August is National Goat Cheese Month. Just for fun, I challenged myself to make a different kind of cheese from goat milk every week - some that I've made before and some that are new to me. The kind folks at Hoegger Supply Company, my favorite place to buy goat supplies, said that sounded like fun! They have provided the mozzarella kit I used in this post. My many thanks go out to them.
My Nubian goats - Phoenix, Ziva, Firefly, and Felicity - are providing the milk I'm using to make the cheeses.
Mozzarella was my goal this week. I must admit I approached this one with a lot of trepidation, since I've tried to make it twice in the past and failed utterly. I started early in the week in case I had to try more than once. Sure enough, I did have to make it twice, but the main reason was because my camera battery died halfway through the first batch. Great timing. You can't stop in the middle of cheese making!
But you know, that wasn't a bad thing. I learned from that first batch. When I read over the directions again afterwards, I realized where I'd made my mistakes. I let it get too hot at one point and the curds were much firmer than they should have been. But I did get to practice stretching the curds, even though they were far from perfect, and I think I "got it" eventually.
I consider this a complicated cheese; it's not hard but there are so many steps.
1 gallon of milk - I used raw, whole goat milk
rennet, either liquid or tablet
I used Hoegger Supply's "mozzarella kit" which contains these last 3 ingredients; all you add is milk!
stainless steel pot that holds at least 5 quarts
a pan the strainer will fit into
a long knife or spatula that reaches to the bottom of the pot
bowl of cold water
rubber gloves to insulate your hands from the hot curds
To start, I dissolved the 1 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid in one cup of cool water in a bowl - I used filtered water rather than tap water. In a second bowl, I measured another 1/4 cup of cool water and added 1/4 teaspoon of liquid rennet. If you don't have liquid rennet, you can use a quarter of a tablet of rennet.
Here's a tip - none of the recipes that I read mentioned this, but I will be doing it in the future. Put a pot of water on the stove and begin heating it up. You want it to be about 190°F; don't let it boil.
I poured the gallon of cold milk into a stainless steel stockpot. I store milk in quart jars in the refrigerator, so I used four jars. I added the water and citric acid.
I set the pot of milk on medium high heat and warmed it slowly to 90°F, stirring gently. When the milk reached 90°, I moved the pot off the heat and stirred in the water and rennet. I stirred the milk gently for 30 seconds (I counted to 30), then covered the pot and let it sit undisturbed for five minutes.
After five minutes, the directions said if it wasn't set enough - if the curds looked too watery - to put the cover back on the pot and leave it for another five minutes. Mine looked fine though, like custard, so I continued.
The curds were like a layer of tofu or custard, and I was supposed to cut the layer into similar-sized cubes, so I used a long knife, cutting first in one direction and then across in the other direction. This was kind of difficult because the mass of curds kept spinning around the pot while I was trying to cut, but eventually I managed to cut it all into cubes. The directions said to make sure the knife reached all the way to the bottom of the pot.
Next, I put the pot back on the stove over medium heat and heated it up to 105°. This didn't take long at all, so don't let your attention wander. (This is where I overcooked my first batch.) Again, I was supposed to stir slowly as it warmed but not break up the curds too much. Directions like this are hard for me: where is the fine line between enough and too much?
I removed the pot from the heat again, and continued to stir for another five minutes. The cubes of curds began to stick together and formed a big clump so that it was a mass of curds in the liquid whey. It kind of looked like a lump of marshmallow cream.
Then I ladled the curds out of the whey into my wire strainer with a slotted spoon. I turned the curds over a few times in the strainer to let the whey out of the little nooks and crannies.
This is where you need that pot of water that you put on the stove at the beginning! It's handy to have it ready when it's needed, and not have to wait for the water to get hot while worrying about the curds getting too cold. I set the strainer of curds in the pot so that the curds were submerged, and let them warm up in the water for five minutes. I stuck the thermometer inside the curds; the interior should be 135°.
I donned my rubber gloves and asked hubby to help out with the camera. This is where you add cheese salt to the curds, which I forgot to do! The directions say to sprinkle salt over the cheese and squish it with your fingers to mix it in.
The curds, which used to be one solid mass that was rather stiff, were now melty and squishy after warming up in the water.
I used a big spoon to pull off a chunk of curds from the big mass in the strainer - I made four balls of cheese in all - and then with my hands I stretched the curds. It's kind of like kneading bread dough, although it's done in your hands rather than on a surface. I stretched them apart, folded them under, rotated it slightly, stretched them again. Don't overwork the cheese. Fold it into a ball and smooth the surface, then plop it into a bowl of cold water, and start on the next hunk of curds. (I know now that the first batch I made wasn't hot enough to stretch properly; this batch was a joy in comparison.)
I needed to turn off the heat under the pot after stretching the first two balls of cheese. Don't let the water start to boil.
The mozzarella is ready to eat immediately, and we did! If you want to store it in the refrigerator, mix a teaspoon of salt with a cup of the cool whey and pour it over the cheese in a small container, then refrigerate. It should keep for about a week.
Honestly, I'm glad I had to make two batches. The first batch taught me a lot. The second batch was so much easier and turned out perfectly, other than forgetting to add the salt. I learned a few tricks, like getting that pot of water heated up before I needed it. When I began stretching the second batch, the difference was amazing and I could tell that it was "right" because I'd already struggled with that first batch that was "wrong".
I'm looking forward to making my homemade pizza with homemade mozzarella on top, and to making calzones. Need cheese? Make some!
National Goat Cheese Month
Week One - Lemon Cheese
Week Two - Ricotta
Week Three - Mozzarella - this post
Week Four - Chèvre
DISCLOSURE: The cheese cultures and supplies I'm using were supplied by
Hoegger Supply Company.
Hoegger Supply Company.
My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a