How to Make Mozzarella
If you have fresh goat milk from the back yard, great. If not, you can buy cow milk, but make sure it is not ULTRA pasteurized. It can be pasteurized, just not ultra-pasteurized.
This recipe makes almost a pound and a half of mozzarella and should take you an hour to an hour and and a half. Making mozzarella is trickier than making chevre or fromage blanc, but it is also more gratifying. You’ll get to watch everyday milk transformed into a remarkably elastic and glossy mass that you will stretch and fold into truly delicious mozzarella. The key to making mozzarella is the acidity of the milk. You will increase your milk’s acidity by adding citric acid, but how much citric acid you need will depend on your milk. That’s why you need to use pH test paper. This may sound intimidating and bring back bad memories of chemistry lab, but pH test paper is easy to use and will help prevent you from ending up with a funny looking mozzarella-like blob.
Unless you are a veteran cheese maker, this recipe will require you to buy a couple of key items that you probably don’t have in your kitchen — rennet, citric acid, cheese cloth, and ph test paper with detailed readings between 4.6-6.2 . If you live in Seattle, you can pick these up at Bob’s Homebrew Supply at 2821 Northeast 55th Street. If you aren’t in Seattle, try your local home brew store or you can order online. The cheese supply company I found that carries all four items is: cheeseandyogurtmaking.com. You can also call Bob’s Homebrew and order over the phone by calling, (206) 527-9283.
Once you’ve gathered together all the items listed in “equipment and ingredients” you’re ready to roll! Have fun and don’t worry. Even if you mess up, what you’ll end up with should taste good (even if it doesn’t look good).
Equipment and Ingredients
- 1 gallon cold whole milk (or you can start with fresh squeezed milk). You can use pasteurized or unpasteurized milk but you CANNOT use ultra-pasteurized milk, which today is just about any milk you find at the grocery store. You’ll need to go to a food co-op or a specialty grocery like Whole Foods to find non-ultra pasteurized milk.
- Rennet – ¼ dry tablet dissolved in 1/8 cup of cool tap water for a few minutes or ½ tsp of liquid rennet
- 1 ½ – teaspoons citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water. You may need a little more. Your pH test strips will guide you on this.
- pH test paper that will give you detailed readings for between 5 and 6.5 or thereabout. You must be able to identify the range between 5 and 5.4. If you have a digital pH tester, all the better.
- A stainless steel pot that can comfortably fit a gallon of milk. The cast iron covered with enamel type, like Le Creuset, work well too. Do NOT use aluminum kettles or utensils
- Thermometer – the digital ones that beep when the milk reaches temperature are worth every penny.
- Long stainless steel spoon
- Rubber dishwashing gloves
- Stir dissolved citric acid into cold milk (or warm milk if you are using fresh squeezed). Wait about 2 minutes and check to see if the pH is between 5.0 and 5.4. If the pH number is above 5.4, stir in a quarter teaspoon more citric acid (dissolved in 1/8 cup of warm water). Wait a few minutes and test the pH again. If the pH number is less than 5.0, (very unlikely) you’re in trouble. Set the milk aside for drinking and start again using less citric acid.
- Heat milk to 90℉ degrees with your burner on low stirring regularly to keep the milk from scorching. If, after 15 minutes, the milk still hasn’t reached 90℉, turn up the heat slightly. (Note: when the temperature gets to about 70℉, dissolve the rennet is 1/8 cup of cool water. The idea here is to let is dissolve for about 5 minutes so that you have it ready for step 3.
- Once the milk has reached 90℉ (It’s okay if you overshoot a little and hit 105℉) add the rennet. Thoroughly, but gently, stir the rennet into the warm milk for thirty seconds with an up and down motion as well as a round the pot motion.
- Let set for 30 minutes
- Cut the curd mass into 1/2 inch pieces. To do this, use a long knife and cut lines, from the surface of the curd all the way to the bottom of the pot ½ inch apart. Then, do this again, in the opposite direction so that you’ve created a grid of cuts. Then, hold the knife at a 45 angle and cut lines and then turn the pot 90 degrees and do this again. The idea is to cut the curd into something approximating ½ inch by ½ inch by ½ inch pieces. Don’t worry about being exact. (See pictures below)
- As soon as you have finished cutting, you’ll want to hold the curds and whey at 90℉ for about fifteen minutes, stirring gently now and again. The stirring is to equalize the temperature in the pot and to prevent scorching. To hold the temperature at 90℉, you may need to put the pot back on the stove on the low setting a time or two. Some stoves have a warming plate. If you have one, use it for this stage. Note: the stirring is more like a fold, turn or lift. The curds are fragile and can shatter, so use a gentle hand.
- To separate the curds and whey, pour both into a colander and stir and press and the whey will pour out of the curds and out of the colander holes. If you want to keep the whey, make sure to put a collection pot or bowl under the colander. You can feed the whey to your dog, chickens, or neighborhood body builder.
- Gently stir the curds within the colander for a few minutes to help let the whey escape. Then, lift the corners of the cheese cloth and hold up the bundle of curds for a few minutes to let the whey pour off.
- Next, scoop one cup of the curds into a pyrex measuring cup. Add a half teaspoon of salt (this amount can vary depending on how salty you like your cheese) and mix it in by stirring with a spoon. Next, place the cup of curds in your microwave on high for a minute.
- The curd is very hot when it comes out of the microwave so this next step requires using rubber cloves unless you are one tough cookie. Use your hands to remove the very hot curd, and over a colander (to pick up any curds you may drop) massage the curds around with your hands, squeezing out the whey and mixing it. Parts of the mass will be warmer than others. The idea is to mix the wad of curd to disperse the heat and release the whey. After about 30 seconds of this, try stretching the mass by pulling it apart with your hands. Then fold it back into a mass and stretch again. If you’ve got a good great stretch, you can pull the cheese a foot or more apart without it breaking. Continue to stretch and fold until it begins to harden and lose its stretch. If you don’t get a stretch, try microwaving the curd for another 30 seconds and try massaging and stretching again.
- Form your stretched mozzarella into a ball and pop it into a bowl of ice water (unless you like to eat it warm).
Repeat steps 9 through 10 with each remaining cup of curd.
Then, Voila, you’re done.
Sometimes, for reasons I don’t understand, you don’t get a stretch and end up with a hard blob. This is a little disappointing, but don’t throw it out. It will still taste good and work well on pizza.
You can freeze what you don’t plan to eat within a week. If left to sit in the refrigerator for more than a week, the cheese can take on a gamey flavor.
This recipe makes a very mild tasting mozzarella. If you want more flavor, add 1 Tablespoon of live culture yogurt at the same time that you add the citric acid.
Note: This recipe is based upon a recipe I received from Lora Lea Misterly of Quilascutt Farm. However, I made several changes to it, so if it doesn’t work, you don’t blame Lora Lea.