There are a lot more steps to making mozzarella than ricotta, so I was a little intimidated . . . okay, I was a lot intimidated. And it was perhaps not the best day to be doing this recipe. The world seemed to be against me: I screwed up with the coffee maker (again) this morning; after getting the coffee to work I then spilled coffee everywhere cleaning up after breakfast; I made a bus reservation but made the return trip for the same day instead of the next (which I have done before with an airplane reservation - at least this was only a $20 screw up); and I also made honey-vanilla ice cream, but I kept separating the yolks and whites into the wrong bowls. Basically, I thought this was going to be a definite failure.
I won't bury the lede though - it wasn't! It was easy, I would say easier than ricotta even! The two cheeses are fairly similar, except mozzarella isn't heated to as high of a temperature and requires rennet. Rennet is used to coagulate the milk.
like ricotta, you start with sterilizing your tools (I still forgot to
put in stuff like the teaspoon measure and the second thermometer I
used). Then, you pour in the milk and heat.
Side note! I may have crossed a fancier line. There was no Snowville milk, so I went for the Homestead Creamery milk. In glass bottles. It was $5 for a half gallon, but I get $2 back for each bottle I bring back, so it was really no more expensive than other organic milk.
You know the milk is good and full fat when it the bottle looks like that after pouring it out. I would like to see skim milk do that! [My arteries! Oh, wait, you didn't let me have any of this cheese . . . my arteries are fine. - Court]
Anyway, back to the cheese!
Heat the milk to 85°F and then add the citric acid. [Where do you get citric acid? Inquiring minds want to know - Court] Well, from the cheese kit in my case, or the internet, or you can use lemon juice. It was at this point that I decided I didn't really trust the thermometer that came with the kit and I would also use my digital thermometer. Like I said, I wasn't having a stellar day - I figured this would be like an insurance policy. I think it was a good idea; there was a definite difference between the two.
After stirring in the citric acid, you bring the milk up to 100°F and add the rennet. And then it just magically happens...you get coagulation and many curds. It was beautiful (if greenish whey and white curds can be called beautiful).
Scoop out the curds into a microwave safe bowl and drain off the whey. Heat it in the microwave for a minute, drain off more whey, and mix in salt/herbs/whatever you want in your cheese. [Wait . . . microwave? I somehow don't think this is how they do it in Italy. - Court] Yes, microwave...it was in the instructions! Microwave again for 30 seconds, drain and then start stretching and forming. At this point, the curds basically look like ricotta. In order to get that mozzarella texture and a solid cheese form, not just curds, you have to kind of mush (yes, mush) it together and stretch it out. The cheese has to reach 135°F before you can really stretch it (this is about the temperature that you can almost feel okay holding it and stretching it and then it gets hot and you drop it . . . I totally didn't drop it though. I really wanted to, but I didn't). Stretch until smooth and then eat!
You can refrigerate at this point (or when you first scoop out the curds if you can't form it right then), but not in whey or water. Since it is so fresh and you aren't using preservatives, you can't do that or it will disintegrate and die. And that would just be sad.