- 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.