Adventures in Cheesemaking – Homemade Mozzarella

Ever since I read Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, I’ve been dying to make my own mozzarella.  The book chronicles the author’s move to a farm in Virginia with her family, and their attempt to make and grow their own foods, and buy local ingredients for everything else.  They farmed and ate what was in season, raised their own chickens for eggs, canned their fruits and vegetables to use in the winter, and made their own mozzarella 🙂  I was so inspired by the book, that since then I’ve been trying to be mindful of buying local when possible, eating what is in season, growing some of our own herbs and vegetables, and learning to make things from scratch.  So when my sister-in-law was in town and she suggested that we make fresh mozzarella together, I jumped on the chance!

I was intimidated at first by the two unfamiliar ingredients necessary…citric acid powder and rennet.  Rennet??  I had to look it up…it is a complex of enzymes that help digest foods, and in the presence of milk, help to coagulate it and separate it into curds and whey.  Luckily, you can order Citric acid powder or tablets and liquid rennet or tablets online quite easily.  Or look at your local natural foods store (we found ours at Down to Earth in Hawaii).

First, you dissolve 1 1/2 tsp citric acid powder in 1/4 cup of water and pour into a large, non-reactive stockpot.  Pour a gallon of pasteurized milk into the stockpot (we used 2%, but you could also use whole milk).  Heat over medium-low heat until the mixture reaches 90 degrees F, using an instant read thermometer.  At this point, you may notice some curds.

Next, remove the pot from the heat and add in 1/4 tsp of liquid rennet diluted with 1 cup of cool water.  Mix with an up and down motion for 30 seconds.  Allow the mixture to sit, undisturbed for 5 minutes.  The curds will be starting to firm up (they will still be very soft)!  You can see the liquid whey separating from the curds.

After five minutes, you get to “cut the cheese”, haha 🙂  Use a knife to make several vertical cuts and then horizontal cuts through the curds, making sure to reach all the way to the bottom of the pot.  Then, heat the mixture over medium heat, until the whey reaches a temperature of 105 degrees.  Stir gently, taking care not to break up the curds too much.  Take the pot off the heat and stir gently for 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the curds to a microwave safe bowl.  Save some of the whey for storing your mozzarella.  Microwave the curds on high for 1 minute and then pour off the whey.  Put on rubber gloves and squeeze the mixture to remove as much of the whey as possible.  It will resemble cottage cheese at first.

My poor sister-in-law didn’t use rubber gloves, and her hands were burning…get rubber gloves for this!!  Microwave the curds for another 35 seconds on high and squeeze and stretch to remove the whey.  Microwave again for another 35 seconds on high and stretch again.  Continue microwaving and removing the whey in 30 second increments until the curds reach an internal temperature of 135 degrees F.  This is Colleen working her magic on the mozz 🙂  And by the way, don’t you love her shirt?  Colleen has the best style!

Now, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of kosher salt over the cheese, and knead it into the cheese.  Stretch and fold the cheese until it becomes tighter and glossier.  You are now ready to form a ball.  You can either make one large ball or several smaller bocconcini (oh, I love that word!)

Place your homemade mozzarella into an ice water bath, until it is completely cooled.  You can now use it for whatever you desire – we made a simple caprese salad with fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden!  Creamy, homemade mozzarella!!

If you aren’t going to eat it right away, place the ball into a container with a cup of cool whey mixed with a teaspoon of salt.  It’s just amazing to see how a gallon of milk can become a ball of mozzarella!  I loved having the fresh mozzarella around for sandwiches, melted on top of meatball sub and pizzas, or just snacking straight out of the fridge 🙂  Hope you give this one a try!

Homemade Mozzarella

1 1/2 tsp citric acid powder diluted with 1/4 cup cool water

1 gallon pasteurized milk (whole or 2%), not ultra-pasteurized

1/4 tsp liquid rennet mixed with 1 cup cool water

Pour diluted citric acid into a large, non-reactive stockpot.  Pour the gallon of milk over the citric acid solution.  Heat over medium-low heat until the mixture reaches a temperature of 90 degrees with an instant read thermometer.  Take the mixture off the heat, and stir in the liquid rennet mixture.  Mix with an up and down motion for 30 seconds, then allow the mixture to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.  The curds will firm up slightly.  Cut the curds with vertical and horizontal cuts, making sure the knife reaches the bottom of the pot.  Put the pot back on medium heat, and heat until the whey reaches a temperature of 105 degrees, stirring gently.  Take the pot off the heat and stir gently for 5 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the curds to a microwave safe bowl.  Save some of the whey for storing your mozzarella or other uses.  Microwave the curds on high for 1 minute.  Pour off the whey.  Put on some rubber gloves and squeeze the curds to remove more of the whey.  Microwave for another 35 seconds on high and again remove the whey by stretching and squeezing.  Repeat the process until the internal temperature of the mozzarella reaches 135 degrees F.  When that happens, stretch the mozzarella until it becomes tighter and glossier.  Fold over on itself to form a smooth ball or several smaller balls (bocconcini).  Place the mozzarella in an ice water bath, until it is completely cool.  Slice and enjoy!  If you are storing it for later use, place the mozzarella in a mixture of one cup of the reserved whey and a teaspoon of salt.

Have you ever made your own cheese?  

I’m thinking of making my own ricotta next, I’ve heard it’s very simple!

Are there any books that have inspired you?  

I love to read and am always looking for recommendations!

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37 thoughts on “Adventures in Cheesemaking – Homemade Mozzarella

  1. I HAVE used rennet once, to make a kind of custard, but was a little disappointed in the results… I think the digital thermometer is vital for getting it right. I do love the idea of making your own cheese, though and perhaps will give this a try. How long did it take you?

    • Hmm..I didn’t time it exactly, but maybe an hour? Yes, I love our digital thermometer, we use it mostly for checking internal temperature of meats, but once in a while I’ll use it for something like this 🙂

    • Thanks, Stephanie! The result is so worth the time and effort. Fresh mozzarella is such a fun thing to have on hand, I found myself coming up with excuses to put it on everything 🙂 I’m also glad you said ricotta is simple, going to give it a try next week!

  2. That’s awesome that you made cheese at home! When i used to cook professionally making mozzarella was a job I hated because it was so hot — the prep cooks could usually do it no gloves necessary. And they’d be making cheese balls for over an hour! But I haven’t made it at home yet so it’s been a while. Your lovely cheese ball is inspiring me though. =)

    • I didn’t know you were a professional cook!! Wow, I can’t imagine having to hold and press the hot mozzarella for an hour straight. I know chefs are supposed to have amazingly strong hands, but we totally needed those rubber gloves!

      • Yeah I cooked for years (grew up into it actually as I spent my college summers cooking in my dad’s restaurant before going to culinary school). I miss a little bit of it — there’s just something about the life of a line cook that’s pretty wild and fun in itself. But I don’t miss things like hot mozzarella, angry chefs and working on holidays! =)

  3. Awesome work!! Looks like that cheese would be yummy with just about anything or on its own. 🙂 I don’t know if you’ve already read this, but fast food nation is a total expose of all the things wrong with the industry. It is the reason I steer clear from mcds for the most part, except when I get a hankering for a McChicken 😦

  4. I love Barbara Kingsolver and loved Animal Vegetable Miracle! Making your own cheese…amazing! I wish we lived closer so I could come try out all your creations! 🙂

    • I wish you lived closer too…I just made pumpkin brownies, can I convince you to come by?? 😉 Wasn’t animal vegetable miracle great? A friend of mine also recommended another one of her books, prodigal summer, have you read it? I just saw that she has a new one coming out next week too!

    • It’s really not that hard to make the mozzarella, once you have all the ingredients! It’s wonderful to have fresh mozzarella, and the process is very therapeutic 🙂 I can’t wait to make the ricotta, thank you for the link!

  5. Yes, I would have to agree that gloves are entirely necessary. That said, my skin is super sensitive and I burn very easily so it could just be me. Thanks for the shoutout, Maura! I love that shirt too!

  6. A ball of mozzarella in our house is a dangerous thing, usually eaten before it makes its way into a recipe. My mother makes an amazing caprese. She’s uses garden fresh heirlooms varieties of tomatoes and makes a homemade balsamic reduction to drizzle on top. Amazing!

    • Haha, yes I found myself just cutting off little pieces here and there for snacking 🙂

      Oh wow, heirloom tomatoes and a balsamic reduction sound amazing!! I love a balsamic reduction too, kind of sweet and syrupy 🙂 Sounds like your mom is a great cook!

  7. Pingback: A Grow Box Giveaway!! « My Healthy 'Ohana

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