurization isn't the problem. Could you post your procedure and temps?

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Added calcium chloride helps make a firmer curd when using pasteurized milk. I'm fairly certain it will actually interfere with proper stretching with mozzarella and is not used for that cheese. (and checking now, New England Cheesemaking Company agrees.)

Good point. IIRC, the science is the same as with making the modernist process cheese.

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I heated the milk to 85F and added 1.5 tsp. of citric acid dissolved in a cup of filtered water. Raised to 100F and added 1/2 a rennet tablet crushed and dissolved in a small amount of filtered water. Continued heating to 105F. Cut off heat and let sit for 15 minutes. Gently removed curds with a slotted spoon. Plenty of liquid came out, but ultimately the curds were too "wet" to form into anything.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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If you were following the video process you posted (the microwave version, similar to New England Cheese Co's recommended method), did you microwave the curds right after the first draining of the whey? The curds need to be kept uncomfortably hot for the kneading (either with multiple MW sessions or dunks in very hot water bath). Curd temp of 135F is recommended. They probably won't start forming a mass until kneaded when hot.

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Just a few thoughts:

-Firstly, as the main reason you're doing this is for a science project, it's important that you document all your 'failures' and make any changes in a methodological manner. It doesn't matter how poor your results are, the aim is to demonstrate science and so don't change everything at once! Adjust one aspect of your technique at a time, document everything, and the resulting science project will be interesting and valid regardless of how the cheese turns out. It might be nice to produce a great batch of mozzarella, but if you can't definitively prove the effect of the type of milk, the ph, the temperature, or the addition of calcium then the science project won't be very good.

-Similarly, it might be useful to compare the process that you are using with the traditional Italian process used to produce the protected "Mozzarella di Bufala Campana".

-Calcium chloride is used industrially because it's cheap. With your interest in modernist cuisine, I'm guessing you've got some calcium lactate or even some calcium lactate gluconate in your pantry... these will do the same job as calcium chloride but they don't taste bitter. If you decide to give it a go, I would suggest using them instead.

-Just wondering if you've looked through all the videos on YouTube about making mozzarella? If so then it would be great if you could share any that you've found to be especially useful. If not, then have a look as you might find them useful, either for your own reference or for the science project - especially the ones from Italy that show the making of 'real' mozzarella.

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I would try the milk processed from lower temp milk first, and see if you are successful with that. If not, you know the process is the problem. If you are successful, then you can be reasonably sure it was the milk.

Things that I noticed as different than what I do:

1. I use raw milk. We have a couple cows (none milking at the moment though) and goats (also makes a nice mozzarella). That said, I have done 30 minute mozz with pasteurized milk from the grocery and have not had an issue (without adding calcium chloride), although the flavor is not quite as good.

2. I just dissolve the citric acid in a little water. That said, I have seen a bunch of recipes that use a cup, so I doubt this is an issue.

3. You don't mention cutting the curds and stirring before spooning them out. Did you do this? You need a lot of surface area for the whey to drain out properly. You can't skip this step and if you did, I would bet this is the problem.

4. I use a mesh strainer at this point and stir them around in there for a bit before I start heating the curds. It seems to help get some of the whey out.

5. Not sure you got this far and someone else has mentioned this, but you really need to heat the cheese to an uncomfortable temperature to pull them. I have pretty heat tolerant hands, as I suspect many on eGullet do, and I generally put on rubber gloves.

You might try following the tutorial on New England Cheesemaking's site, http://www.cheesemaking.com/howtomakemozzarellacheese.html. It is very detailed with lots of pictures.

ChrisZ, traditional mozz in Italy is made with a culture to acidify the milk rather than by adding citric acid. So doing the traditional way will likely make things harder at this stage. I think the idea of keeping notes so you can look back and see exactly what is done differently is a fantastic idea, and a great introduction into scientific method for the kids.

Oh, and re pH meters, I have never used one making mozz. Thinking about getting one for cultured cheeses but if you are adding citric acid to acidify, I can't see it helping you.


Edited by tikidoc (log)

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I agree, it's good to share failures and successes. I certainly am learning things from this, so thanks for sharing. If it's not too much trouble, would you consider uploading some pictures of the process? Even if it doesn't come out right, it would be good to actually see what you are doing and also to see what the end texure that you are currently struggling with looks like.

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Here are some photos of yesterday's attempts. Bear in mind, this is for a first-grade science project and a first grader took these photos. You can see the curds just aren't right.

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Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Even though you think it isn't the problem, I would try it with bottled water next time. The brita filter only reduces the chlorine and it may be interfering with the rennet.


"The main thing to remember about Italian food is that when you put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided." – Mario Batali

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