Folks have been making cheese around the world for thousands of years, and the steps involved haven't changed much though the years. To get you started, here’s a simple recipe for making mozzarella, with a few notes on ingredients.
One of the key ingredients of cheese is rennet, an enzyme from the stomach of weaning animals, particularly calves, that separates curds and whey in the cheese-making process. Thanks to modern science, packaged rennet can be found in liquid or tablet form at most natural food stores or ordered online.
The other slightly obscure ingredient for making cheese is citric acid powder, which you can find at most vitamin shops or larger grocery stores, often in the canning section. Once you’ve tracked down these two ingredients, making cheese at home, including mozzarella, is surprisingly easy, and takes less 30 minutes.
Before making homemade mozzarella, first decide what kind of milk you’d like to use. It’s best to use non-homogenized milk, but if you can’t find that, whole milk will work. The fat percentage of the milk will change the taste and texture of your cheese: The higher the fat content, the creamier and richer the mozzarella.
It’s also important to make sure your milk hasn't been ultra-high temperature processed, or UHT. This type of sterilization changes the proteins in the milk, making them unable to form curds.
This recipe requires a digital thermometer to check the temperature of the milk, along with a microwave, which is used to heat the mozzarella curds until they’re soft enough to melt.
You’ll also need microwave-safe bowl, two small stirring bowls, a slotted spoon, and a large pot capable of holding a gallon of milk. Make sure the pot is made of a non-reactive material like ceramic or stainless steel, since materials like copper and iron will react with the citric acid and could give your mozzarella a metallic taste.
- 1 gallon milk
- 1½ tsp. citric acid powder
- ½ rennet tablet, or 1/4 tsp. liquid rennet
- ½ cup room temperature water
- 1 large bowl, filled with ice water
- 2 tsp. Kosher salt
Divide the room temperature water between two small bowls, putting ¼ cup in each bowl. Dissolve the citric acid powder by stirring it into the first ¼ cup of water and set it aside.
If you’re using rennet tablets, crush ½ of a tablet and mix it into the other ¼ cup of water. If using liquid rennet instead, simply add ¼ tsp. to the water and stir.
Pour the gallon of milk into the pot with the heat on medium-low and stir continuously, using the thermometer to keep track of the temperature. When the milk reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit, immediately add the ¼ cup of water containing the dissolved citric acid and continue stirring.
Keep checking the temperature of the milk, and when it reaches 88 degrees, add the ¼ cup of water containing the rennet and keep stirring gently until you notice small white particles sticking to your spoon. The milk should begin to curdle at about 90 degrees.
To allow the curds to form properly, stop stirring almost completely after the mixture reaches this temperature. The solid curds should be visibly separated from the liquid yellow whey soon after the mixture passes 100 degrees.
Once you can see an obvious separation, turn off the heat and allow the pot to rest for five minutes. Using a slotted spoon, move the curds into a bowl while leaving the whey in the pot. Once all the curds are in the bowl, check to see if they have released more whey. If so, pour the liquid back into the pot, leaving only curds in the bowl.
Place the bowl into the microwave on high for 1 minute, then remove the bowl and pour off any excess whey. Stir the curds gently to ensure even heating, then put them back in the microwave for 30 more seconds. Pour off any additional whey, stir the curds once again, sprinkle the salt over the mixture and microwave the bowl once again for 30 more seconds.
At this point, the curds should be melted together, and if the cheese can stretch without breaking, it’s ready for the next step. If it still tears apart when you try to stretch it, give it another stir and 30 more seconds in the microwave until it stretches.
Pull the hot mozzarella into pieces and shape them into fist-sized balls, then drop them immediately into a bowl filled with ice water to rest before putting them in the refrigerator. Of course, if you can’t wait that long, the cheese is also delicious while it’s warm!