Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cheesepalooza: Mozzarella

In this month's mozzarella challenge, I was pulled into several different directions. I had made a quick mozzarella at this year's Eat Alberta conference and thought it was just a fantastic, quick little food trick to have in my repertoire. I thought the same might be said about the traditional or junket mozzarella recipes, as described in Mary Karlin's book. While not exactly quick and easy cheeses to pull out without planning, I was really excited to jump into this Intermediate Cheesemaking section and continue to build my skills. So, rolling up my sleeves, I thought it might be *fun* to make the traditional, junket, and quick mozzarellas all in one month and compare the results.

While I was excited, I was also quite nervous about this next step. Cheesemaking was about to get a whole lot more complicated... and will get a whole lot more complicated in the new year. The challenge of mozzarella was going to teach us about stretched curd cheeses. It's about learning to create the right amount of elasticity, stretch, and texture in the cheese.

J U N K E T   M O Z Z A R E L L A

My first attempt was at the junket mozzarella. Taking Ian's suggestion, I substituted 1/2 teaspoon of rennet diluted into 1/4 cup non-chlorinated water, as junket rennet is difficult to find and I didn't necessarily care to order something so specific in case I didn't enjoy the result. The actual process of making the junket mozzarella wasn't too complicated in the early stages... but the site of the curd after adding all of the components was not entirely appealing! Did I do something wrong??

 I cut the curd, then warmed it. I seemed to get to the lovely springy feel that I was referenced. See?!

The stretching was torture... we're supposed to check pH, which I didn't do... no strips here yet. Although I did follow a readiness test that was described on curd-nerd to determine the stretchability of your curd. There's a real lack of photos at this stretching stage, as I was on my own and couldn't exactly multitask the photo taking here. It's much easier when the extent of the manipulation is in ladling or draining curds in cheesecloth - this stretching is messy business!

I already didn't love the texture of the junket mozzarella, then -adding insult to injury- I neglected to add any calcium chloride to the whey brine (although none was required in the recipes) and my mozzarella melted melted melted in it. It doesn't even look appetizing. 

T R A D I T I O N A L   M O Z Z A R E L L A

The biggest deterrent in making the traditional mozzarella is the significant investment of time. Again, here, I worked through the various stages of adding calcium chloride, thermo B, and liquid rennet. After working my way through the moments of work followed by the moments of rest, I found myself again stretching curds. While I think I was slightly more successful in this stretching, I still think I have some things to learn... this video was nicely helpful in improving my technique.

This time, I opted for a water brine and added 1/2 teaspoon of calcium chloride to avoid the melting that I saw with the junket (just in case). Much better in that regard.

Q U I C K   M O Z Z A R E L L A
After working my way through a few more traditional mozzarella techniques, I once again returned to the quick mozzarella that I learned at Eat Alberta 2012.

4 litres milk - At Eat Alberta, 1% or 2% milk was recommended but, lately, I have been enjoying a combination of 2% and whole milk... up to you!
1/4 tablet rennet
1/2 cup unchlorinated water
1 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
Salt to season your cheese

Crush your rennet tablet and add it to 1/4 cup of water to dissolve. Add your citric acid to a separate bowl with the remaining 1/4 cup water.

Add your milk to your stock pot along with the dissolved citric acid. Heat milk to 90F.

Once it reaches 90F, add your dissolved rennet and stir gently (using that up and down motion) to combine. Turn off your heat, cover your pot, and leave the milk for 5 minutes.

After the 5 minute rest, test for a clean break. (If you haven't achieved a clean break, then leave it for a few more minutes before retesting.) If you have the clean break, cut the curd into ~1 inch cubes. Leave the curds to rest for another 5 minutes.

Now, put the pot back on the heat and warm the curds and whey to 105F. Use your hands here and gently circulate the curds throughout the whey to avoid scorching and release additional whey. At 105F, take the pot back off of the heat and strain the curds from the whey.

Put the curds in a microwave safe bowl and microwave the curds for 45-60 seconds. Pour off any whey, then season with salt (taste test!). Fold the cheese, then microwave again for 30 seconds. Knead the cheese and stretch like the video. Reheat the cheese if you need to. Once it is smooth and stretchy, you can shape and cool the mozzarella or eat it immediately! Yes, it is already ready!

T A S T I N G   N O T E S
  • Appearance - Junket - Slightly gritty looking surface. Traditional - Smoother looking surface but not that sleekness that you expect with mozzarella. Quick - Smooth, slight sheen.
  • Nose (Aroma) - With all variations, there was that mild dairy scent consistent with mozzarella. 
  • Overall Taste - Slight salt, underlying dairy creaminess. 
  • Sweet to Salty - Slight salt but nothing aggressive. 
  • Mild to Robust - Mild. 
  • Mouth Feel - Junket - Chewy, slightest slightest grit, slightly tough. Traditional - Chewy, slightly tough but less so than junket. Quick - Chewy, has some bite but not the same as with the other two. 
A few thoughts:
- I think that making any mozzarella requires a certain level of confidence... without confidence and lacking experience, the fear of overworking the cheese and making it tough can be slightly overwhelming.
- I can't, in good conscience, blame the toughness of the mozzarella on the mozzarella itself but rather I think that I need some more practise in the stretching and working of the curds to get to that sweet spot of elasticity while not making them tough. 

- I'm not interested in trying the junket mozzarella again. I may attempt the traditional mozzarella again but it's tough to invest that kind of time and effort when the result from the quick mozzarella is so great and requires a fraction of the time. In this mozzarella battle, I think that the quick mozzarella is the winner.

- The traditional mozzarella was decent when melted but this was also the indicator for me that I didn't quite develop the stretching skills required to get a truly stretchy elastic mozzarella. The flavour was good though, especially in a classic grilled cheese and tomato soup!

9 thought(s):

A Canadian Foodie said...

Completely relate! You got some beautiful cheese, Christine! I LOVE fhesh Mozza. Deb taught me - mentored me - held my hand through my first 30 minute mozza - and it gave me the confidence I needed for the rest. I was also with her for her traditional mozza which turned out excellent. And it is SO delicious. I love it.
:) Valerie

wannafoodie said...

Thanks, Valerie! I'm beginning to think that most of what we will encounter moving forward will be about confidence and care... but what an amazing learning experience this has been! And we're not even half way!!

Unknown said...

Wow. I am such a wimp. I tried once and was ready to hang up my hat. Congratulations on fully, heroically trying every variation of mozza. I also totally related when you couldn't get a picture of yourself stretching the cheese. There are so many moments when I think how nice it would be to have a house elf to help out with these jobs, or at least take my picture as I do them.

Evelyne CulturEatz said...

I can't beleiveyou tried all three.Love the picture qith your cocktail lol. This is a misleading cheese as far as how easy it is. You are right about confidence and experience. I thonk you did a fabulous jobbut sorry the first one melted.

Stephanie said...

Impressed that you tried all three! and I agree that it's hard to convince yourself to invest the time in the longer method when quick mozza is so tasty

Simona said...

I admire your persistence and devotion to the task. You are right in trying different things: then you can choose your preferred method with data to support it. Good job!

P.S. I answered your question on my post. To summarize: my mozzarella experience is pretty much as it was when I wrote the post.

Chef Mimi said...

Love this post! Thanks for all the info. I've just got to try it...

wannafoodie said...

@Sarah - I would sooooo want a house elf! Or for my dog to be able to be my sous chef in a capacity other than drool chef.

@Evelyne - The cocktail is so necessary sometimes!

@Stephanie - Thanks! We're even making the quick mozza AT a dinner party on Saturday night because I've raved about how easy it is. I can't wait.

@Simona - Thanks... honestly, I'm pretty addicted to this whole Cheesepalooza thing, so I just had to try them all. I can't wait to tackle the farmer's cheese and caerphilly this month.

@mimi - I'm so glad you're going to try it! I really love that quick mozza. As I just mentioned to Stephanie, we're even making quick mozza at a dinner party to share in the fun.

Joseph Carr said...

Hey there. I bet you will be able to create a true elastic mozzarella on your next try. ;) Mozzarella of several kinds is used for most types of pizza and several pasta dishes. It can also be served with sliced tomatoes. I found the picture of the bread with tomato soup yummy-looking. I would love to try and make a breakfast meal out of this. Then, I’ll add a cup of espresso to wake me up and complete my day. ->Joseph Carr

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