How to Make Mozzarella
Learn to make homemade mozzarella with these step-by-step instructions.
Homemade mozzarella cheese is fresher and more flavorful than the stuff you buy in the store. It requires a few special materials and a bit of patience, but the end result is worth it. We use a technique taught to us by homesteading provisioner and cheese making educator Nicole Easterday of FARMcurious.
You'll need 1 gallon whole milk (not ultrapasteurized), distilled water, 1 teaspoon citric acid, 1/4 teaspoon calcium chloride, 1/4 rennet tablet and 6 tablespoons cheese salt or kosher salt. You’ll also need a large nonreactive pot, a plastic or metal slotted spoon, a metal or plastic ladle, a curd knife (or other long, flat blade), a colander, a cheesecloth, a thermometer and a cutting board with a gutter to catch runoff whey.
Dissolve the citric acid into 2/3 cup distilled water and add to the pot. Quickly pour the milk all at once into the pot, stirring to prevent curdling.
Put the burner on medium. Stir the milk gently using an up-and-down motion (not in circles) to prevent scorching and to break up any fat that may be floating on the surface. Meanwhile, have on hand 2 bowls, each with 1/4 cup cool distilled water. Into one, dissolve the calcium chloride, and dissolve the rennet into the other.
When the milk reaches 88 degrees F, remove it from the heat. Add the calcium chloride while stirring with the same up-and-down motion.
Drizzle the rennet solution into the milk, whisking halfway through if not fully dissolved, all the while stirring with the slow up-and-down motion, for no more than 30 seconds.
Put a lid on it. Leave the pot undisturbed, and start checking your curd at 10 minutes.
At the 10-minute mark, test your curd by inserting the curd knife at an angle and gently lifting. If the curd breaks cleanly, creating a hollow space below the knife, it is ready. If it does not, let sit another 5 minutes and test again. Repeat until the curd sets.
Another way to test the curd is to gently press on the edge. If it pulls away from the side and whey rises above it, it’s ready.
When your curd is ready, use the knife to cut 3/4-inch rows in 3 directions. The first time, cut straight down. For the second set of rows, cut perpendicular to the first cuts and at a 45-degree angle. Lastly, trace over the second set of rows, but angle your knife 45 degrees in the opposite direction. Your goal is to create small diamonds of curd. Try to cut as evenly as you can.
When the curd is cut in all directions, let stand for 5 minutes for it to firm up.
Return the pot to low heat and warm to 106 degrees F while very gently moving the curds around with your spoon. Do not press or break up the curds. Remove from the heat and continue stirring another 10 to 20 minutes, again trying not to damage the curds. They should look molten and gooey. Let stand another 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in another pot, bring 1 gallon water with 6 tablespoons cheese salt or kosher salt to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to a low simmer.
Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth, and place it over a large bowl to catch the whey. Pour the curds into the colander and let them strain for 15 minutes.
Don’t throw that whey away! It has many uses, in cooking, in baking or even in the garden.
Transfer your curds to a cutting board with a gutter. Cut the curd into 1-inch strips.
Dunk each strip of curd into the simmering water on a slotted spoon for about 20 to 30 seconds, until it begins to run.
Wearing rubber gloves, gently stretch the cheese, mostly allowing it to stretch under its own weight. Fold the cheese onto itself and stretch again until all the lumps are gone. If the cheese tightens up, dunk back into the simmering water until pliable. Do not overwork the cheese.
Enjoy your mozzarella immediately, or refrigerate it and use it within a few days. Do not store your mozzarella in water, but rather in a dry container or bag.