I just made mozarella cheese for the first time, using a kit that my cousin Liz gave me for my birthday at least 4 years ago. It always seemed so daunting, but after reading in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about using more local and home-grown/made ingredients, I decided to give it a whirl. Plus, she kept emphasizing how it only takes half an hour, literally.

I timed my effort, figuring that for a beginner, it would take longer, since that’s how cookbook recipes almost always go for me. I’m a mess in the kitchen, and while I’m cooking, it always looks like there’s been an explosion. So I gave myself an hour, just in case. I was shocked to roll up my ball of fresh mozarella in exactly 30 minutes, even with the heating of the gallon of milk on the stovetop.

I was really glad to have the two special ingredients for the cheese right where I needed them. Rennet is something that you can mail-order, or you can usually find it at health-food stores. Citric acid is also found at health-food stores, but even more commonly at ethnic markets, notably Indian ones, since citric acid it used to make things sour. I actually think you can get it at the regular supermarket, in the canning and preserving section.

The one thing that I had that comes from sheer force of will is my asbestos hands. I remember once, in Holland, I was staying with a friend and his family, and I was in some way involved in the preparation of dinner, and I grabbed something hot. Robert Jan said he would never do that, because he didn’t have “Mom hands.” I thought about it, and I realized that moms are a pretty large segment of society that is used to handling hot stuff, and can do it without flinching. Us and iron smiths.

I’m making pizza on Saturday, and I wanted to have the cheese ready. I figured I’d do it on Tuesday, in case I failed miserably and had to try again. I think I might do it again anyway, so I can have some really, really fresh moz for a grown-up pizza with fresh basil leaves and sun-dried tomatoes. You all know my tomato snobbery, and I realize dried tomatoes are not on the traditional Margherita pizza, but there just aren’t any fresh ones yet that didn’t travel across the globe to get here.

Also, it may not strike you as important or ground-breaking, unless you’re related to me by blood or marriage, but I found a local producer of tortilla chips. If you’re looking for local foods to eat, it’s a really good idea to find a local source of the items that take up a large percentage of you family’s food consumption. Something that’s at least 20% of what you eat can really add up in the petroleum column if you’re outsourcing to California and you live in Ohio. OK, we don’t really eat chips every single day, but it’s close.

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