14 December 2013

Making Mozarella

Tom and I made mozzarella on Wednesday afternoon.  He's been asking me to make it for a week, but I didn't have the milk. I finally gave in and went and bought 2 litres of our favourite whole milk on Sunday.

We've been using a lot of mozzarella since MOO Pizza Night has become a regular Thursday night feature and fresh mozzarella can't be beaten. Don't think for one minute that it is cheaper to make your own mozzarella, but it doesn't cost any more than buying it either. But when you MOO mozarella you choose the quality of the milk you use, you know exactly what goes into that cheese and you have truly fresh mozzarella to enjoy - and you can't get really fresh mozarella from a supermarket.

It only takes a couple of hours to do a batch, and some of that time is resting time. That's when we clean up and get the iced water ready and heat the water for stretching. Because mozzarella is stretched, and then stretched again and stretched some more before it's ready to shape into those traditional balls.

That's Tom's job. He is the wearer of the gloves, dipping his cheese and hands in the very hot water and then stretching and shaping and stretching and shaping until the balls are shiny and smooth. Then he drops them into the salted iced water to chill and ten minutes later he's munching on them.

I love making soft cheeses, you don't need any special equipment, except perhaps a good thermometer if you don't have one and a cheesecloth. It's one of those skills that most homemakers would have had at least a basic knowledge of before we were brainwashed into thinking that anything handmade or homemade was inferior and convinced that buying massed produce was the absolute best we could do.

We regularly make labna (yoghurt cheese), mozzarella, ricotta (makes a wonderful white sauce for lasagne), feta (very nice in a green salad or on a cheese plate), mascarpone (goes very well with dried fruit), Neufchatel (I use it in place of Philadelphia cream cheese) and cottage cheese (which is particularly nice with a little finely chopped mint and honey as a dip for fruit) and occasionally I'll venture to the hard cheeses but as I don't yet have a cheese press that's a rare treat.

Like making washing powder or baking bread or knitting dishcloths or growing tomatoes and the myriad of other household tasks I undertake, making cheese improves the quality of my family's life without causing us any extra expense or stress or debt.

It simplifies our lives. Yes, it takes effort on my part (and Tom's) but it still simplifies. I'm not worrying about getting to the shops, standing in queues, using petrol, driving in circles to find parking, adding packaging to landfill. We just take a few fresh ingredients and make cheese, in our own time, at our own pace.

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