What if I told you that you could make delicious, fresh mozzarella in 30 minutes at home. No, I'm not kidding and yes, it is awesome. You already know how much I love homemade ricotta; now I have another cheese to add to my repertoire!
My friend Melissa and I have been talking about doing this for a while, and I am so glad that we went for it! All you need is a gallon of whole milk, rennet, citric acid, salt, a cheese thermometer (shows lower temp range than a candy thermometer), and cheese cloth. Everything except the milk is available in an awesome kit from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company ($25 and makes 30 batches!). You can also just buy those things individually. The kit comes with a very handy instruction and recipe booklet, but the instructions are also available on the website.
On the subject of milk - butterfat is necessary to make cheese, so please use whole milk. Also, ultra-pasteurized will NOT work (pasteurized is fine). There are instructions on the website for pasteurizing raw milk, if you want to go super fresh. The main ingredient and flavoring comes from the milk, so use the highest quality you can find. I recommend milk from local, grass-fed cows for the best quality (more info on Melissa's post).
We have made mozzarella twice. The first time we were still getting the hang of it and overstretched the mozzarella. It was still yummy, but more like the texture of string cheese. So the second time we handled it much less and it came out beautifully (we used it to make delicious margherita pizza). So don't freak out if it doesn't turn out exactly the way you want it the first time. You may need to do it a few times to get the feel of it. And make sure that you have read through all the instructions a few times first. It's not difficult, but it is a lot of steps.
Just look at that beautiful pie! Jewel like pieces of rhubarb in a pink tinged custard with golden streusel. Gorgeous. But before we get into that, we need to talk about crust. Perfectly tender and flaky crust. And for that, we need lard.
I first discovered the wonders of using lard for baking in this recipe. It makes the flavor and texture of pie crust amazing, plus it's so easy to roll out! It also has the benefit of being made from animal fat, which is not toxic like the vegetable oil used to make shortening. Unfortunately, the lard you can buy at the store is partially-hydrogenated, and that is nasty and bad for you. So, what to do? Render your own lard at home! It takes a while, but most of that time is hands off - just letting a slow cooker do it's thing.
I discovered this method of hard cooking eggs (attributed to Alton Brown) via Pinterest and Greetings from the Asylum. The concept is that baking them instead of boiling them is more consistent and results in less gray, less smelly, more creamy eggs.
As you can see, the eggs will sit perfectly on most oven racks and it doesn't matter how clean the rack is, because you will be peeling the eggs. Bake them at 325 for 30 minutes.
As soon as you take them out (with tongs), plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking (and prevent that grey ring around the yolk that happens when they cool too slowly).