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A Little Dithering, A Little Catch-Up and a Lot of Mozzarella Cheese

January 10, 2012 · 35 comments

in Changes,Cheese,Gluten Free,Vegetarian

ingredients for mozzarellaPossums, hello!  And Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and Happy New Year all rolled into one! There’s something I want to talk about. I’ve been meaning and meaning to come here but I didn’t know quite what to say – it (whatever “it” is) is as yet unformed so I think I need to approach it sideways as one might a nervous cat, or like many things in peripheral vision it might disappear.

taking milk temperature

Though as a child I regularly flew between New Zealand and Japan on my own, there was always someone to meet me at the other end. My nana delights in telling a story with three-year old me as its protagonist, coming off the plane, waving to my as-yet-unmet poppa and gaily singing out “hi poppa!” I think to her, this represents a blitheness she doesn’t associate with herself as a child put in an unfamiliar position and therefore amazes some part of her with every retelling – of which, incidentally, there are many; we are a family that delights in repetition.

cutting cheese curds image

While I sometimes wish I had a rapier-sharp wit, I comfort myself with the fact that my brother and cousins at least, appreciate that a joke told many times becomes funnier as it ages. I mean, it saves breath – you don’t even have to tell the whole thing after a while.

draining cheese curds image

The first time I went on a trip without someone to meet me though, was when I visited Vietnam with Anna. It was a trip of less than two months but when I came home it took me as many to feel here again.

stretching mozzarella image

That feeling that I was somehow inchoate or blurred about the edges when I had what I felt was a firmish grip on my “self ” before I left, puzzled and unnerved me. I’ve had the same feeling upon returning home after long trips several times, though not on my most recent returns.

folding mozzarella image

I do have the whisper of that feeling though about the exact direction I want to take with this little piece of me on the internet. For months now, I’ve been gestating a whirl wind of ideas and still, nothing concrete has emerged. My life looks so different now from when I started this blog (I finally changed the About page!)

how to stretch mozzarella image

I think part of it is getting used to the fact that so many of you are in a different hemisphere – reading stories about pumpkins and cinnamon and cosying up in jumpers (I am now, and probably forever, a sufferer of the affliction known as F.O.M.O; The Fear of Missing Out) makes me wonder how relevant it would be for you to hear about strawberries and sun, while another reminds me how much I enjoyed reading Southern hemisphere blogs when I was holed up inside in an Austrian December.

making mozzarella balls image

One of my main concerns is the name; Sasasunakku is difficult for English speakers to spell and therefore find but what to replace it with?

Another is exactly how to successfully marry the writing part of this blog, which I love, and the potential business part. Remember how I said I was indecisive? …That.

forming balls of mozzarella image

So, while I dither on in the hope that that either a) I will get one of those gut feeling things people are always talking about but that I don’t seem to ever be able to access or b) I will receive an epiphany I shall leave you with more cheese, this time mozzarella which topped a pizza with a delightfully shattery crust.

What did you get up to in your holidays m’dears?

homemade pizza with homemmade mozzarella image

All the good photos on this post are by my dear friend Sam, while the wonky ones are mine, all mine. 

Mozzarella Cheese

The only problem with making cheese is getting some of the more esoteric ingredients. In New Zealand, Mad Millie’s sell stuff like rennet tablets and cultures but I’m not sure where you can get that stuff elsewhere – let us know in the comments if you do.

4 litres (8 pints) whole milk

2 ml calcium chloride

2 teaspoons citric acid diluted in 60 ml cooled boiled water (important so the chlorine doesn’t damage the rennet I think)

1/2 tablet of rennet diluted in 60 ml cooled boiled water

2 tablespoons table salt

Surgical gloves

Put the milk in a large pot and add the calcium chloride.

Heat the milk to 13 degrees celsius (55 fahrenheit) and add the citric acid.

Heat the milk to 32 degrees celsius (90 fahrenheit), stirring constantly to ensure the milk doesn’t stick on the bottom. Turn off the heat and add the rennet.

Put the lid on and allow to set for half an hour or until it cuts like silken tofu when sliced into.

Using a long knife, cut the curd into 2 cm (1 inch) cubes by slicing first lengthways, then widthways and finally horizontally (don’t worry if it’s sort of on an angle).

Heat the curds and whey to 42 degrees celsius (107 fahrenheit).

Line a sieve or colander with the cheesecloth and place in the sink or a bowl to catch the liquid unless you don’t mind it dripping all over the bench and drain for 5 minutes.

You can use the whey left in the pot for smoothies, to make ricotta or to water the garden (when cooled!) if you like, or discard.

Meanwhile, wash out the pot and bring 2 litres (4 pints) of water to a heat that you can stand to put your hand in for about 5 seconds and dissolve the salt into water in a large bowl, and add plenty of ice.

Put the gloves on.

When the curds are drained, take a handful and put it into the hot water for a few seconds until it comes together.

Stretch it out as far as you can between your hands, then fold over.

Repeat a few times, heating between each stretch.

When it looks satiny and stretches 15 or so cm (6 inches) without breaking (it depends on how much curd you are using), form into a ball by pushing the cheese over your thumb with the cupped fingers of your other hand.

Finally, heat again and smooth out any lumps and drop into the iced water.

When you use the cheese, tear it rather than cut it so it will better absorb the flavours around it.

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Kocinera January 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm

First of all–cheese is so wonderful. *nods* Creamy mozzarella cheese especially so.

Second of all–these “in-between” times are so wonky. Between the place where you knew your blog was and the new place where you want it to go. There’s this plan and idea of what you want, but the particulars of going about it are all nice and fuzzy. :D I’m like that right now with my final year of college, so I know what you’re talking about. I just say take plenty of time to let ideas marinate and slowly the good stuff will filter through.

And whether you end up changing the blog name after all, as an English speaker I like saying “Sasasunakku.” But this is coming from the person with a blog name in purposefully-misspelled Spanish, so I don’t know how solid that statement is. :D

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hungryandfrozen January 10, 2012 at 9:51 pm

My thoughts: I like the name Sasasunakku! It’s fun to say. And there’s no doubting who it is when I see it written down. I know what you mean about opposite-hemisphere-ness – I read/interact with so many blogs above the equator that just as I’m starting to talk about wintery things they’re all “YAY NO MORE WINTERY THINGS”. But such is the joy of the internet! And also the bookmark/favourites function, so you don’t forget recipes you want to try later. Also, totally know of the FOMO, I get it bigtime!

Finally: what a beautiful pizza! :)

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Sasa January 10, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Yes, we got the oven as hot as the centre of the sun, so it was a bit scary, but worth it.

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milliemirepoix January 10, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Ah, I really need to get onto this cheesemaking business! Looks like so much fun.

I’m no stranger to indecision (and FOMO!) myself so I kind of feel like I know what you’re talking about, in a way. Take as much time as you need to, I have a feeling whatever you end up doing in the end will be great :)

Also, あけおめ!

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Sasa January 10, 2012 at 10:03 pm

あけおめことよろ!

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flo January 10, 2012 at 10:22 pm

wow, mozzarella, this is exceptional. and that pizza looks awesome, the dough getting better and better probably. lovely pics as well. for the name sasasunakku: hard to pronounce but somewhat catchy i think.

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Alessandra January 11, 2012 at 6:16 am

Happy New Year Sasa, and great post! I still have my mozzarella to post, and I think that I should have borrowed your Sam… difficult to take the photo alone. I friend popped by while I was stretching it, and I gave her the iphone, but couldn’t ask too much of her, after all she just wanted to drop something and have a chat and a cup of tea :-)!

But (hopefully) this year I will post it anyway!!!

Ciao
Alessandra

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rich January 11, 2012 at 11:23 am

I’m making THAT.

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Miyuki January 11, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Sasasunakku is an awesome name!! It’s alliteration, it’s like a pun, it’s Nihongo! Please keep it :)

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Glenn January 12, 2012 at 8:29 am

Beautiful pics. I want that pizza, I want it now, I want it more, than a big brown cow!

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Mel January 12, 2012 at 1:36 pm

In no particular order:
1. Gut feelings are so hard to pin down, and sometimes they settle temporarily only to take off in the opposite direction a week later. But after the storm there is always the calm, and it will be clearer.

2. I love your blog name and I hope you keep it!

3. That pizza looks amazing :-)

4. I see no wonky photos!

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Katie@Cozydelicious January 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm

First of all – I love that you made pizza with your very own home made cheese! Second – indecision is ok, but I think as far as your lovely blog goes, there is no wrong answer. Change the name or keep the name, it will still be you and still be wonderful!

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Couscous & Consciousness January 13, 2012 at 12:14 am

I am having cheese envy – I have been wanting to try mozzarella making for ages but haven’t been brave enough. I know you can definitely get rennet at the supermarket – not altogether sure where you would get calcium chloride, but I imagine you can probably get it at the pharmacist.

I love the name – the second comment I ever received on my blog was from you, and the name sasasunakku is indelibly etched in my mind!

As for everything else – just “let go” and things will become clear. That’s actually something more than an intellectual decision – it comes from a different place, which probably sounds a bit flaky but I’ll explain when I see you next week.

xo

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Su-yin January 13, 2012 at 3:30 am

You made cheese again! I’ve never seen rennet tablets here, but I suspect a touch of googling might solve that issue.. possibly at a price. ;)

p.s. I LOVE the name Sasasunakku!

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Time for a Little Something January 13, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Your fresh mozzarella looks absolutely gorgeous. Silky and stretchy :) I too love the Sasasunakku name! And I’m sure whatever conclusion you arrive at will be fabulous. Enjoy the process!

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Gninword On January 13, 2012 at 3:12 pm

I remember you mentioning these things at the conference, and that made me start questioning my own blog name as well. But to that end, I love your blog name, whenever I encounter it it instantly conjures up an image of you and your food. I think the fact that it might be hard to say actually adds to it and makes it stick out in one’s mind, instead of getting lost under all the ‘normal’ blog names. At least that’s what I’m telling myself too. Happy New Year! -Christina

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catty January 13, 2012 at 7:39 pm

1. LOVED skyping with you. it had been far too long and I think we need to do it more regularly. 2. Cheese is always good. Miss you xx

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Lana January 13, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Ha! I brought some liquid rennet from Serbia and made cheese just a week or so ago! I wonder if it will work for mozzarella. I’ll have to try, especially seeing those perfect balls of cheese wonderfulness!
I can totally relate to your questions: I feel the same about the name of my blog (did not think about that when I started – it meant something to me:), and I know that most people come to my blog for writing – recipes are like a little bonus. One of these days I hope I’ll have a Eureka! moment and everything will be clear. In the meantime, I’ll see what you came up with:)
And I like your name – it is very melodious and whispery:)

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The Grubworm January 14, 2012 at 2:32 am

First off, awesome that you made cheese – very cool indeed (and the pizza looks very tasty).

As for the holidays. now it’s funny you should ask. I spent much it recharging the batteries and considering all the directions I could go in with regards to doing something with my life. I too am always searching for the gut feelings… and on the rare (very rare) occasion I get one, dealing the fear of actually following it is very hard. Its just too easy to carry on as you are.

But, if/when you follow those feelings, the rewards (and I’m not talking money) can be immense.

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Marietta January 16, 2012 at 6:14 am

girl..we may now live in different hemispheres but my country is warm all year round so the sunny atmosphere of your pictures feels at home!

i am not a good cook. just cook for survival… so the reason i read yr blog is
1. i LOVE the way you write..and your stories..some sound very familiar..u can guess which ones..
2. it is a great way to stay in touch
3. i read it hoping that one day i can read yr little book

These holidays i just tried to become a housewife. in between jobs, at a new home with my man. spent a fortune on house interior decoration. thinking of weddings plans for autumn. wish u could do the catering. ideas welcome! finger food please! i dont have money for a full sit down dinner!
Akemashite omedettou!! xxx

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marietta January 16, 2012 at 6:16 am

p.s. yr consulting on dieting worked so far. 3 kilos in about 2 months. healthy as a ? in greece we say as a horse.

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Foodopera January 16, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Hey
I tried to make mozzarella with a Mad Millie cheese kit given to me on my birthday, mine was rather dense and rubbery – not silky smooth like yours.
Reading your post and seeing the wonderful step by step images has motivated me to give it another go!
I like the cooking on the campmaster gas cooker – looks retro!!!
Vanessa

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Pilgrim January 23, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I don’t think Sassansunankku is hard to pronounce .
Or spell. (:)>

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shaz January 24, 2012 at 1:25 am

Oh my goodness that is a lot of cheese. Beautiful, good-looking cheese! Good luck in finding the where and how of whatever you decide to do Sasa. I always enjoy visiting and reading your thoughts, and no matter what you decide to call the blog, I’ll still keep visiting :)

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Alli@peasepudding January 26, 2012 at 9:06 am

I have been making lots of cheese too, mozzarella, feta and Camembert and having a dither about my blog name. Having Peasepudding and Gourmet Gannet(web & twitter) is a bit of confusion and have been debating changing Peasepudding to Gourmet Gannet. But the thought of it, moving 3 tears of posts over is putting me off.

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Lemon February 14, 2012 at 10:30 am

Wow, that looks great. I’ve never made mozzarella by myself so far, so cool that you did it and shared your experience.

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Lisa February 24, 2012 at 10:51 am

Just wondering…all of that work and milk and does it just make that 1 little ball of cheese? I can’t find where you say how many of those little mozza balls it makes? Thanks

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Sasa February 24, 2012 at 11:51 am

It made about 6 balls if I recall correctly, but it all depends on the milk – at different times of year and different feed produce different results.

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alan March 23, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Thank you for this great recipe for making mozzarella.
I always knew that you needed citric acid to make mozzarella cheese but have always been too busy to get around to doing this so you are helping me a lot. You have a great website and to make sure I come back to try out more of your great recipes

best wishes,
Alan

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Sara April 3, 2012 at 1:47 am

Great process photos, makes me want to try again. I’m always astounded by how much milk it uses.

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Lana May 27, 2012 at 6:52 am

Me again! Hey, I am not stalking you, just stopped by to see what’s new and to tell you that I nominated you for Food Stories Award for Excellence in Storytelling. Just because:) I hope the link works if you want to go check out the site and claim your nomination, he, he. Have a great weekend! http://foodstoriesblog.com/food-stories-award/

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Sasa May 27, 2012 at 9:14 am

Aw thankyou! I have been so busy with school I haven’t been here at all, nice to know people are still dropping in ^_^

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Hotly Spiced May 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm

HI, I found you through Lana who has nominated you for an award. I love your writing, it’s very engaging and enjoyable. And you make great pizza too!

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Bronwyn July 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm

You can also buy rennet from your nearest New World supermarket. It’s not that esoteric, elderly ladies have been using it to make junket for aeons. You also don’t really need the calcium chloride.

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Sasa July 17, 2012 at 6:17 pm

You’re right. Unfortunately that rennet isn’t strong enough for cheesemaking though.

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