I know I said I'd try Mexican for Dark Days, but after some adventures in cheesemaking Thursday night, I decided to turn the traditional Friday Pizza Night with my parents into a Dark Days Challenge meal this week instead!
The same dairy that I found had the heavy cream (see the DDC Week #2 post about butter), also sells just regular (pasturized) milk too. I'd made mozzarella once before, so the process was not totally new to me. This time though, I'd already committed to the meal, so I was really hoping I wouldn't mess it up! I wanted to make two batches to have plenty of cheese for two pizzas, so I did it in two batches.
The first seemed to go fine until I got to the heating/kneading/stretching phase, when I just couldn't get it to come together. I finally gave up on it and started the working on that stage of the second batch, which came out just fine, despite my seeming to do it exactly the same way as I'd done the first gallon of milk.
After that second round was done, in one last ditch effort, I put the first ball back in the microwave one more time. To my amazement and relief, the feel of it suddenly changed in my hands, and it passed from mushy to stringy in just seconds. All in all, I ended up with just over two pounds of mozzarella, and I hope to get a little ricotta out of the whey yet, but I will save that for another post.
Nonetheless, I'd still call it a cheese success, and it was pretty fun to make it happen.
Here are a few pictures from the process:
Pot shots, from top to bottom: at about 100°, just after curds formed; after settling for twenty minutes, with curds now fully separated from the whey; scooping the curds out for the first heating. The ingredients in the very first photo include: salt, rennet, citric acid and milk. I trust the rest of the pictures are self explanatory!
The pizzas themselves were pretty basic. Both had sauce and cheese, and one had chorizo sausage and carmalized onions, and the other had bacon and pac choi. The pork was from pasture-grazed pigs, raised on and purchased from a farm on the other side of the lake. The pac choi was from Finger Lakes Fresh, a hydroponic greenhouse operation here in Ithaca that started at Cornell University but is now run by Challenge Industries.
Both pizzas were really good, but at the end of the night, it was the sausage pizza that was nearly gone! I served them with cole slaw and my dad brought a bottle of his home made merlot, which "paired" perfectly with the pizza! We finished the meal by frosting the first batch of Christmas cookies of the year, made with decidedly, sadly, non-local ingredients (but they too were quite tasty, I have to admit!).
Here's a quick run down of how I did all this. The mozzarella was basically from Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal Vegetable Miracle, which is from the New England Cheese Making Company. I adapted that recipe a little to add some settling time, which I just gleaned from a few other online sources. My pizza dough and sauce are adapted from Cook's Illustrated, and the dressing on the slaw was from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook.
Heat 1 gallon milk slowly to 55° F, stirring to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Add 1 1/2 tsp citric acid (dissolved in 1/4c cool water) and stir gently.
Continue heating to 88°, and add rennet (in my case, 1/4 tsp dissolved in 1/4c water), and stir in an up and down motion. Continue heating to just over 100°.
Turn off the heat, cover, and let curds sit 20 minutes.
Cut curds in pieces, scoop out into a microwaveable bowl.
Heat curds 1 minute, then press and knead to release any more whey.
Repeat heating/kneading/pouring off whey process (in 30-35 second intervals) 2-3 more times (or in my case 4-5!).
Add salt toward the end of this process (about 3/4 tsp was about right for my taste).
By the last heating, your cheese is supposed to be getting smoothe and stretchy (mine never really did get smooth...).
Shape and eat when cool, or refridgerate sealed for later use.
3 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup warm water
2 Tblsp olive oil
Mix flour, yeast and salt. Mix water and oil, and add to dry ingredients. Mix well, then pour out onto floured board. Knead 5-7 minutes, adding more flour as needed to keep from sticking. Let rise about 1 hour. Divide in two, flatten and shape to ~ 13" rounds, letting rest for 5 minutes part way through if needed.
32 oz jar canned tomatoes, drained
2 cloved garlic, crushed
2 Tblsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Blend all ingredients in food processor. Cook if desired, but I often use just as-is.
1/2 head napa cabbage, shredded
4 large carrots, shredded
1 small onion, shredded
Combine and mix with dressing of choice
1/2 block tofu
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tblsp apple cider vinegar
2+ Tblsp orange or apple juice
2+ Tblsp chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
What I learned / How local was I?
As I thought the last time I did this, the cheese was good, but a bit tougher than I expected. I wonder if I "knead" too much? I assume that you knead until it changes consistency and the curds stick together, but maybe it's the heat, not the kneading that causes that change and I'm overworking the curds? On the other hand, I did read that over-heating can cause the curds to not stay together also, so I'm at a bit of a loss.
Also, the cheese did not melt the way "normal" mozz melts. It softened, but never got at all stringy, not even in the limited way that commercial fresh mozzarella does. Not sure what I did wrong there.
I tried cooking the pizzas on a stone for the first time, but was not very successful. I think I need a peel (and some pointers, if anyone has any?).
All my local foods were again within 50 miles ("tier 1"), but I did have quite a few items that were beyond my exception list that were not local at all: apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, orange juice, Dijon mustard, yeast (purchased from a local flour mill, but I have no idea where it's really "from"), rennet and the citric acid.
I'd like to learn to make vinegar (I'm told if I let my Kombucha go too far I'll get vinegar!), so I'm going to look into this one.
I'm also going to look into growing mustard next summer and try my hand at my own mustard sauces.
So that's it for week #3. Next week Doug's Mom will be visiting for the holidays, so I'll need to come up with something extra special to make her! I'm thinking either the Mexican theme, or maybe I'll try my hand at fresh pasta? Mmm...