For Christmas, I got a cheese-making kit. I read through the packet and was excited to see that the box contained enough contents for thirty batches of either mozzarella or ricotta at almost a pound each. Immediately, I was envisioning caprese salads, pizzas, lasagnas, pasta dishes, sandwiches, and anything else I could slap some cheese on. I read through the instructions and they seemed easy enough that any Joe Blow could make the cheese on the first try (right there, I should have known I was in trouble). The only problem was that it requires an entire gallon of milk, something that tends to be in short supply in my house with two young kids.
But a couple of weeks ago, I finally remember to buy that extra gallon and reread the instructions, paying more attention to missteps that might lead to a disastrous cheese experience. For starters, the milk shouldn't be ultra-pasteurized. I check over the carton, but nowhere does it mention just how pasteurized the milk is, so I can only assume it's not ultra, whatever ultra is. I also need to use unchlorinated water. Hmm. I'm pretty sure our water is chlorinated, but after a quick search, I find a web site that says you can boil the water for twenty minutes to get the chlorine out. I find another site that says most water districts now use chloramine, instead of chlorine, and you can't just boil that out, but I decide to ignore that site. I boil my water, leave it on the stove to cool for a few hours, and I'm all set.
I dissolve my rennet tablet in some of the water and set it aside. I mix the citric acid in the rest of the water and put it in a big pot. So far, so good. It's just as easy as the booklet promised. I add my gallon of milk, heat it up, and then slowly stir in the rennet solution. This is where I start to get nervous. The instructions say to stir the solution with an up and down motion for thirty seconds. How exactly do I do two opposite movements at the same time? Do I make a butter churning motion while also swishing the spoon side to side? I give it a try, feeling insanely awkward, and count to thirty. Then I cover the pot and leave it for five minutes. According to the book, when I lift the lid, it should look like custard. Only it doesn't. It looks like a gallon of milk with lumps in it, like when my youngest throws his sippy cup under the couch and I don't find it for a few days. I check the instructions, where it says if the curd is too soft, let it sit for a few minutes. Well the curd is soft all right. I put the lid back on. After another five minutes, I check again. The milk hasn't changed.
I read the troubleshooting section. Either I stirred too long or my milk is ultrapasteurized and the label is hiding that fact from me. Or it could be that boiling my water didn't fix anything. The good news is that this gives me some ideas to change next time. I'll keep trying until I can top a pizza with my own mozzarella. Or until I run out of ingredients. We'll see which happens first.