Cateland White in Las Vegas, Nevada has written several fabulous articles* for us because she is an amazing writer and we adore her! This summer, she and her husband and their 11 year old, Bugsy (whom we adore just as much!) took a road trip to the Pacific Northwest. (We’re hoping she will share pictures of her trip with us, so watch for that soon…) Right before they left, Cateland wrote this “essay” about her latest culinary adventure – an easy whey to make Mozzarella. Thank you, Cateland!
True Story about Making Mozzarella with an Induction Cooktop
By Cateland White
Today I discovered a new wrinkle (thankfully, not on my face!) for cheese making. My husband, Art, gave me an induction cooktop last Christmas. Having no idea what it was, it went unused until a craving for fresh mozzarella took hold yesterday in 115+ degree summer heat.
Cheese makers here in Vegas struggle with several pitfalls, among them highly chlorinated, horrible tasting water and a lack of really fresh milk – forget raw milk of any kind. Personally, I add an aging and very temperamental electric stove to that list.
My fails are legendary, my attempts heroic but still I try to find a ‘whey’ to supply my family’s fresh cheese addiction. Eleven year-old daughter, Bugsy, our notorious cheese snarfer, will eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks if it is left unguarded!
A VERY recent vacation to the Pacific Northwest (where I learned to make cheese curds with niece, Miranda, (roller derby queen), while visiting her enchanted farm, we came home with oodles of fresh picked blackberries (becoming seedless blackberry jam while I melted over the stove) and tomatoes. Nothing goes better with these luscious red gems than fresh mozzarella! The thought of yet another sweltering stove session, however, cooled my ardor. Until Christmas in July…
From the depths of my pantry I dug out the as-yet-unopened cooktop. As soon as the realization dawned that it was temperature controlled, out came my favorite cheese-making pot for the acid, or rather the magnet test; if a magnet stuck to the pot I was in business. And I was!!
Using Ricki’s 30 Minute Mozzarella recipe, I set the cooktop to 100 degrees, the lowest heat setting, gradually increasing temp as the recipe calls for. The induction cooktop only allows for 10 degree temperature changes which didn’t matter. It was, in my humble opinion, the best batch I ever made. My kitchen stayed as cool as a cucumber and the electric bill saw a savings, too.
Next came a batch of ricotta using the leftover whey. I’ve heard that it isn’t supposed to work with store-bought whole milk mozz whey but ‘whey’: I’d already been making it for a long time before I heard that. The yield, quantity and quality vary with each batch but aspiring to the ‘waste not, want not’ philosophy of life, I always try…
So the fresh whey goes back into the cheese pot and heat is adjusted incrementally to a final temp of 190 degrees, allowing me to precisely hold (and hold. And hold some more) it there until the whey cleared and curd flakes formed. On my stove, this step always led me to a scorched pan. With the induction cooktop, I still had a small center scorch circle on the bottom, due to, my subsequent research discovered, a central raised area in the pot’s bottom.
Another plus for the cooktop is a built in timer: after 60 minutes it automatically shuts itself off. This comes in real handy when waiting for ricotta flakes to form while getting a daughter ready for dance class, doing vacation laundry and trying to ‘glam up’ for a Friday night date with my hubby…
This time my ricotta yield was kind of pitiful but I can’t fault the cooktop; my Vegas cheese efforts have always, after all, been a crap shoot. But you never know unless you try!
I was so jazzed about my perfect mozz and cooler kitchen that I just had to make a loaf of my Italian Rustic Bread so we could have:
Bugsy’s Grilled Buffalo Sandwiches:
Rustic Italian bread slices
Slices of tomatoes
Slices of fresh mozzarella (fresh ricotta, if you have it)
Basil (if desired) – preferably fresh but we’ve used dried in a pinch
Heat griddle, panini press or waffle maker. (We use waffle maker set to ‘high’ or ‘dark’). Sprinkle salt to taste on tomato slices. Sprinkle them lightly with balsamic vinegar being careful not to over saturate. Brush bread slices on one side with olive oil. Place slice, oil side down onto your heat source. If using ricotta, too, it helps to spread it on the bread that meets the tomatoes). Layer tomato, basil and cheese slices to form the sandwich filling, being careful to stay within the outer crusts. Top with another bread slice, oil side up. Close waffle make or panini press and cook until sandwich is nice and golden brown. If using a griddle, place cheese slices on the bottom piece of bread and turn carefully to keep the sandwich together.
We serve with extra balsamic vinegar for dipping.
Who says an old(ish) cook can’t learn a new trick?!?