Paxton & Whitfield’s Head of Retail and resident cheese guru, Hero Hirsh hosted a Mozzarella cheese making course over Zoom this week as an internal team building and educational event. Our shop and head office teams joined on Tuesday evening from our home kitchens; armed with 2 litres of whole milk, a large saucepan, measuring jug and our Paxton & Whitfield Cheese Making Kit.
We think it's a fudamental part of working in the cheese industry to understand the stages of cheese making and give our mongers the opportunity to get their hands in the curd. Whilst we haven't been able to get out to visit makers as much this year, we still think this is a vital element in training and not only was it a fun way to spend an evening, but also a great way to deepen our understanding as cheese experts.
The first step was to prepare our ‘starter’ by dissolving the Citric Acid into lukewarm water and dissolving our rennet into cold water. We decided to halve the quantity from the cheesemaking kit instructions and warmed 2 litres of whole milk over the hob and stirred in the citric acid solution. The milk began to coagulate – described by one of our team as looking like milk which has been left for too long in a student fridge! Using a gentle heat and the thermometers in our kits, we measured the temperature of the milk until it warmed up to 38°C. Once it reached temperature, we stirred in the rennet, turned off the heat and covered the pan with a lid to leave it to set for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, the mixture in our saucepans had turned to a jelly-like substance (known in the cheese world as junket). Hero asked us to check that when we rocked the pan from side-to-side, the junket came away from the edge of the pan. We could then cut the curds with a knife – making a satisfying checked pattern with our knives and cutting all the way to the bottom of the pan. Once our curds were cut in neat lines, we stirred them up in the pan with a wooden spoon, to mix the curds into the whey and heated it to 41°C.
Using a slotted spoon, or a sieve, we drained off the whey from the curds – keeping it aside in a large bowl for use later in storing the mozzarella. We popped the drained curds into a microwavable bowl and heated them in 30 second blasts until they reached 57°C (using the thermometer contained in the kit). The curds felt incredibly hot at 57°C, and the next step was to add a teaspoon of the Cheese Salt from the kit and knead and pull the mixture into the silky Mozzarella balls. Hero explained that we could wear rubber gloves for this step as the mixture was challenging to handle due to the heat. At this stage, some of our team had beautifully silky cheese and some were disappointed with crumbling curds, resembling cauliflower florets. Hero was patient and asked those of us with cauliflower cheese to re-do the microwave steps until the curds were 57 degrees again. To our excitement, after repeating these steps, we all ended up with cheese closely resembling Mozzarella to enjoy that evening!
Hero explained that the best way to store the cheese in the fridge was to add a tsp of Cheese Salt to 250ml of the remaining Whey into a bowl and pop the cheese balls into the whey to keep them soft and supple overnight.
You can see some of our team’s finished results in the images below…