Quick & Simple Mozzarella Cheese
You know you want to try it!
I get nervous making cheese EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.
You’d think after dozens of successful endeavors, all yielding delicious results (albeit not always beautiful) this wouldn’t be the case. Even so, the nerves remain!
I never want to elude to the ease of a recipe if it really isn’t “easy”. This is me, being transparent! Cheese making just doesn’t fall into the “easy” category, BUT IT IS SIMPLE! (If you want an easy cheese recipe, go make kefir cheese, or ricotta cheese.)
Cheese-making requires a watchful eye. No multi-tasking allowed (trust me)! You’ll want to read the entire process before you begin. Then, read through it again (and then again!) before kickoff. Having an iPad or smartphone nearby with the directions at the ready is highly recommended.
If cheese making has been on your “to-do list”, but it keeps getting bumped further and further to the bottom, clear an hour of your time and let’s walk through it together. There’s only one way to know if it’s your “thing”.
To ease your mind a bit, I have opted to share an easier “30-Minute Mozzarella” recipe (opposed to the traditional recipe that requires 2 days and additional supplies). I have adapted the recipe slightly, including some helpful steps I have picked up from other cheese making tutorials and books. Seriously, if you think cheese making is your thing…grab this Cheese Making book! You won’t be disappointed!
Truth be told, this recipe is more accurately titled “60-Minute Mozzarella”. I suppose a seasoned veteran, who makes cheese routinely, could get this down to a quick 30 minutes, but I’m not there yet…and I tend to have a few distractions running around my ankles!
This recipe yields approximately 12 ounces of fresh, whole-milk mozzarella that can be gobbled up in many different ways (keep reading for suggestions!).
- Fill 2 large bowls halfway with water. Place one in the refrigerator and one in the freezer.
- Add 1/4 teaspoon rennet in 1/4 cup water, set aside. (see notes)
- Add 1 1/2 tsp citric acid in one cup cold water, stir to dissolve.
- Set up a double boiler on your stove (see Step 1 photo). The “inner pot” needs to be 2 gallons and the “outer pot” 3 or more gallons. (If a double boiler isn’t an option, slowly heat the milk in a large pot directly on the burner, be sure it doesn’t overheat, and stir frequently.)
- Add citric acid/water mixture into the pot and add milk. Gently stir while heating the milk to 88℉ (90℉ for pasteurized milk).
- Once the milk reaches 88℉, remove from heat. Pour in the vegetable rennet/water mixture and slowly stir in an up-and-down motion with the slotted spoon for exactly 30 seconds. “Stop” the milk from moving with your spoon by lightly stirring the opposite way and let the milk rest, covered, for 10 minutes (5 minutes for pasteurized milk).
- Softly “poke” the milk with your knife to see if the curd has set. It should resemble the consistency of a thick custard, and yellowish-green whey will fill in the hole where you poked through. (See Step 4 image, your “poke” should produce a break similar to these cuts. If the curds seem soft and you don’t get a clear “break”, or the whey looks milky, let it rest for a few more minutes, then check again.)
- Using your knife, cut the curds into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes in a “checker-board” pattern. Then, using the same cut lines, come back through with your knife tilted at a 45 degree angle, cutting the curds again.
- Allow the curds to rest for 5 minutes, then gently stir with slotted spoon and cut any curds that are still too large.
- Place back on the heat and bring the temperature of your whey up to 90℉ (110℉ for pasteurized milk).
- This is where the “quick mozzarella” varies from the “traditional” recipe. Traditionally you’d cook, strain, then hang/”ripen” your cheese overnight before proceeding to the stretching. I find (for our non-dilettante family) the quick method serves us just fine, both in taste and time.
- Take the pot back off the burner and gently stir for 2-5 minutes. This helps the cheese firm up. The longer you stir, the more firm your cheese will be. (We like a soft mozzarella, so we stick to 2 minutes.)
- Using your pot/colander set up, pour half of the whey from your large pot into your pot/colander and heat the whey to 170-185℉. (In order to stretch your cheese properly, the temperature of your curds need to reach 160-170℉. Be sure you have enough whey in your pot/colander to completely cover the curds.)
- Once your whey is hot enough, gently scoop 1/4 of your curds into the colander with your slotted spoon and sprinkle with 1 tsp cheese salt. It will seem like a lot of salt, but most gets washed off during the stretching/dipping. (Leave the remaining curds in the original pot of whey and cover with a lid to keep them warm until ready to stretch.)
- We’re going to stretch our cheese in smaller batches to make it easier. (However, if you’re in a rush, you can stretch the curds into one giant ball and call it good, but I would not recommend this for first time cheese makers. The stretching and pulling requires you to get the “feel” for it, sometimes you won’t “get it” until your 3rd or 4th attempt. To see a “pro” visit this page and scroll down to the stretching photos…pretty remarkable!)
- Dip the curds into the hot whey until they become pliable. Lift out of the whey and gently fold the curds in on themselves with your slotted spoon, dipping into the whey to warm them back up when needed. After a few folds, form into a ball and grab it with your hands (be careful, it will be very hot…this is where gloves can be helpful, or a bowl of cold water set nearby to cool your fingers when needed).
- It is now time to stretch your curds. This takes a little mind-over-matter because your curds are HOT! Begin pulling your curds like taffy (11b), gently stretching and folding (11c), stretching and folding. Dip back into the hot whey as needed (11a). After a few pulls you’ll notice the curds changing. They begin to get shiny and smooth, this is good!
- At this point you can sprinkle your cheese with a bit more salt. (Notice I didn’t say curds? CONGRATULATIONS! You now have cheese!) Continue stretching and pulling into your preferred shape.
- CHEESE VARIATIONS: Herb Cheese: If you want to get fancy, you can mix in some herbs and/or spices. Some delicious options are garlic and dill, but the skies the limit when it comes to flavoring! Have fun with it! String Cheese: My kids LOVE string cheese! To make, grab approximately 1 oz at a time, stretching into string cheese “logs”. Cheese Balls: (No, there’s not a better name.) These work great for antipasto appetizer platters or skewered with tomatoes, sprinkled with fresh chopped basil then drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. #YUM Shredded Cheese: If you’re just going to shred the cheese (say for pizza) then you really don’t need to form it into a fancy shape. Simply stretch it, then proceed to the next step.
- After forming your cheese, immediately submerge into the bowl of refrigerated water and leave for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, transfer the cheese to the bowl of water from the freezer for a few minutes (this keeps the cheese from getting grainy), then store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Cheese is best when consumed within 3-5 days but can last up to a week+ in the refrigerator.
- You'll want to gather the following supplies before beginning: 2 large bowls of water, 1 large pot, a slotted spoon, a colander, a long knife, 1 small pot and rubber gloves (optional).
- Raw milk requires heating the milk to different temperatures than pasteurized milk. If using pasteurized milk, be sure to note temperature differences mentioned throughout the instructions.
- This recipe calls for double-strength liquid vegetable rennet, if using regular strength or a tablet, adjust accordingly. 1 rennet tablet = 1 teaspoon double-strength liquid rennet.
Don’t throw out your whey!
If you have a little extra time, you can make homemade ricotta cheese! If you don’t have time today, refrigerate your whey and you can make ricotta another day. Whey is also great added to smoothies for a little extra protein, or used to soak flour or grains for easier digestion.