Making the Best Mozzarella or Provolone Cheese

 

There is very little difference in the procedure for making of mozzarella or provolone cheese but provolone had one additional ingredient lipase which is not used for mozzarella cheese. The reason for this is that mozzarella cheese does not need the lipase enzyme for that little extra bite that provolone has it is rather plain. Mozzarella purchased from a grocery store is pretty bland and tasteless you will be amazed to find out that homemade mozzarella actually has a rather nice albeit mild flavor and it not just a rubbery mass. You may also be surprised to find that an aged provolone has quite a bite to it unlike the very bland almost tasteless cheese they sell at the store.

 

Okay lets get started shall we?

 

I find that either cheese can be made successfully with homemade or commercial starter cultures however the commercial cultures do make a more consistent cheese in both flavor and texture, so they are well worth the purchase price including shipping! I buy all my cultures from Dairy Connections, Glengarry Cheese or Danlac. All wonderfully friendly and very helpful to do business with. Some cultures are only available from one or the other of these distributors so look around the sites to see what is available. Dont be afraid to order from Glenngarry just because its in Canada Margaret makes a trip across the boarder to NY to ship her products to US buyers! What a nice lady huh? Not only saves us money but speeds up the shipping to us.

 

My favorite mozzarella is known as Bocconcini. In Italian Bocconcini [bohk-kohn-CHEE-nee] means small mouthfuls. They are bite-sized balls of fresh mozzarella. Bocconcini are mild in flavor and have a barely perceptible hint of salt unlike most cheeses. Bocconcini are generally sold packed in whey or salted water in little tubs in grocery stores.
 
Scamorza is another form of mozzarella but aged for a few days. It is normally pear shaped with a short neck and hung by a string. When fresh its called Scamorza Bianca but when smoked its called Scamorza Affumicata.
 
As both of these cheeses are made the same way you only needed to change the shape and aging time to make two distinct varieties of cheese. I didnt change shape just made them all the same way little balls.

 

If you are making provolone just add lipase to the mix and let it age in the cheese cave for a week for mild provolone or 6 months to a year for or more a sharp provolone which can be eaten or grated. After about 3 months it will start to smell like dirty gym socks. This is normal and expected for a sharp aged provolone. The longer it ages the more bite the cheese will have. After a year you might think it has pepper or horseradish in it because of its bite.
 
This is a low temperature cheese so a pot a sink of water is all you need. Simple! In the picture I used a 4 gallon chaffing dish or hotel pan. I love the rectangular shape because it makes it so easy for cutting the curds. I have a small sink so it just fits.

 

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You bring the milk up to 104F and add a thermophillic culture (could be buttermilk, I used TA-61) and mix well. Then add the rennet and wait an hour. After an the curds are cut into 1 inch cubes diagonally and left alone again for about 30 minutes to firm up. If you have a pH meter the pH should be about 6.5 - 6.6.

 

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Stir very gently over the next 60 minutes.  The stirring will determine the softness of the cheese. Over stirring will produce overly firm rubbery cheese.
 
Drain off the whey to the level of the curds and add about 1 gallon of 104F water and stir gently for about 10 minutes.
 
Keep curd at 104F to cause it to fuse together.  Turn the curd every 15 minutes to keep warm, draining the whey at the same time for about 30 minutes. This will give you your curd mass.

 

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Place the cheese in a covered container and allow it to sit at room temperature over night.


Next day when you are ready heat a few gallons of water to about 170F.  

 


 
Take a small piece of curd and test it in a bowl of the hot water. If it stretches nicely it ready! Take the curd mass and cut up into small pieces about 1 inch wide and place it into a large bowl or stainless steel pot at least 3 times the size of the curds.  

 

When its ready then I throw it in the hot water. When the curds are ready you can easily stretch them between your thumb and a few fingers. If it stretches but the edges look raggedy wait another 5 minutes or so and check it again.

 

 

 

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When it stretches and begins to look opaque without breaking its ready to stretch. It should stretch a good long way like a rubber band. Hard to should and take the pictures at the same time. If this doesnt happen put it back in the fridge for a few hours. You can wait its better to wait then try it to soon and end up with a full pot of mush! Be patient dont rush and always do a test of a small piece first. Do not put the whole thing it the pot and watch it dissolve in to mush!

 

Its easier to handle in smaller pieces so slice up your curd mass into smaller strips

 


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Then smaller chunks . And add it to the hot pot of water. You did test it first right?

 


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Pile the curds near the middle of the container and pour the hot water around the edges of the bowl or pot not on the curds. Submerge the curds and let them sit for a few minutes until they become soft and stretch easily. Wearing heavy gloves, slowly stir the curds together in the hot water they will begin to look like the cheese on you hot pizza string and stretchy.  
 
Grab the curds in your hands and begin to pull them in long strands until all the curds have been stretched. If the curds break they are not ready! Add more hot water and keep stretching until they become long thin strands. You may have to add water more than twice. Just keep pulling and stretching until you get the long thin strands. Make sure all of the cheese curds get stretched. I start at one end and work my way down into I reach the other end dropping the stretched curd back into the hot water for more heating.

 

 

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Once all the curd is stretched grab pieces and keep folding then into themselves to form balls. Dunk them in the hot water from time to time to do this. The size will based on what you plan for the cheese is. Large balls are nice for grating for pizza and lasagna where small bite sized balls (know as Bocconcini) are great for salads.
 
As each ball is completed throw them in a bowl of salted ice water to firm them up. I use about cup salt to a gallon of water. You may like more salt. You should just barely be able to taste the salt in mozzarella.
 
This cheese can be eaten immediately or stored up to a week in the fridge.  It can also be marinated in a herbed oil bath.
 
This batch yielded about 8 pounds of mozzarella!


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