Pizza is one of those comfort foods that you just have to have from time to time. This food is a challenging one for a person who is lactose-intolerant, as pizza just isn’t the same without the cheese. My favorite pizza joint is Pulcinella on Kensington Road in Calgary. It’s napoletana style, meaning thin, chewy, charred crust pizza cooked on stone in a wood-burning oven. There is very little cheese on this pizza to begin with, which works out perfectly for me. I can order this pizza and not even miss the cheese when I ask them to make my pizza without.
This summer, I set out to make pizza similar to napoletana style. I didn’t have a wood oven, but I’d read about cooking pizzas on the barbecue. I used a recipe from Pete Bakes, which turned out really great. After a few tries at this, I decided that I needed some fresh mozzarella cheese on my pizza. So I set about making my own. I researched many recipes, and couldn’t settle on one. I ended up using a mash-up of about 4 recipes – well 2 recipes and 2 videos from YouTube.
Making cheese turned out to be really, really hard – not going to lie. It took 2 tries for success. My first try was a complete failure, because I misread the recipes – there is a big difference between a gallon and a litre. I used a full recipe of citric acid and rennet and only a half recipe of milk, so my cheese tasted like poison. On the second try I adjusted my milk to coagulating agents ratio. I didn’t believe I was successful until I accidentally had a ball of cheese in my hand. In a perfectly timed moment, my iTunes shuffle magically turned to Flight of the Valkyries, which made me feel that much more triumphant.
This recipe isn’t for the faint of heart. It will take a lot of time, and a lot of patience. In the end though, the fresh cheese is amazing and totally worth the effort – even if all you get is a little handful after using a full 2L of milk. I will definitely make this again. Probably during Christmas vacation though, when I have consecutive days off and don’t feel like I lost part of my weekend! I’ll be making this cheese again alongside the croissants I’ve promised to make over Christmas break too! So…when you have a good chunk of time you can dedicate to this project, make some cheese. As a person who is lactose intolerant, this was such a nice treat to have normal pizza for once. Also, turn up the volume of your music, and create a triumphant soundtrack for cheese-making.
Steps with a few pictures to help – next time I’ll take more thorough pictures. If you would like a guide of what each step should look like, visit Ricki’s 30 Minute Mozzarella at http://www.cheesemaking.com.
The first step was to add citric acid to cold milk, then warm up to 90 degrees F. Once warm, I added the rennet and left the mixture alone (off the heat) for a good 45 minutes.
Once the curd had set and I got a clean break (this took me quite awhile – not sure why, but it was about 45 minutes when the recipe said it would take 5), I cut the curd into 1-inch squares. Then I heated the mixture again, this time to 110 degrees F. When at temperature, I drained the whey off the curd by pouring the mixture through a sieve. (Save the whey, because it can be used to make ricotta cheese after!)
Once I had drained off the whey, I boiled some water and added lots of salt. This water will help melt the curds to form a round of cheese. I put the curds into a bowl, and poured some of the very hot, salty water over. I stretched and pulled the cheese until it cooled, then drained the water off. I repeated this process (about 5 times) until a nice ball of cheese formed. I also wore gloves to protect my hands from the hot water.
Like I said above, it took about 5 turns of adding hot water, stretching the cheese, and then pouring more hot water in again. If you’d like to watch a tutorial (which I highly recommend), visit the following sites: How to Make Mozzarella by foodwishes or How to turn milk into mozzarella cheese by anuttama I didn’t follow either exactly, but more mixed the two together.
Lactose-Free Mozzarella Cheese
Yield: 1 hand-sized round of cheese
Prep Time: 1 – 2 hours (if not more!)
- 2 L of lactose-free milk (I used Lactaid skim milk, but any percentage would work)
- 1/2 cup cool water
- 1/8 cup cool water
- 3/4 tsp of citric acid (you can get this at most health or natural grocery stores)
- 1/8 tab of rennet
- Lots of hot water
- Large pot
- Instant read thermometer (I had used a candy thermometer, but it wasn’t accurate)
- Strainer (maybe some cheese cloth, although I didn’t use any)
- Rubber gloves (to protect hands from hot water when stretching cheese)
- 2 bowls: 1 for storing the poured off whey; 1 for pouring hot water over the cheese)
1. Pour 2L of cold, lactose-free milk into a large pot. Add 3/4 tsp of citric acid that has been diluted in 1/2 cup of cool water.
2. Heat the mixture slowly over medium low heat until the thermometer reads 90 degrees F.
3. Remove pot from heat. Slowly stir in the rennet that has been diluted in 1/8 cup of cool water.
4. Cover pot and leave until the curd has separated from the whey. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to overnight. I left it for 45 minutes, then decided to continue on, even though I didn’t get a very clean cut. The curd should be firm and look like custard. The whey will be clear and yellowy in colour.
5. Check to see if you get a clean break. Do this by poking a finger in the curd. If the curd holds together and the whey fills in the void of where you poked, you’re ready to move on. If it looks like you’re just stirring up settled milk chunks, wait some more. (There could be more reasons than time if you don’t get a clean break. If you need to problem solve why it didn’t happen, check out this Article: Are You Having Problems Getting a Clean Break? by David B. Frankhauser)
6. If you get a clean break, cut the curd into 1-inch squares with a knife that reaches the bottom of the pot.
7. Return the pot to the stove, and slowly heat to 110 degrees F, stirring.
8. Remove from heat, continuing to stir slowly for a few more minutes.
9. Remove curds to a colander or strainer to separate the curd from they whey. Press on the curds gently to remove as much whey as possible. (Save the whey, as it can be used to make Ricotta. If you’re looking for how to do this, check out: How to Make Great Ricotta from Whey by mikemwa)
10. Place the curds in a clean bowl. Boil your tea kettle full of hot water, grab your gloves and some salt (lots of salt actually).
11. Pour hot, salty water over the curds until just covered. Knead the curds until the water cools. Pour off the cooled water. Pour more hot, salty water over the curds again. Knead the curds until the water cools.
12. Repeat this process until curds are about 135 degrees F, which is almost too hot to handle.
13. When the curds are hot, it will become one mass instead of many, and is ready to start stretching.
14. Stretch and stretch cheese until smooth; there should be no lumps. If there are, pour more hot water and keep stretching.
15. Knead into a smooth, shiny ball. Now you have fresh mozzarella cheese. Enjoy!
(Adapted from: Ricki’s 30 Minute Mozzarella at http://www.cheesemaking.com/howtomakemozzarellacheese.html, How to Make Great Fresh Mozzarella Cheese at http://www.instructables.com/id/Great-Mozzarella-Cheese/?ALLSTEPS, How to Make Mozzarella at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vymXC0Cnxw, Learn How to Turn Milk Into Mozzarella Cheese at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgB-pmwOhbw )