How To Make Mozzarella Cheese
If you’re like me, you’ve been trying to figure out how to make Homemade Mozzarella Cheese and have failed multiple times. You may be wondering, what the heck am I doing wrong? The answer is, you’re probably on the right track, but you just need to tweak a few things here and there. That’s where I was five years ago. I’m not kidding, I bet I attempted to make Homemade Mozzarella cheese 50 times over a year’s time but instead made homemade cottage cheese. However, I finally figured it out with the help of my wife, and I haven’t had a bad batch since.
I feel that the number one reason that people fail in making Homemade Mozzarella cheese, is that most online Instructables only explain the basic steps in the mostly universal Mozzarella Recipe. They do not explain the small details that I will cover that can make or break mozzarella cheese recipes. Why, most mozzarella Recipe Instructables are created for the sole purpose of selling their cheese making supplies and are written by web designers that know nothing about cheese making. You see, anyone can find Mozzarella Recipes on the web and re-write it, and then place it on a website. Unfortunately, unless you have experience in making Homemade Mozzarella you are going to leave certain little details out that will ruin the entire cheese making process in the end. Making Homemade Mozzarella Cheese is now a part of my life and I would love to save many people a little grief because I know how frustrating it can be. Furthermore, I have family in Naples Italy and have traveled there many times, so I know what true Homemade Mozzarella taste like, and my Mozzarella Recipe is the closest to the real thing that I have experienced in the United States. This tutorial is a lot longer than most but as I said, it’s the small details that distinguish a true mozzarella cheese maker against just another re-worded tutorial. So let’s get started.
First off, I tell you what equipment that’s necessary.
- One 2- 3-gallon stainless steel cooking pot Buy Now
- Liquid Animal rennet Buy Now
- Kosher Salt Buy Now
- Kefir Cultures Buy Now
- Wooden spoon Buy Now
- Strainer Buy Now
- Food PH Meter Buy Now
- Food Thermometer Buy Now
- Two large bowls Buy Now
- Either raw milk or non-homogenized milk: I’ll cover this later in the instructable.
Note: I have inserted Links in the right side of this page to several products you may have trouble finding that are necessary for this Mozzarella Recipe
Pour one gallon of raw milk or non-homogenized milk into a 2-3 gallon stainless steel cooking pot. Why raw milk or non-homogenized milk? Remember the small details I mentioned? Because raw milk works best being it’s non-homogenized and unpasteurized. What is pasteurization? It’ the rapid heating of the milk in a short time to kill most of the bacteria that raw milk contains which increases the shelf life. However, milk pasteurization does not prevent one’s ability in making Homemade Mozzarella, it’s the homogenization of milk that causes the problem. Homogenization is the breaking up of the fatty casein molecules in milk which spreads the cream evenly throughout the milk and increases the shelf life. Ever wonder why there is no cream on the top of store-bought milk? My suggestion is to find a local farm that sells raw milk. Organic Valley also sells non-homogenized milk called “Grass Milk” at certain locations, however, it is expensive at around $5 per half a gallon. You can find raw milk for around 7 to 8 dollars a gallon.
Note: This is the biggest issue I have had with other tutorials, they either mention that you can make Homemade Mozzarella Cheese with any store-bought milk. This is not true. You can use pasteurized milk, but it must be non-homogenized. I have made Homemade Mozzarella Cheese several times and it worked great, but I prefer raw milk.
Place the burner on low and slowly raise the milk to 50 degrees F. At this point, dump the cultures in. What do I mean by cultures? I mean thermophilic cultures which feed on lactose in milk and thrive on warmer temperatures. You see, in order to stretch the mozzarella cheese curd, the PH needs to be around 5.2. The cultures feed on the lactose in the milk and excrete lactic acid as a by-product, which then lowers the PH in the milk. Where can I get thermophilic cultures? I like to use cultures in Kefir grains which has many different thermophilic cultures in it. You can buy Kefir grains online or at a local farm. To use it as a starter culture, first, you have to make kefir yogurt. To accomplish this, place about ¼ cup of the kefir grain per two cups of raw or non-homogenized milk in a jar and close the top loosely. Let it sit for about 24 hours, and you will have kefir yogurt. So as a starter culture, pour about ½ cup of kefir yogurt per 1 gallon of milk once it has reached about 50 degrees and stir for one minute. Once you have made cheese before, you can use ½ to 1 cup of the whey instead, which contains the cultures. You can also use ¼ teaspoon per gallon of TM81 starter culture which is a powder thermophilic culture.
Note: I prefer using fresh yogurt every time as opposed to using whey. It’s more work, but in my opinion, this method gives the mozzarella cheese a better flavor. Try both ways and see what works best for you.
Slowly raise the temperature to 88-90 degrees F, and I mean slowly. This requires patience and may take up to 30 minutes or more, depending on how many gallons you are heating. I caution, test the temperature while stirring the milk because it will give the most accurate reading this way. While you are waiting, mix ¼ teaspoon of rennet into ¼ cup of non-chlorinated purified water per gallon of milk, stir and let sit. This is where it gets critical; you must get the milk between 88-90 degrees before mixing the rennet in. If it’s too hot or cold and you and mix the rennet in, it can ruin the product. The way to accomplish this is to constantly test the milk while stirring once you hit around 85 degrees F. Once you hit 88 degrees F, take it off the burner, keep stirring and test the temp., if it’s going over 90 degrees F, let it sit a little until of drops below 90 degrees F. If it drops below 88 degrees F, place the pot back on the burner until it reaches 90 degrees F and test again. Once you have a consistent temperature between 88-90 F while stirring, you can dump the rennet in and stir for about a minute, then cover for 1 hour and do not disturb. If your pot has a glass top, either place it in your oven or cover it with a cloth because cultures need a dark environment for fermentation.
After letting the milk sit undisturbed for 1 hour, uncover and the milk should have coagulated. Notice the whey which is the yellowish liquid separated from the coagulated milk. It looks gross, but do not throw it away because it contains cultures that you can use again for making cheese in the future. As far as the amount, you can use ½ to 1 cup per gallon of milk of whey as a culture. Whey has many other uses, such as baking cakes and making protein shakes. Before you toss the whey down the sink, research the different uses of whey protein. Ok, at this point you need to test for a clean break. To do this, poke your finger through the coagulated milk and it should feel like jello. When you pull your finger out and if there is still a hole there, you have a clean break. If it is still like liquid, let it sit for another 30 minutes and try again. If it still didn’t doesn’t work, stop right here because something went wrong and it’s not going to work.
Note: True story. I have family in Dominican and they wanted me to show them how to make homemade cheese from milk. I said, OK. We went to a farm and bought what we thought was raw milk. I made it to step 4 of this tutorial, but I could not get a clean break. I had to throw away 5 gallons of milk. They said the milk was not tampered with, and I said, right! We went to a different farm and watched the farmer milk the cow. He told us that it’s common for the Dominicans to put an additive to expand and preserve the milk. He added nothing and this milk made the best homemade cheese ever! My entire Italian family loved it and if you have Italian family who was born in Italy, you know that they are very picky with homemade mozzarella, because they know how it is supposed to taste like. I asked one family member who owns a huge winery in Naples Italy to rate my Mozzarella Cheese, and he gave it an 8 rating which made me pretty happy! Why am I telling you this story? If you have followed my Mozzarella Cheese Recipe to this point but cannot get a clean break, consider your supplier has tampered with the milk if buying from a local farm.
Chop up the coagulated milk or in other words, cut the curds up. Now, we are not trying to make soup here. Just chop it up into small pieces. Cover and let it sit for 4 hours. The alternative method is to heat the milk slowly to about 100 F and let sit for 15 to 30 minutes and then drain the whey. I prefer the first method because even though the second speeds up the fermentation process, there is a danger of overheating the cheese curd and making it too dry. This is where the fermentation takes place, so do not disturb because the cultures prefer warm and dark environments.
After 4 hours, uncover and you should only see the whey. The coagulated milk or the “cheese curd” should have sunken to the bottom. Go ahead and scoop the cheese curd from the pot and drain in the strainer. Once you have scooped all of the curds into the strainer, pour the whey in the gallon container and place in your refrigerator. The cultures in the whey will survive refrigerated for 2 to 3 months.
It’s time to begin testing the PH. Poke a hole in curd which will eventually fill with whey, and test the whey that is in the hole. It’s worth saying that the whey closest to the curd will give you the most accurate PH reading. Now, we are trying to get a reading of 5.2 for the stretch. However, there is no way to know how long this will take because it depends on how much cultures you dump in and how rapid fermentation process takes. It can take anywhere from 2 to 18 hours at this point but It normally takes 4-8 hours. I normally start the entire process at around 8 AM and I am stretching by 5 PM and making pizza at 6 PM. On a rare occasion, it takes longer than expected and I have to use my back up Sam’s club mozzarella cheese to make fresh mozzarella pizza. Normally, the PH will begin around 6.2 to 6.6 at the time of the first PH test. After draining the curd and testing the PH for the first time, cover up and test every hour until you reach the target of 5.2. Remember, cultures love a warm and dark environment, so cover it up and let it sit undisturbed. A little advice here, I’ve noticed the PH drops slowly until it reaches 6.0, then begins to drop faster, so be careful.
Once the PH reaches 5.2 range, it’s ready for the stretch. Listen, some people like to stretch around 5.4 and others 5.0. However, I have noticed several things, when stretching curd at 5.4 PH, it’s more difficult to stretch and you end up with a harder and drier product. When stretching the cheese curd at 5.1 to 5.0 PH range, it tends to stretch too easily and will fall apart while stretching. Furthermore, the finished product will be too soft and losses it’s shape after forming into a mozzarella ball. I have formulated 5.2 through trial and error, but you can see what works best for you. Once the curd has reached 5.2, dump the cheese curd onto a cutting board and cut in 1/2 inch squares.
Place three large bowls onto a table and about a gallon of water into steel pot and place on burner. Bring the water to a target temperature of around 180 degrees F. If you have extra whey that you are trying to get rid of, use it in place of water for extra flavor. While you are waiting, place ½ to 1 gallon of the curd into one of the large bowls. As a beginner, I suggest starting off with a ½ gallon until you are experienced in stretching. Fill the second bowl up with cold water and the third up with ” ice cold” water.
Once the water reaches 180 degrees F, pour one to two cups of water into the bowl containing the curd, being mindful in not to pour the water directly onto the curd. There should be enough water to completely cover the cheese curd. Let it sit for two minutes and then drain the water out. Put 2 tablespoons per gallon of curd of Kosher salt on top of the curd and immediately pour another two cups of hot water onto the curd. Now, you can take little pieces of the curd to test for stretch and if it doesn’t stretch, let it sit a little longer. You may also have to add additional hot water as needed. The curd should start sticking together into one solid piece however, there will be stragglers.
Note: The reason you do not want to pour the hot water directly onto the curd and the reason we repeat the heating process twice, is to warm the curds slowly. Raising the temperature to rapidly can damage the end product.
Once the cheese curd is ready to stretch, place the wooden spoon into the water and press the curd to the side of the bowl. Then, lift the curd out of the water and let the gravity do its work. It may be necessary to assist the gravity by pulling on the bottom of the cheese, especially at first. Now, I do not use gloves, but you may prefer to because the cheese is pretty hot at this point. Continue stretching the curd and dumping it back into the water as needed. If it’s still hard to stretch, it may be necessary to add more hot water and let the cheese sit a little longer. However, if the curd is at the right PH and the water is at the right temperature, you shouldn’t have a problem at this point. Now, stretch and fold the cheese over around 4-6 times until you get a smooth finish like silk. Do not overwork the cheese because you’ll end up with a dry and hard mozzarella golf ball. As soon as you get a smooth finish, it’s time to form the mozzarella balls.
Here is the fun part, let’s make some Homemade Mozzarella balls! At this point, you should have a long piece of mozzarella cheese stretched out being about two inches wide. Take the 2-inch strip and fold over 3 to 4 times, depending on the size of the ball you desire, then push the strip through your thumb and index finger. Then, squeeze the bottom to seal the ball and break it free. Place the ball in the cold water and let it sit for 4-5 minutes. You are in a two-minute window before the cheese gets overworked, so repeat this step as quickly as possible. This is the reason I urge you to start with only ½ gallon of cheese curds until you get comfortable with stretching. I can stretch two gallons at a time pretty easily, but it does take lots of practice. Ok, once the Mozzarella balls have cooled down, transfer them to the ice cold water. The key here is to cool the Mozzarella Cheese slowly. Placing the hot Mozzarella balls directly in ice cold water will make them hard and dry.
Note: You may have an instance when the mozzarella gets away from you during the stretch and is stretching too much and falling into the hot water. Maybe your PH is a little on the low side or the water is a little too hot. Do not panic and burn your hands trying to retrieve all the cheese. Simply, dump out all the hot water, place the cheese on the cutting board and start stretching from there.
Once formed into a mozzarella ball, its ready to eat and always tastes best right after the stretch. Some people say to refrigerate the cheese if not eaten immediately, others say leave it out in a bowl of water, but this is very subjective. The point is, Homemade Mozzarella Cheese with cultures will not hold for very long before it begins tasting sour. Stores sell mozzarella cheese with citric as oppose to cultures for this reason.
I have listed some pros and cons of both methods of mozzarella cheese:
Mozzarella Recipe Using cultures:
- Has a much better flavor
- Much juicier
- Healthier, lactose is devoured during fermentation
- Contains healthy cultures
- Shorter shelf life
- Takes longer to make
Mozzarella Recipe Using citric acid:
- Much longer shelf life
- Can be made within 2 hours
- Salty taste from the citric acid and has less flavor
- Very dry
- Not as healthy; think about, all that lactose is compressed into one mozzarella ball. It’s almost like eating a sugar bomb!
I hope this Mozzarella Recipe was able to show you how to make cheese from raw milk or non-homogenized milk. Please realize though the Homemade Mozzarella Cheese recipe is somewhat universal, it still varies and the most important thing is the outcome of the product. If you have any problems with my Mozzarella Recipe, please fill out the contact form and I will be glad to help. Also, please register for my website and leave comments on the bottom of this page, I want your feedback and I will assist you if you have anything less than perfect cheese. Thanks and good luck!
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