Homemade Pizza and the Mozzarella Meltdown

I am not a stranger to making homemade pizza dough, or sauce. Homemade dough tastes sooo good, and even though as you will see I am not very good at making a thin crust, I’m pretty good at making the dough! However, as I am notoriously over-ambitious when it comes to DIY-ing, yesterday I decided that not only would I make sauce and dough, I was gonna make the cheese too.

Being pregnant and qualifying for WIC assistance, I can get five gallons FIVE GALLONS of milk a month. I don’t like to just drink plain milk, and there’s only so much cereal and pudding one can consume. We dabbled in making a quick cheese, basically heating the milk and adding a little vinegar, drain the whey, and add some spices. It’s tasty, kinda dry, but a good crumbly topping. This is the recipe I used, and it turned out good. Despite using the 1% milk that I can get with WIC, it was a decent amount of cheese from a half gallon. But we REALLY wanted CHEESE cheese, and I found many “easy” mozzarella recipes online, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Well. Stay tuned for how that turned out…

Before I got to the cheese, I started with the sauce. Look at my pretty pretty tomatoes up there! I used the orange mixed with some Indigo Rose variety tomatoes which are almost black outside with a pink inside. The recipe for the sauce comes from.. you guessed it.. Preserving by the Pint. It’s a recipe designed to be canned; I used half fresh and canned the rest. Easy peasy.

Next came the dough. I don’t know where I got this recipe as I have it scribbled on a crumpled old paper, but it makes good pizza dough. It goes like this:

Sift together 7 cups flour with 1 level TBSP sea salt, make a well in the middle. Mix one 2 1/4 oz packet of active dry yeast with 1 TBSP sugar and 4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil into 2 1/2 cups of warm (not hot!) water and let sit for a few minutes to dissolve the yeast. Pour this mixture into the flour well, swirl the flour in. (Or, dump it into the center of your Kitchen Aid and use the dough hook if you’re lazy. I am.) Knead it together (or dough hook, really). Put in a flour dusted bowl (I like to use an oil coated and then flour dusted bowl) and let sit covered with a cloth in a warm room for an hour. Or on top of your running dryer for an hour if your house is chilly. Mine sat for about two hours because of the ensuing cheese disaster, and looked like this:

my dough runneth over

So. While the dough was rising, I started my quick and easy 30 minute mozzarella! Into the pot went a gallon of milk. Add some citric acid, bring to temp, add dissolved rennet, and wait ten minutes for beautiful gelatin-like curds. Or.. wait ten minutes and see a few random curds floating that look like the milk sat out three days in the sun. Umm. Quick googling led to some possibilities, maybe it needed to sit longer, maybe my city water is chlorinated (it is), maybe the brand of milk is wrong. Undeterred, tenacity set in (BEING REALLY ANAL is a more accurate but less flattering description of myself but it is the truth) and I rushed to the store to buy another gallon of milk and get it right this time. I bought whole milk because that could have been another cause. I checked on chlorine and dissolved my rennet in bottled water. Now we’re on the right track.

Fifteen minutes later. No gelatinous curds.

Back to the google. I find a tutorial for a specific kit with helpful hints, one of them being not to substitute the rennet it comes with with Junket tablets as they don’t have enough rennet to make cheese set. Uhhhhhh you have one guess what kind of rennet I had. But the box says cheese, right?? Indeed it does. And it has a recipe. Which in hindsight, I probably should have read. But if you read my post about canning… Anyway I read the recipe, and it says I’ve done things right, except the milk needs to sit for ONE TO TWO HOURS. By now we’re hungry, so I assemble the pizza with the small amount of store mozz we had plus some colby jack. It tasted delish, even with the super thick crust and inferior non-homemade cheese. I caramelized some of our garden onions to top it, and dusted it with fresh basil from my window. Yummy! In the meantime, the cheese sat.

yummy fresh baked pizza

So two hours later we attempt to finish the recipe which involves heating it for half an hour more, and stirring every five minutes, then draining and some microwave time. By the way my curds were STILL not gelatinous, there were just more of them. It did not come together as advertised. It was a soft, crumbly, mushy mess. I decided that perhaps wrapping some ball shapes in cheesecloth and then soaking them in the cold water overnight would maybe make them turn out, but by this time I was in tears ( I blame pregnancy) and poor Hubbins kicked me out of the kitchen and finished it himself while I had a meltdown in the other room.

Today I unwrapped the cheese “balls” and they DID hold together, although they are NOT looking much like firm smooth mozzarella. How do they taste? I don’t know. I’ll give it a go in a bit and update you but for now I’m just relieved the whole fiasco is over. And I’m taking a hiatus from any cheese making adventures for a while. Guess I’ll stick to pudding.


By the way, I know I promised a recipe for spiced blackberry brandy, and it’s coming next time, I swear!!

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