30-minute mozzarella

A supermarket is quite an amazing thing.
You can walk in with a list clutched in your hand with the security that you will walk out with every item on that list. Not only that, but there will be choices among choices involved. You know you must buy cereal, but what color will it be? Shall it be based in corn or wheat, puffed or shredded, or perhaps shaped like Dora?
So many choices!
So why, with the wonders of the supermarket available to you, would you want to try to make food at home that you usually buy at the store?
I love that question!
Depending on your circumstance, patience level, and personality, the answer can take a very different shape. But I’ll try to cover all the possibilities here, and if you need convincing, hopefully one will resonate.

Why make it yourself?

1. Most of the time, it costs less money to make something at home.
2. Food made at home is better for you. It is fresher and you know where your ingredients come from. There are usually no ingredients in your own food that you can’t pronounce, unless they are in another language.
3. Food made at home usually tastes better.
4. Making food at home that you usually buy at the store can have the effect of making you feel like a superhero. For example, “Would you like some butter on your toast? I churned it this morning.”
5. Making a specific food at home will connect you to the source and production of that food in a new way, even if you never make it yourself again. After you make ricotta at home, I guarantee that you will think of that ricotta every time you take a bite of any ricotta. You will wonder what was used to separate the curds from the whey, and you might even think critically on the texture of the curd. The way I see it, any way that we can get a little closer to the source of our food is a good idea.
6. The alchemy involved in some of these products is incredible. Watching the butter separate from the buttermilk, witnessing milk turning into yogurt or cabbage into sauerkraut; these are some fascinating science experiments.

I’ve gotten more curious about making normal everyday foods in this last year. Together we’ve made fresh pasta, puff pastry, ice cream, pudding, granola, yogurt, bread, salad dressing, ricotta, tomato sauce, applesauce, pickles, sauerkraut, hamburger buns, chai- whew, we could start to fill a supermarket of our own here.

Although if you really want to know, I’m just getting started.

Today, we add mozzarella to the list.

I’ve been wanting to make mozzarella for a long time. I had heard how easy and fabulous it was, and I felt a little silly for waiting so long.

And was it worth it? Definitely. I had a few friends over, and I think we all cheered when those curds turn stretchy. So in the science experiment and super hero categories, this one is a real winner. Taste-wise, it was a little bland and a little tougher than I’m expected, but it was my first time after all. I forgot to add the salt in the whey until later, and that probably explains the blandness, and as for the texture, I’ll work on that as I get more used to the recipe. In terms of cost, it does fairly well, depending what kind of milk you are using. I used raw milk, which runs about $4.00 a half gallon, so I’d say with the other ingredients the whole recipe cost me about $9.00, which is definitely a bit less than fresh mozzarella in the supermarket. Less expensive milk will obviously lower the cost, but either way, it’s pretty good. Curds will definitely be stretched again in my kitchen, and soon.

If you are new to making cheese at home (and most of us are, right?), there is a name that you should be familiar with. Yes, I’m talking about that queen of home cheesemaking, Ricki Carroll.
Ricki Carroll opened up New England Cheesemaking Supply Company in Ashfield, MA the year I was born. She wrote the bible on making cheese at home, and she has every material that you might need to culture, curdle or harden a gallon of milk.
She has a recipe for 30-minute mozzarella, and this is so popular that she even sells a little kit with the ingredients. As far as cheeses go, this one is pretty simple. You do, however, need a few ingredients that might not be on your shelf.

The first is citric acid. It is what will separate your curds from your whey.

The second is rennet. You can get it in liquid form or in tablets, from a vegetable base or animal base. I used liquid animal rennet.

The materials that you will need are a large non-aluminum pot and a cheesemaking or candy thermometer. A candy thermometer doesn’t go quite low enough, but it helped me to approximate the temperature, and that seemed to be okay.

If you have a microwave, it will come in handy. If you don’t, you will also need heavy rubber gloves and a small strainer. I don’t have a microwave, so that will be the process that you will see here.

You also will need one gallon of milk. I’d use whole milk if I were you. I used raw whole milk. You’ll get about a pound of mozzarella.

30 Minute Mozzarella
from Ricki Carroll, Home Cheese Making

1 gallon whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid dissolved in 1/2 cup non chlorinated cool water (use 2 teaspoons if you are using raw milk)
1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet or 1/4 rennet tablet, diluted in 1/4 cup non chlorinated cool water
1 teaspoon cheese salt (optional)

In a large, heavy non aluminum pot, heat the milk to 55 degrees. Stir in the diluted citric acid.

Heat the milk to 90 degrees over medium low heat. It will start to curdle.

Gently stir in the diluted rennet with a scooping motion. While you are stirring, continue to heat the milk to 100 to 105 degrees. The curds will start to pull away from the pot, and the mixture will thicken dramatically.

The curds will be shiny and the consistency of yogurt. Once you see this, remove the curds with a slotted spoon to a bowl.

Here is where the nukers diverge from the microwave free folks.

If you have a microwave:
Scoop the curds into a microwavable bowl. Pour off as much of the whey as possible and set it aside. Press on the curds to try to squeeze as much whey out as you can.

Microwave the curds on high for a minute. Drain off all the excess whey. With a wooden spoon or your hands, fold the curds over on themselves several times to distribute the heat.

Microwave on High for 35 seconds two more times, pausing to kneed in between heatings. You can add salt after the second time if you like.

When the cheese is stretchy and doesn’t break, it’s ready. If the curds break, reheat again.

If you don’t have a microwave:
Heat the whey (without the curds) to 175 degrees. Add about 1/4 cup non-iodized salt to the whey. Keep the pot on a low burner to maintain that temperature. Divide the curds into two balls. Put one ball in the small strainer and dunk into the hot whey for about 5 seconds.

Remove it from the whey and knead the ball folding it over on itself. Try to get as much liquid out as you can. If you have sensitive hands, you might need rubber gloves at this point. Or like me, you might opt to burn yourself a bit so that you can experience the very exciting sensation of kneading cheese curds.

Repeat this process 3 or 4 times with each ball. When the cheese stretches without breaking, it’s ready.

At this point you can roll it into little balls and eat warm, or you can add fresh herbs. If you are going to store it, submerge it in ice water for 30 minutes to bring the temperature down. After that, you can take it out of the water and place it in a covered container in the refrigerator. It will keep for a week.

Don’t dump out the pot full of whey! It’s great for making bread, or as a base for soups or smoothies. It will last for a few weeks in the refrigerator.

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24 Responses to 30-minute mozzarella

  1. squirrelbread says:

    Right on! I posted about the mozzarella my boyfriend and I made the other day. It was fabulous, and so fun to do ourselves. Great idea having friends over for the festivities.

    Cheers and enjoy,


  2. lissa says:

    Oh, what a lovely post! How I wish I were there! Have you considered something like "Make it a home" cooking classes?

  3. alanachernila says:

    Classes! More like experimental experiences, I think. But you can always come over and teach me a thing or two, Lis!

  4. Laurie says:

    ooh YUM! I have SO been meaning to bust our kit back out — it's been way to long since we first tried it (I blogged it here, way back when: http://www.moourl.com/xqrpw). Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. squirrelbread says:

    We bought vegetarian rennet tablets from The Cheesemaker [http://www.thecheesemaker.com/cultures.htm] — they can be kept in the refrigerator for a long time, so we figured it was a decent buy. And yes, our milk was pasteurized. We live in Corpus Christi, and as far as I'm aware, non-pasteurized milk is not available commercially. Unfortunately we don't have any co-ops or local dairies that we could purchase such a thing from. We hope to some day though; I would assume the quality and flavor improves. Were you able to find non-pasteurized milk??



  6. alanachernila says:

    Yes Heather, luckily I've got a nice farm down the road with some even nicer cows. We set up a raw milk club, and now the whole community has access to the fabulous milk! You might have a dairy farm around you though, if you poke around a bit.

  7. innbrooklyn says:

    I tried this a while ago: i think i did something wrong, it was delicious but I got so little from so much milk… I'm going to have to try again!

  8. alanachernila says:

    The fattier the milk, the more cheese you'll get. We're you working with whole milk?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Well Alana, we finally got around to checking your food-blog and it's great. We especially enjoyed seeing our own hands and remembering how much fun we had making cheese with you. This was definitely a food project that we'll do again. Thanks for a wonderful day. Jan and Marty

  10. alanachernila says:

    Oh, and it was so great to get to make mozzarella with you! Next time your out this way, we'll keep up with the cheese experiments…

  11. Heather says:

    Mozza making is on my 101 things to do list. Love the photos you've taken, it makes me want to make it Right Now!

  12. Home Cheese Making says:

    Nice clear instructions, this is a great starter cheese for the beginner. Have you tried any other varieties, they are more involved but equally as rewarding.

  13. Pingback: how to make cottage cheese | Eating From the Ground Up

  14. Robin says:

    I just downloaded your cookbook yesterday and it’s amazing! So inspiring. We’re making this recipe on Sunday. My kids are very excited for the “science experiment.”

  15. Bonnie says:

    I love “Homemade Pantry!” I’ve been wanting to make mozzerella for years. I’d never realized that Whole Foods sells unpasturized milk in South Florida. I have been making my own yogurt a while now using ultra-pasturized with no problem at all. I let is “cook” for 24 hours so all the lactose gets converted to probiotics.

    My mozzerella did’t come out as wonderful. It’s a little rubbery and I don’t know why. I didn’t use the microwave. Did I over heat or over work it? Should I be adding Lipase? It still tastes great.

    Thank you for inspiring me to got for it!

    • alana says:

      Hi Bonnie!
      Unpasteurized milk at Whole Foods? That’s so good to know… Florida must have something figured out!
      If your mozz is a little rubbery, I’d say you probably over handled it a bit. Next time, just be a bit more gentle with it, and even cut out one of the kneading cycles.
      So glad you’re enjoying the book- and thank you for saying hello!

  16. Bonnie says:

    Hi! I wanted to tell you about a great find at my regular grocery store, Publix. In their tiny organic/health food isle I discovered Organic Valley Nonfat Dry Milk. They also have heavy cream also from Organic Valley. This is one of my favorite brands because they are supplied by farmers. This seems like a much more cost effective way to go.

    Fresh Market’s own brand is pastureized, not ultra pasturized. Will that work as well?

    I love the harder Mozzerella I made. Happy accident! It is soft on the outside and more solid on the inside. It weeps less when cooking. Now I have to figure out how to duplicate it when I want to.

    Thanks! Bonnie

    • alana says:

      Thanks Bonnie- did you use dry milk powder to make your cheese? I’ve never used it, but I’ve heard it works well! And yes, you should be good with milk that is labeled “pasteurized”. Sometimes it’s still heated too high and they don’t label it as such, but try it out and see how it works.

  17. Heike says:

    I was trying to make Mozarella today and had problems with my recipe – too long, too complicated. So I decided to have a look on the internet and found a recipe from Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall, that was much easier! I finished the Mozarella and decided to start my own recipe collection. I was looking for some really good explanatory photos and found your blog! I wish I had seen the photos earlier, because my Mozarella would have turned out better, I think. I don’t believe I made it that stretchy. That photo is really good and worth a 1000 words. Thank you so much and I hope you don’t mind if I use that for my own private recipe collection.
    All the best!

    • alana says:

      I’m so glad it was helpful! I have to tell you, I have new and updated recipe in my book that I think is even clearer and more successful- so if you’re still having issues- let me know and send you the details of that one.

  18. belle says:

    Can you please tell a place where to order RENNET

  19. Dominique says:

    I read this recipe in the cookbook and wanted to make it but it was confusing. The pictures really help! thanks.

    • alana says:

      This recipe is a little different, as it was earlier in my process of learning how to make mozz. But I’m so glad the photos help! Just let me know if any questions come up when you jump in- and I’ll do my best to answer them. Happy cheese making!

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