Milk just starting to go off? Make homemade mozzarella cheese!

Today I had no plans to make cheese but as I opened the refrigerator, I had two large containers of milk taking up room - and it occurred to me that I've been 'not seeing' them for the past week as my eyes glazed over and looked 'past' them whenever I was getting things out of the refrigerator.  Basically, I was ignoring them, as they were bought for two reasons at Christmas time;  1) Oyster Stew and 2) Guests that are milk drinkers. We are not regular dairy milk drinkers in our family.  

As a matter of fact, I've hated milk my entire life (even as a toddler) but oh how I love cheese!  One container was about 3/4 full and the other was 1/4 full.  One was 2% and the other was whole milk.  Together they made about a gallon milk and although the whole milk was still quite fresh, the 2% had the sour just-starting-to-go-off smell so I knew it was time to immediately get out my cheesecloth, large stock pot and a couple random cheese making items I keep stored in the refrigerator, and get some mozzarella cheese made!

I would not make cheese out of milk that had actually soured... because I believe the taste of your cheese would be off as well.  But for milk needing to be used up TODAY this is a good cheese to make.  If you do not have any cheese making additives on hand (because really, not many people do!) you can make your milk into other styles of cheese like cottage cheese or ricotta simply using some vinegar or lemon juice to help with the curdling process!  (Heat the milk slowly to about 170-180 degrees.  Add 3-4 T lemon juice or white vinegar, stir, and take off heat.  Let it set about 10 minutes and it will probably have curdled for you and separated.  Slice into pieces and gently spoon out with a slotted spoon to some cheesecloth.  Drain, press lightly and drain some more.  Gently break the curds apart and add a bit of salt to taste; about 1/4 teaspoon to start and more as you like.  Add some fresh heavy cream or half and half to it and stir until you get the creamy texture and amount you like your cottage cheese.  Chill to store.)

If you do decide to buy a couple basic ingredients like rennet, lipase or calcium chloride you can keep it in your freeze or refrigerator to store it so it won't go bad and you'll have it on hand whenever the urge to make fresh cheese hits you!

Today I was NOT picky about making it at all.  I didn't bother to add any citric acid because it was already starting to separate when I added some calcium chloride and the rennet; I didn't watch the temperature too closely and fret about it and yet; beautiful cheese remained. 

Here is the recipe I keep as my "go to" in my files.

*I keep a bottle of New England Cheesemaking Supply Calcium Chloride on hand because I use store bought milk to make cheese - which of course has been heat pasteurized.  Adding about 1/4 teaspoon of Calcium Chloride to a gallon of milk helps it to curdle anyway and for all kinds of milk, it helps form firmer curds.  The Lipase is just to help the flavor of your cheese and isn't neccessary if you don't have it.

Homemade Mozzarella

1 gallon whole milk - not 'ultra' pasteurized
1 t citric acid - dissolved in 1/4 c cold water
1/4 t lipase - dissolved in 1/4 c cold water
1/4 t liquid rennet (or 1/4 of a tablet cheese making rennet) - dissolved in 1/4 c cold water
1 t non-iodized salt (use cheese salt, sea salt, kosher salt, ice cream salt, Himalayan salt, etc.)

Pour the milk into a clean stainless steel pot.
Heat to 55 degrees.
Add lipase water mixture and stir slowly.
Add Citric Acid water mixture and stir slowly.
Heat slowly to 90 degrees. Remove from heat.
Add the rennet water mixture, stir slowly but stir well for 10-20 seconds.
Cover and let stand 5-10 minutes.
During this time the curd should separate from the whey and become a firm jello like layer on top.
After 5-10 minutes check for a clean break with a knife or frosting spatula.
Cut a checkerboard pattern across the curd to cut it into 1 inch cubes.
Swirl the pot a little and put back on heat.
Slowly heat to 105 degrees.  Remove from heat.
Swirl the pan again (no need to stir, but you can if you must).
Slowly spoon out the curds with a slotted metal spoon into a colander sitting inside a large bowl to catch the whey - or if you only have a wire strainer, line it with cheesecloth or a gauzy fabric so the curds don't get stuck in the wires.
Pour the last bit of the curds into the cloth from the pan.
Set the whey to the side, you don't need it for this recipe any longer.
Gently press on the curd to press out a bit more whey liquid.
Place in a microwaveable bowl.
Microwave 1 minute.
Drain again.
Knead and press to get more whey out.
Microwave 35 seconds.
Knead and press again and drain.
Add your salt.
Microwave 20-30 seconds more and continue to knead and pull.
You can wear food safe heat resistant gloves if you have them as you are microwaving to get the cheese hot so it will stretch - and you will kind of burn your hands a bit.  It's hot!
You are hoping to be able to stretch it like taffy.
If it breaks more like bread dough, it's not hot enough.  Heat again and stretch again.
If you've reheated 3 times and it's still not quite as stretchy as you would like, that's ok, it will still look and taste great.
Form whatever shape you want (twist or balls, etc.) and plunge them into a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes.
Remove, wrap and refrigerate.

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