There are a lot of recipes for homemade mozzarella floating around out there. From traditional mozza recipes that take literally all day and require constant monitoring of the cheese’s pH levels to ensure proper stretching to 30 minute mozza recipes that come together in a flash.
For this month’s Cheesepalooza challenge my mom and I wanted to try a recipe that we could succeed at despite being cheese making novices. That ruled out the the all-day mozza marathon or any recipe requiring pH strips.
We decided to use a recipe from A Canadian Foodie’s website that not only looked like it made some dreamy mozza, but also came with a ton of tips to help out first time mozza-makers.
The recipe starts out with 4L of non-homogenized milk. I bought 4L of 2% milk and 4L of whole milk so that we could make a batch of each and then conduct taste tests to see which cheese was better. Not because I needed an excuse to eat more cheese, it was in the name of science.
The only other ingredients are citric acid and rennet. The citric acid is diluted in water and put into the pot first. Then the milk is poured into the pot quickly to ensure that the citric acid is mixed in thoroughly. This step ensures that the milk has the proper level of acid which helps the cheese stretch later on.
The rennet is diluted and set aside.
Then we slowly, slowly, SLOWLY, heat the milk to 90 degrees while stirring constantly. This step is what sets the recipe apart from the 30 minute versions because it takes 18-20 minutes just to get the milk to temperature. It’s worth it to take it slow and use gentle heat though because it just makes for better cheese in the end.
Once the milk hits 90 degrees the pot gets removed from heat and the diluted rennet is poured in ever so slowly (another great tip from Valerie’s recipe) and stirred for 30 seconds.
After a five minute rest the consistency has changed from a liquid to a soft custard which gets sliced into one inch cubes. I’m not sure why but I absolutely love slicing the cheese in the pot, so satisfying.
The pot is put back onto gentle heat and the curds are carefully stirred until the temperature reaches 105. The goal here is to keep the curds as big as possible while gently moving them around to make sure they don’t clump together and to distribute the heat.
Gentle heat, gentle handling of the curds = better texture in the cheese.
The temperature on both of our batches kept jumping up and down from 95 to 100 back down to 92 but we eventually made it to 105.
1/2 rennet tablet
1/4 cup cool, chlorine-free water (most bottled waters are chlorine-free)
1 gallon milk (2%, 1%, or skim)
2 teaspoons citric acid (see additional note below)
Crush the rennet into the water and stir to dissolve. Pour milk into a gallon size nonreactive pot (no aluminum or cast iron). Place over medium heat. Sprinkle the citric acid over the milk and stir a few times. Heat milk to 88 degree F. Milk will begin to curdle.
At 88 degrees F, add the rennet solution and continue stirring slowly every few minutes until the milk reaches 105 degrees. Turn off the heat. Large curds will appear and begin to separate from the whey (the clear, greenish liquid).
With a slotted spoon or mesh strainer, scoop the curd into a large glass bowl. (If it’s still too liquid, let it set for a few more minutes). Press the curds gently with your hand and pour off as much whey as possible. Microwave curds on high for 1 minute, then drain off all the excess whey. With a spoon, press curds into a ball until cool. Microwave two more times for 35 seconds each, and continue to drain the whey and work cheese into a ball. In the meantime, place the whey over medium heat and let it heat to about 175 degrees.
When cheese is cool enough to touch, knead it like bread dough until smooth. When you can stretch it like taffy, it is done.
You can sprinkle 1 to 2 teaspoons salt into the cheese while kneading and stretching it. The cheese will become stretchy, smooth and shiny. If it is difficult to stretch and breaks easily, dip it into the hot whey for a few seconds to make it warm and pliable. Then pick it up again and stretch it into a long rope. Fold over and stretch again. Dip in hot whey as needed to make the cheese pliable. When the cheese is smooth and shiny (this takes just a few minutes), it is ready to eat. Shape it into a log or golf-size balls, then store in a solution of 2 teaspoons salt to 1 cup water.
You’d think after dozens of successful endeavors, all yielding delicious results (albeit not always beautiful)this wouldn’t be the case. Even so, the nerves remain!
I never want to elude to the ease of a recipe if it really isn’t “easy”. This is me, being transparent! Cheese making just doesn’t fall into the “easy” category, BUT IT IS SIMPLE! (If you want an easy cheese recipe, go make kefir cheese, or ricotta cheese.)
Cheese-making requires a watchful eye. No multi-tasking allowed (trust me)! You’ll want to read the entire process before you begin. Then, read through it again (and then again!) before kickoff. Having an iPad or smartphone nearby with the directions at the ready is highly recommended.
If cheese making has been on your “to-do list”, but it keeps getting bumped further and further to the bottom, clear an hour of your time and let’s walk through it together. There’s only one way to know if it’s your “thing”.
To ease your mind a bit, I have opted to share an easier “30-Minute Mozzarella” recipe (opposed to the traditional recipe that requires 2 days and additional supplies). I have adapted the recipe slightly, including some helpful steps I have picked up from other cheese making tutorials and books. Seriously, if you think cheese making is your thing…grab this Cheese Making book! You won’t be disappointed!
Truth be told, this recipe is more accurately titled “60-Minute Mozzarella”. I suppose a seasoned veteran, who makes cheese routinely, could get this down to a quick 30 minutes, but I’m not there yet…and I tend to have a few distractions running around my ankles!
This recipe yields approximately 12 ounces of fresh, whole-milk mozzarella that can be gobbled up in many different ways (keep reading for suggestions!).
• 1 gallon raw milk*
• 1 1/4 cup cold filtered water (divided)
• 1 1/2 tsp citric acid
• 1/4 tsp liquid rennet**
1. Fill 2 large bowls halfway with water. Place one in the refrigerator and one in the freezer.
2. Add 1/4 teaspoon rennet in 1/4 cup water, set aside. (see notes)
3. Add 1 1/2 tsp citric acid in one cup cold water, stir to dissolve.
4. Set up a double boiler on your stove (see Step 1 photo). The “inner pot” needs to be 2 gallons and the “outer pot” 3 or more gallons. (If a double boiler isn’t an option, slowly heat the milk in a large pot directly on the burner, be sure it doesn’t overheat, and stir frequently.)
5. Add citric acid/water mixture into the pot and add milk. Gently stir while heating the milk to 88? (90? for pasteurized milk).
6. Once the milk reaches 88?, remove from heat. Pour in the vegetable rennet/water mixture and slowly stir in an up-and-down motion with the slotted spoon for exactly 30 seconds. “Stop” the milk from moving with your spoon by lightly stirring the opposite way and let the milk rest, covered, for 10 minutes (5 minutes for pasteurized milk).
7. Softly “poke” the milk with your knife to see if the curd has set. It should resemble the consistency of a thick custard, and yellowish-green whey will fill in the hole where you poked through. (See Step 4 image, your “poke” should produce a break similar to these cuts. If the curds seem soft and you don’t get a clear “break”, or the whey looks milky, let it rest for a few more minutes, then check again.)
8. Using your knife, cut the curds into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes in a “checker-board” pattern. Then, using the same cut lines, come back through with your knife tilted at a 45 degree angle, cutting the curds again.
9. Allow the curds to rest for 5 minutes, then gently stir with slotted spoon and cut any curds that are still too large.
10. Place back on the heat and bring the temperature of your whey up to 90? (110? for pasteurized milk).
11. This is where the “quick mozzarella” varies from the “traditional” recipe. Traditionally you’d cook, strain, then hang/”ripen” your cheese overnight before proceeding to the stretching. I find (for our non-dilettante family) the quick method serves us just fine, both in taste and time.
12. Take the pot back off the burner and gently stir for 2-5 minutes. This helps the cheese firm up. The longer you stir, the more firm your cheese will be. (We like a soft mozzarella, so we stick to 2 minutes.)
13. Using your pot/colander set up, pour half of the whey from your large pot into your pot/colander and heat the whey to 170-185?. (In order to stretch your cheese properly, the temperature of your curds need to reach 160-170?. Be sure you have enough whey in your pot/colander to completely cover the curds.)
14. Once your whey is hot enough, gently scoop 1/4 of your curds into the colander with your slotted spoon and sprinkle with 1 tsp cheese salt. It will seem like a lot of salt, but most gets washed off during the stretching/dipping. (Leave the remaining curds in the original pot of whey and cover with a lid to keep them warm until ready to stretch.)
15. We’re going to stretch our cheese in smaller batches to make it easier. (However, if you’re in a rush, you can stretch the curds into one giant ball and call it good, but I would not recommend this for first time cheese makers. The stretching and pulling requires you to get the “feel” for it, sometimes you won’t “get it” until your 3rd or 4th attempt. To see a “pro” visit this page and scroll down to the stretching photos…pretty remarkable!)
16. Dip the curds into the hot whey until they become pliable. Lift out of the whey and gently fold the curds in on themselves with your slotted spoon, dipping into the whey to warm them back up when needed. After a few folds, form into a ball and grab it with your hands (be careful, it will be very hot…this is where gloves can be helpful, or a bowl of cold water set nearby to cool your fingers when needed).
17. It is now time to stretch your curds. This takes a little mind-over-matter because your curds are HOT! Begin pulling your curds like taffy (11b), gently stretching and folding (11c), stretching and folding. Dip back into the hot whey as needed (11a). After a few pulls you’ll notice the curds changing. They begin to get shiny and smooth, this is good!
18. At this point you can sprinkle your cheese with a bit more salt. (Notice I didn’t say curds? CONGRATULATIONS! You now have cheese!) Continue stretching and pulling into your preferred shape.
19. CHEESE VARIATIONS: Herb Cheese: If you want to get fancy, you can mix in some herbs and/or spices. Some delicious options are garlic and dill, but the skies the limit when it comes to flavoring! Have fun with it! String Cheese: My kids LOVE string cheese! To make, grab approximately 1 oz at a time, stretching into string cheese “logs”. Cheese Balls: (No, there’s not a better name.) These work great for antipasto appetizer platters or skewered with tomatoes, sprinkled with fresh chopped basil then drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. #YUM Shredded Cheese: If you’re just going to shred the cheese (say for pizza) then you really don’t need to form it into a fancy shape. Simply stretch it, then proceed to the next step.
20. After forming your cheese, immediately submerge into the bowl of refrigerated water and leave for 15 minutes.
21. After 15 minutes, transfer the cheese to the bowl of water from the freezer for a few minutes (this keeps the cheese from getting grainy), then store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Cheese is best when consumed within 3-5 days but can last up to a week+ in the refrigerator.
• You’ll want to gather the following supplies before beginning: 2 large bowls of water, 1 large pot, a slotted spoon, a colander, a long knife, 1 small pot and rubber gloves (optional).
• Raw milk requires heating the milk to different temperatures than pasteurized milk. If using pasteurized milk, be sure to note temperature differences mentioned throughout the instructions.
• This recipe calls for double-strength liquid vegetable rennet, if using regular strength or a tablet, adjust accordingly. 1 rennet tablet = 1 teaspoon double-strength liquid rennet.