I remember eating those neon orange Kraft singles slices occasionally as a little kid and thinking how tasty they were. Cheese was not a big part of my Asian upbringing (if at all – my grandma is 96 and has yet to eat a nugget of cheese), so given the rarity of the stuff, I always thought it was such a special treat when a slice would turn up in my lunch. Well, this weekend at the annual Seattle Cheese Festival, there was not a Kraft single slice to be found.
In its place, over 200 local and international cheese producers armed with enough free samples to make your head spin off. The day was sublime. Besides the overwhelming plethora of incredible artisanal cheeses, the best part of the day was learning how to make fresh homemade mozzarella cheese! I’m a big nerd and like to take notes during cooking demonstrations. Most of the time, the notes sit in a dark corner of my purse for several months until I remember how much I wanted to try that new dish. But this day was different. This day, I had to head home and make what I had learned. Immediately.
The results were beyond words. So creamy and milky, with that soft, supple texture that is only found in the freshest mozzarella. Being able to make the mozzarella in my own kitchen, with my own hands, was so fun and rewarding. Sure beats neon orange cheese!
Fresh Homemade Mozzarella Cheese
Tweaked from cooking demonstration by Shane at DeLarenti
The key to making the mozzarella is speed and temperature. Do not overwork it when you’re shaping or you’ll lost the incredible texture you’re aiming so hard to get. Plus, you must maintain the water temperature at exactly 170 degrees. If over 170, the curd will become too soft and gooey. If under 170, it won’t melt enough to smoothly shape. Be careful!! Anything over 170 degrees is scalding.
This recipe uses cheese curd that you can purchase from your local specialty food store. If you want to get even more ambitious, feel free to make the curd yourself.
Music Pairing: Anything!! You’ve just made fresh mozzarella cheese!
- 1 pound cheese curd, cut into 1/4″ cubes
- 10 1/2 cups of water
- 1/2 cup of kosher salt
- Small bowl of ice water
- Water pan filled with cool water
Combine salt and water in a large pot over medium high heat and fill a 3-4″ deep rectangular water pan about 1/2 full with cool tap water. Transfer diced curd into a large bowl and set aside.
Using a candy thermometer, when the water reaches 170 degrees, turn down to low and maintain temperature.
In a separate bowl, place 1/2 pound of diced curd (about a few large handfuls). With a ladle, carefully scoop hot water and pour over curd, enough to submerge it. Briefly stir and allow to bathe for a few minutes until a cube gives under pressure easily like soft putty. The softer pieces should noticeably have begun to cling together more readily as a single mass.
Drain water and submerge curd in a second bath of hot water (again, make sure the water temperature is still at 170 degrees). With gentle pressure, run rubber spatula down over curd, smoothing it and working it into one mass. Curd should now be coagulating and becoming very soft.
Dip hands in a bowl of ice water. Start to gather a mass by pressing it together and turning it over on itself, until the pieces have completely melted into one shiny, smooth mass. The water is hot and this kind of hurts, so work fast – the end result is so worth it. Remember, do not overwork the curd (see photo above).
Once the curd is ready, pull off a handful around the size of a billiard ball and begin working it into shape (see photo above).
Gently press thumbs and heel of hand down over the top, rotating mass, creating a smooth surface, while gently pushing up with other fingers as if shaping a mushroom cap. As a sphere begins to take shape, start to seal the under portion by pinching the curd together with one hand and pushing it up through the other hand held in the shape of a “C”, narrowing the passage as the ball is pushed through until it rests atop the hand (see photo above).
Hold the finished ball from the bottom, careful not to touch the sides or top and place in water pan with cool water. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes, so it can firm up and hold its shape.
Enjoy immediately (or within 12-24 hours). For best texture, do not refrigerate.