Raising Nubian dairy goats means having goat milk in the refrigerator – lots of milk. It’s good for drinking, cooking, spoiling the cats and chickens. Eventually more goes into the refrigerator than goes out until the shelves are covered with it. Making mozzarella is one way to empty them.
There are lots of recipes for making mozzarella cheese. I have a simple one I use.
Making any cheese requires certain equipment. First is a large stainless steel pot. I have three of different sizes for one gallon, one and a half gallons and four gallons of milk. Whey – the liquid left over – is acidic and eats aluminum.
Second is a stainless steel colander with small drain holes. Other items are a stainless steel long spatula, whisk and flat ladle. A cheese thermometer is absolutely essential.
For making mozzarella I use a Pyrex bowl the colander rests on, a Pyrex bread pan and kitchen gloves. The other ingredients are milk, rennet, citric acid and canning salt.
Many recipes are for one gallon of milk. This makes a little cheese. I like making more cheese as the work involved is about the same. I stash a couple of glass gallon jars of milk in the refrigerator and use 2 to 2 1/2 gallons at a time.
Let’s get started making mozzarella.
Step 1: Set the pot on the stove. Put citric acid in the pot.
Making mozzarella cheese requires slightly acid milk. Normally I add 1 1/2 tsp citric acid to two to three gallons of milk making about 2 pounds of cheese. Goat milk changes a little over the seasons. If the cheese starts getting rubbery, reduce the acid. If the cheese doesn’t set, increase the acid.
Step 2: Pour in cold milk from the refrigerator.
The milk can be a couple of days old, but can’t have any hint of sourness. I check any milk over one day old to be sure. The milk must be cold or the acid will not dissolve properly.
Milk at the bottom of the pan warms faster than at the top. Whisk the milk to mix the temperatures before checking the temperature. If the milk gets too warm, let it cool before adding the rennet.
Step 3: Warm the milk slowly to 88°. I stir it occasionally with the whisk and check the temperature. I take about 30 minutes to warm the milk so it doesn’t scorch.
Step 4: Whisk in rennet dissolved in a quarter cup of warm water.
Rennet strength can vary from different suppliers. It should set up the milk in 30 to 40 minutes. I prefer liquid rennet and count drops going into the water. Fresh rennet is 4 – 5 drops per gallon. Older rennet takes a few drops more.
Liquid rennet is easy to use. I put a little warm water in a custard cup and count drops as they fall into the water. The water with rennet is whisked into the warm milk.
Step 5: Stop heating, put on the lid and wait until the curd sets.
Step 6: Use the long spatula to slice through the curd. Make quarter to half inch slices across. Cut across the slices to make columns. Cut the columns into short pieces by slicing both ways at an angle. Let the curd set for five minutes.
The set curd is soft and full of whey. The whey seeps out through the surface of the curd. Cutting the curd into small pieces makes more area for the whey to seep out of. Heating the curd kills some bacteria that would sour the cheese and drives the whey out faster.
Step 7: Start gently heating the curd. Sprinkle canning salt over the cut curd. Use 1 Tbsp per half gallon. Use the ladle or gloved hands to gently stir the curds and dissolve the salt. While the curd heats, set up the bowl and colander beside the pot.
The curd can eventually reach over 120° and be too hot to touch. The cheese forms between 110° and 120° so very slow heating gives more time to work with it.
Step 8: Stir the curd every five minutes or so until it sets. This is hard to describe. The curd gets firm, seems like a soft rubber, starts to melt together. Take the curd out of the whey, putting it into the colander.
The curd is full of whey when it gets put in the colander. Pressing down on the curd and folding it over helps push the whey out . Once the curd is a compact, flat mass, it’s ready to return to the whey.
If you have two pots, you can strain the curd out while transferring the whey to the second pot. You need to keep the whey in a pot and continue heating it.
Step 9: Fold the curds over to push out more whey and form a large, thick slab of curd. This is slid back into the whey in the pot to heat. Set the bread pan up next to the colander.
Step 10: Every few minutes turn the curds over. The outside will get soft and hot. The slab will pull into a long slab. The curds will start to melt.
The pancake of curd will get very hot on the side touching the pan. It will feel soft and melted. This gets turned over so the other side gets just as hot. The interior won’t be as hot. This means the outside will stretch down off the inside. Folding the stretches part back up helps distribute the heat so the entire mass will stretch down. If it doesn’t, put it back in the whey to heat some more. The curd will be very hot, close to 120 degrees. Wearing gloves and rinsing your hands in cold water helps prevent scalding your hands.
Step 11: Take the cheese out of the pot and hold it over the colander. The slab should stretch down elastically. Fold the end back up and let it stretch down. Keep stretching and folding until most of the whey is out of the cheese and it has cooled so it stretches very slowly.
Step 12: Put the cheese into the bread pan, pressing it down. Pour off any whey. Let the cheese cool a little and then refrigerate.
The cheese can be molded in any shape of container. I prefer a loaf pan. To unmold the cheese, slide a butter knife around the edges and shake it out onto a plate or use the knife to slide the cheese up out of the pan. The mozzarella made from raw got milk keeps about a week. It can be frozen. Frozen cheese must be used frozen or as soon as it thaws.
Making mozzarella takes me about three hours from pouring the milk into the pot to pressing the cheese into the pan. It sounds more complicated than it is.
The best part comes after the cheese is chilled: Eating your own fresh mozzarella.
Other recipes for using goat milk are found in “Goat Games” along with pencil puzzles and goat trivia.