Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Home Made Mozzarella

Making cheese is fun and easy. It really doesn't take very long, especially this recipe, and you get the satisfying feeling of saying "Yes, I made that!"

I have used this on Pizza, Lasagna, crackers, my hand, anything at all, etc. I really love cheese. I go through phases, and right now my phase is home made! I am lucky that I'm not one of the many with gluten sensitivity that also have lactose intolerance.

While cheese will always have more than it's fair share of fat and cholesterol, and be a product of a living being, it can still be safer, free range, organic and delicious. It all depends on the milk you start with.

For my cheese, I used a gallon of plain, Whole Foods brand 365, whole milk. You can used nearly any kind, low-fat, whole, regular, organic, raw, goat or buffalo (prized throughout much of the world). You may need to adjust your proportions a bit if you do this, though I'm sure you can find directions in my links below or elsewhere. I will be experimenting with more types as soon as I can and be sure to update the post with my results. I also used the stove then microwave method here, where I will try the totally stove top one as well.

Home Made Mozzarella


1 Large pot - non-reactive
1 candy or digital thermometer
1 gallon of milk (I used 365 whole milk)
1 & 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid - dissolved in 1/4 cup NON-Chlorinated water
1/2 teaspoons liquid Rennet
2 tsp Salt or to taste
Strainer with cheese cloth
Rubber gloves - for kneading hot cheese
Large bowl
Slightly smaller bowl

The Additives

Citric acid and rennet are what make the milk into cheese.

Yes, citric acid is the thing in lemons, limes and our own bodies. It is a mild acid and natural preservative. Wikipedia can get into the chemistry of it, but it is absolutely necessary. The reason lemon juice is not used is that it is not easy to regulate the strength and therefore not suitable for usage for something as precise as mozzarella.

Rennet is a bit different. Let me start with saying I use liquid vegetarian rennet. It is easy and a little goes a long way. It is a derivative of what was originally used when cheese making was discovered.

As I understand it historically, in the middle east, milk was stored in pouches made of the stomachs of young cows or goats in the hot desert by traveling herdsmen (they did not waste the "unsavory" bits as we do). They found that it turned the milk into curds and whey and that the curds could be formed, pressed and preserved. It was the earliest form of preserving milk. The area of lining that produced the strongest effect was isolated and eventually, the rennin extracted for more commercial use. More, again, on Wiki, or the links below.

There are also vegetarian and microbial versions of this coagulant, the former of which, I am using.

I purchased both at a wine and beer brewing specialty store. I guess cheese goes hand in hand with brewing. If you cannot find these items at a local specialty or health food store, you can always order them online, from dairy farms, cheese makers or of course, Amazon.

The Milk

As previously mentioned, the milk choice is yours. Mine was simple whole milk as I assumed it would be the easiest. Pour the milk into a pot and get the thermometer into it. It should be 50' or above before you add the citric acid. Be sure it is dissolved thoroughly before mixing it into the milk

Turn the heat to medium and bring Slowly up to 90'F, No Higher, stirring often so the bottom neither sticks nor burns. At 90 remove from heat and add the 1/4 teaspoon of liquid rennet, mixing for about 30 second to fully combine the coagulants.

Let rest for 20-30 minutes, or until the milk has formed a fairly solid mass that you can slice (in the pot) without it crumbling and the sides have pulled away from the pot. It's called a clean break.

Scoop into the strainer lined with cheesecloth to drain briefly. You don't need it too dry. Simply dumping the pot WILL result in unpleasant burns, from steam and cheese. You want your only lasting memories to be the cheese, not the scars. Be careful.

Once again, save the whey, as I mentioned in my lasagna post, it can be very useful.


Transfer the curds into the smaller bowl. They will shrink in the next few steps, trust me.

Microwave for about 1 minute. You will see more whey around the curds. Drain this off and mix the curds a bit by hand (gloved hand, trust me).

Fill a separate bowl with very cold water, maybe throw a few ice cubes in there. Have it ready.

Return curds to the microwave for 30 seconds. Repeat draining and mixing, attempting to knead.

Microwave for  30 seconds one last time. When you remove the cheese, drain off some whey, salt curds then fold and knead like dough until you form a ball and stretch. Have fun with that part.

Do not over work, as you will remove too much moisture and have dry cheese. It will be edible, and meltable, but not nearly as pleasant. Also keep in mind that it will firm up once refrigerated.

 You can now roll it into smaller balls or one large one, depending on your needs.

Once you reach a consistency that is just slightly softer than you want it, shock in a bowl of cold water. If not using the cheese immediately, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then again in either a second layer or a plastic bag (it may release more whey), and refrigerate.

Now you have a ball of the freshest mozzarella you can get! Eat it, share it, save it for a recipe, but please use it within 10 days and keep it refrigerated. A gallon for me has yielded between 14oz and 16oz of finished cheese and one happy me.


Some notes on not so terrible cheese and mozzarella making:

  • http://www.doctorsolve.com/blog/2010/01/7-health-benefits-of-cheese.html
  • http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=121
  • http://www.handjobsforthehome.com/2011/10/homemade-mozzarella-urban-cheese-craft-cheese-kit/ 
  • http://www.cheesemaking.com/

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