Thursday, September 24, 2009

Homemade Mozzarella

In all my cooking life, never such a triumph. 

About 6 months ago, I ordered the mozzarella "kit" -- some rennet, citric acid, and a dairy thermometer -- from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. I learned of this outfit, as of so many things fascinating and troublesome, from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

I put the "kit" (in quotes because it's not much of a kit) in the pantry. Time passed. Making mozzarella seemed overambitious, tiring, impossible.

Yesterday, looking for an after-school project that could be executed with an 8-year-old fan of How It's Made, I thought, whatever, mozzarella.

I wanted to do one of those excellent Pioneer Woman photo essays, but didn't quite pull it off. 

There are warnings about trying to use ultra-pasteurized milk to make cheese, so you start with a gallon of fancy milk:

I understand the irony of calling milk that has been minimally processed "fancy." I guess a better description would be "real." Or "real and expensive," because both are true and relevant. You can also use powdered milk, which I am going to try,  just to see how cheaply this can be done. 
You pour your "real and expensive" milk into a stainless steel pot, add a spoonful of citric acid. Heat to 90 degrees. Take off heat, stir in a tiny quantity of crushed rennet. Let rest five minutes and when you look again, you will have a large pot of  custard, which you cut (you don't take it out of the pot) into large, tofu-like squares.
 Heat and slowly stir, stir, stir. The large, soft, blobby curds will shrink into tight, firm little clusters.

When you drain off the whey, you will be left with a heavy, clotted mass.

Submerge this mass in a hot water bath for a minute or two. Really hot, so wear rubber gloves as you massage the cheese.

When you pull the cheese out of the bath, it will be bouncy and elastic.

You are now supposed to stretch it like taffy until it becomes shiny and supple,

Salt is meant to be incorporated at this stage, which I didn't quite figure out how to do correctly. But I did it, sort of, incorrectly. You then shape the cheese as you wish, and you are done. See mound of cheese at top of page.

This whole business took us about 45 minutes. I did not weigh the finished cheese, so I don't knowhow much we actually got, and how all this compares to the price of fresh mozzarella from the supermarket. I will calculate with my next batch.

And there will be a next batch. This cheese was one of the most incredible things I've ever made. Not just ever made, ever tasted. I happened to have a tub of Whole Foods mozzarella that I sampled side by side with homemade. I used to love this WF cheese, but by comparison with ours, this was mushy and flabby and stale. I wanted to throw it to the chickens.  I have been ruined for storebought mozzarella, and you could be too. Proceed with caution.

So many more thoughts on this, but I have to go fill lunch boxes.  


  1. I have been considering cheese...and I think you just pushed me over the edge! For milk, you should check everything at the grocer, there is usually whole milk that is not ultra-pasteurized in the regular section. I have successfully used Tuscan farms whole milk for a number of dairy items (anything that doesn't require the cream to separate off).

  2. That is so cool! A few years ago I made queso blanco and cream cheese, but they weren't very interesting, and cheddar, which I was more interested in, required aging, which was far too delayed gratification for me. So I gave up cheesemaking. But a real, solid, non-aged cheese that can be made in one day, and lets you have fun stretching it? I'm there! Thanks for sharing the step by step and photos.

  3. Totally inspiring. Our local enrichment classes are offering a one-night mozzarella making night and now I must find that paper and sign up (since I can't do anything in 45 minutes at my house with the little guys underfoot). SO cool. And your PW homage was better than you think.

  4. That looks gorgeous!!!! I'm dreaming of tomatoes, basil and your fabulous mozzarella right now.

  5. Homemade mozzarella and home-grown tomatoes. ... Almost time to open a restaurant that sells only dishes that can be made with those two ingredients.

  6. Very, very, very impressive.
    Great photos also

  7. All the more reason to get a goat.

  8. I can't click on the New England Cheesemaking Supply link fast enough. This looks and sounds amazing!!!!

    Let us know if it makes an appearance on top of one of your homemade pizzas...

  9. now we want to know all the ways you're eating this miracle mozzarella--other than just gnawing it off the football and swallowing.
    i must say, this post is eliciting some food envy.

  10. Hi boys!!!
    I sometimes when I visit my mom's house the two together with my sister Homemade Mozzarella and enjoy a great experience for me since I live far away and see you soon. and always visit this blog and we feel very nice and cool too. thanks for sharing the information.