We have a small herd of dairy goats which allows me to make feta and goat cheese in my kitchen every week. I occasionally purchase cow's milk from the store to make camembert, caierphilly, cheddar and romano. What got me started in cheesemaking years ago was mozzarella. It's simple, quick and doesn't required a lot of expensive fancy equipment. Let's get started!
You'll need a big spoon, a kitchen thermometer (WalMart carries a basic model for about $5), salt, rennet, citric acid (more about those in a minute) and a gallon of whole milk. Don't buy anything other than whole milk or you will end up with less cheese. It's important not to buy 'ultrapasteurized' milk, so make sure you check the label. From my personal experience, I never purchase a large chain's home brand. I'm not sure but believe they may pasteurize to a higher temperature to extend shelf life. What you end up with instead of mozzarella is something the consistency of ricotta. Not a tragedy, but not what you were expecting.
You can get either veal or vegetable rennet by mail (I use www.dairyconnection.com), BUT I have seen rennet tablets for sale at Fresh Market and Whole Foods, so check the refrigerator section of your local health food store.
I have seen citric acid available lots of places; including online, Indian groceries and those 'weigh your own herb' sections of Whole Foods and health food stores.
Mix 1.5 teaspoons of citric acid into 1/4 cup of cool unchlorinated water. Stir this into your cold milk then start heating it on the stove over medium low heat. Stir occasionally and watch carefully for this mixture to reach 88 degrees F. Don't worry if the milk starts to curdle.
While it's heating, mix 1/4 teaspoon of liquid rennet (or 1/4 rennet tablet) in 1/4 cup of cool unchlorinated water. Set aside.
Once it reaches 88 degrees, gently stir the rennet mixture into your milk.
Continue stirring while heating the milk to 100 degrees. It only takes a few minutes and you'll see curds startiing to form.
When the milk reaches 100 degrees, take your pot off of the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes.
Miss Muffet, you've got curds and whey! You can save the whey for breadmaking or feed it to your dog. Not all at once though, it can give them diarrhea. Ask me how I know this.
Drain off the whey and put the curds in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave them at full power for 1 minute.
Drain off any whey that has collected and gently knead the cheese with either your hand or a large spoon to distribute the heat evenly throughout the cheese. Stick it back in the microwave for another 35 seconds.
Drain off the whey, add 1 teaspoon of salt and knead again. Pop it back in the microwave for 35 more seconds.
Knead one last time until your cheese is smooth and stretchy. That's it!
Once it cools, you can slice and serve it with tomatoes and basil drizzled with a little olive oil and black pepper or put it on a homemade pizza. Your friends and family will be amazed!