Mozzarella Cheese and Tomatoes

Mozzarella Cheese and Tomatoes
1 rennet tablet (Junket)
1 tablespoon cold bottled water
1 gallon cold skim milk
1 quart cold cultured buttermilk
1 pint whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid
1/2 cup cold water
Salt to taste

Crush rennet tablet with the back of a spoon; stir into 1 tablespoon non-chlorinated water (most bottled waters are non-chlorinated) and set aside.

Combine cold skim milk, buttermilk and cream in a 6-8 quart non-reactive stainless steel pan (if milk is warm it may curdle when buttermilk is added) and stir.
Add citric acid to 1/2 cup cold water and stir well. Pour citric acid in a thin stream into cold milk, stirring briskly. Over medium heat, warm milk to 94 degrees,* stirring occasionally to disperse heat throughout the milk. Add prepared rennet and stir in a top to bottom motion for 30-60 seconds. Turn off heat and allow milk to set undisturbed while curd forms (5-20 minutes); the whey separates from the curd and will appear as a greenish liquid. Cut curd into 1-inch cubes.

Line colander with cheesecloth; drain whey or carefully scoop curds from pan. Place curds in microwave safe bowl. Microwave 30-60 seconds on high; remove from microwave and gently press whey from curds with hands (draining off additional whey). Repeat process 2-3 more times microwaving in 20-30 seconds intervals. As curds press together and cheese is warm (almost too warm to handle**) knead cheese like bread dough until it is smooth and pliable like taffy (if needed, microwave cheese in 10 seconds intervals to keep cheese warm and pliable). Knead salt in during final stages. Cheese is done with it is smooth. Form into a ball and place in cold water to cool. When cheese is cold, remove from water and place in plastic wrap. Use within a week. Fresh mozzarella is delicious with marinated tomatoes, olives and basil.

Recipe takes between 30-60 minutes to make. Homemade cheese is fun to make delicious to eat. Professional cheese makers use precise acidity and commercial rennet (with consistent results) this recipe is for the average cook using supplies and ingredients readily available in the supermarket. For more detailed cheese making instructions and sources for cheese making supplies refer to a cheese making book, such as “Home Cheese Making” by Ricki Carroll. Recipe makes approximately 12-14 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese.

* If you have problems with curd forming, you may need to increase heat to 100 degrees F.

**Wearing food grade rubber gloves will protect hands.

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