How to Make Mozzarella Cheese


How to make mozzarella cheese from scratch.


Several years ago, in celebration of National Goat Cheese Month, I challenged myself to make a different kind of cheese every week.

Some of the cheeses I'd made many times before, while others were new to me. I had tried to make mozzarella a couple of times without success but I promised myself I was going to be successful this time. In fact, mozzarella was the whole reason I gave myself this challenge. I would conquer this skill. I would!

You don't have to use goat milk, but if you're buying milk from the grocery store I recommend buying whole milk. Skim and low fat milk don't work as well for cheese making.



Nubian dairy goats, National Goat Cheese Month


My Nubian goats - Phoenix, Ziva, Firefly, and Felicity - provided the milk I used in my cheese making attempts.

I must admit I approached mozzarella cheese with a lot of trepidation, since I'd tried to make it twice in the past and failed utterly (udderly?). So I started early in the week in case I had to try more than once.


DISCLOSURE: The cheese cultures and supplies I used in this post were supplied by


Sure enough, I did have to make it twice, but this time the reason was that my camera battery died halfway through the first batch. Great timing. You can't stop in the middle of cheese making because the camera battery died...

But you know, that wasn't a bad thing. I learned from that first batch. Which was my third failure at this cheese, but we're not counting, right?

When I read through the directions again afterwards, I realized where I'd made mistakes. I let it get too hot at one point and the curds were much firmer than they should have been. But I did get to practice stretching the curds, even though they were far from perfect, and I "got it" eventually.

I consider this a complicated cheese. It isn't that hard but there are so many steps to remember that it seems difficult.

Here's what you'll need:
  • a gallon of milk - store bought or from your own goat or cow
  • citric acid
  • rennet, either liquid or tablet
  • cheese salt - I used Hoegger Supply's "mozzarella kit" which contains these last 3 ingredients. All you add is the milk!

Equipment needed:

  • stainless steel pot that holds at least 5 quarts
  • slotted spoon
  • thermometer
  • strainer
  • a pan the strainer will fit inside
  • a long knife or spatula that reaches to the bottom of the pot
  • bowl of cold water
  • rubber gloves to insulate your hands from the hot curds


To start, dissolve 1 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid in one cup of cool water in a bowl. I used filtered water rather than tap water. We have "rural water" which is really city water, and over the years I've found that filtered water works better in everything I do.

In a second bowl, measure another 1/4 cup of cool water and add 1/4 teaspoon of liquid rennet. If you don't have liquid rennet, use a quarter of a tablet of rennet.

Here's a tip - none of the recipes that I read mentioned this, but I will continue doing it in the future - put a pot of water on the stove and begin heating it up. You want it to be about 190°F; don't let it boil. We'll use this later on.


Pouring milk into stockpot to make mozzarella cheese.


Now pour the gallon of cold milk into a large stockpot that will hold at least 5 quarts.

Add the water that's mixed with citric acid.


Add rennet to warm goat milk to make mozzarella cheese.


Set the pot of milk on medium high heat and warm it slowly to 90°F, stirring gently.

When the milk reaches 90° move the pot off the heat and stir in the water and rennet. Stir gently for 30 seconds (I counted to 30), then cover the pot and let it sit undisturbed for five minutes.


Make mozzarella cheese from scratch


The directions I was following said if it isn't set enough after five minutes - if the curds look too watery - put the cover back on the pot and leave it for another five minutes. Mine looked fine, like custard, so I continued.


Mozzarella cheesemaking: cut the curds with a long knife.


The curds should look like a layer of tofu or custard. Cut this layer into similar-sized cubes with a long knife or spatula. Cut in one direction, then across in the other direction, making sure the knife reaches all the way to the bottom of the pot.

This was kind of difficult because the mass of curds kept spinning around the pot while I was trying to cut, but eventually I managed to cut it all into cubes.

Then put the pot back on the stove over medium heat and heat it up to 105°. This doesn't take long at all, so don't let your attention wander. (This is where I overcooked my first batch.)

Stir slowly as it warms but don't break up the curds too much.

Directions like this are hard for me. Where is the line between enough and too much?


Mozzarella cheesemaking: Stir the cheese curds gently.


Remove the pot from the heat again, and continue to stir for another five minutes. The cubes of curds will begin to stick together and form a big clump, making a mass of curds in the liquid whey.

Mine kind of looked like a lump of marshmallow cream.

Ladle the curds out of the whey into the wire strainer with a slotted spoon. Turn the curds over a few times in the strainer to let the whey drain out of the little nooks and crannies.


Mozzarella cheesemaking: drain the curds and whey.


This is when you'll need that pot of water that I suggested you put on the stove at the beginning. It's handy to have it ready when it's needed, and not have to wait for the water to get hot while worrying about the curds getting too cold.

Set the strainer of curds in the pot of water so that the curds are submerged, and let them warm up in the water for five minutes. Stick the thermometer inside the curds; the interior should be 135°.


Making mozzarella cheese: stretch the warm curds.


Don your rubber gloves and add the cheese salt, squishing it in well with your fingers.

The curds, which used to be one solid mass that was rather stiff, should now be melty and squishy after warming up in the water.


Stretching the warm mozzarella cheese curds.


Stretching the mozzarella cheese curds


Using a big spoon, pull off a chunk of curds from the big mass in the strainer. I made four balls of cheese in all, and left three in the water while I worked with the first one.

Use your hands to stretch the curds. It's kind of like kneading bread dough, although it's done in your hands rather than on a flat surface. I stretched the ball of dough apart, folded it under, rotated it slightly, stretched it again.

Don't overwork the cheese. Fold it into a ball and smooth the surface, then plop it into a bowl of cold water, and start on the next hunk of curds.

I know now that the first batch I made wasn't hot enough to stretch properly; this batch was a joy in comparison. Having that pot of warm water ready to use when you get to this point was a genius idea!


Making mozzarella cheese: stretching the cheese curds by hand.


Keep an eye on the water temperature while you're stretching the curds, and don't let it start to boil. I needed to turn off the heat under the pot after stretching the first two balls of cheese.


Mozzarella cheese


Mozzarella is ready to eat immediately, no draining, aging or curing required.

If you want to store your mozzarella in the refrigerator, mix a teaspoon of salt with a cup of the cool whey and pour it over the cheese in a small container so it's covered with liquid. It should keep in the refrigerator for about a week.

Honestly, I'm glad I had to make two batches. The first batch taught me a lot. The second batch was so much easier and turned out perfectly.

And I learned a few tricks, like getting that pot of water heated up before I needed it. When I began stretching the second batch, the difference was amazing and I could tell that it was "right" because I'd already struggled with that first batch that was "wrong."

And I confess that I forgot to add the cheese salt to the second batch! Ack! I told you there were a lot of steps, didn't I?

I'm looking forward to making my homemade pizza with homemade mozzarella on top, and to making calzones. Homemade cheese is so good!


More cheese


If you're looking for a simple, easy soft cheese to start your cheese making journey, try farmer's cheese, also known as lemon cheese. With just two ingredients - milk and either vinegar or lemon juice - you'll find this a beginner-friendly project.

Ricotta cheese is almost as simple and can be made with the leftover whey from making farmer's cheese, or with fresh whole milk for a greater yield. Learn how to make ricotta cheese here.



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Need cheese? Make some from scratch. Here's how to make mozzarella cheese from storebought milk or milk from your goat or cow.




DISCLOSURE: The cheese cultures and supplies I used in this post were supplied by
Hoegger Supply Company.



This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.

~~~~~

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31 comments

  1. Oh gracious, that looks so beautiful!! Sounds like a cheese that would be fun to make with a friend. :D

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    1. Rose, it would be fun to make with a friend! Plus the friend could read the directions so you'd know what to do next. Maybe then one would not forget to put in the salt.

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  2. Thank you for making mozzarella, Kathi. I had never 'seen' anyone else make it. I like to learn from the different techniques other folks use.

    I stretch mine with two large spoons instead of by hand, but I like the way yours formed up into nice round balls. I also had never heard of storing it in salt water in the frig. That is interesting.

    When I heat my milk, I use two different sized stock pots I can nest as a double boiler. It works great. Thanks again for sharing this. I look forward to a post on how you make pizza. Then I can compare notes again.

    Fern

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  3. Fern, as I was milking this morning I was thinking about those nested stockpots you have. Have you ever filled the larger one up with ice water and taken it to the goat barn with you - with the smaller one nested inside to milk into - to start chilling the milk immediately?

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  4. Thanks for sharing! It's especially nice to hear about the mistakes someone makes so you can learn from it! I keep on trying to gather the courage to make my own cheese!

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  5. Anonymous11:28 PM

    Beautiful photographs. Thank you for detailing each step and for explaining potential problems. So helpful.

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  6. I agree, Sarah, it's very helpful to know where someone went wrong so you can avoid making the same mistakes. As for courage to make your own, just jump in there and give it a try. The worst you can do is fail, and you'll learn from it and do better the next time.

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  7. Thank you, Anonymous. Knowing the potential problems makes doing something for the first time much easier, it gives one confidence in trying something new.

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  8. That looks yummy!! My GF makes soft cheese from her goats milk and is delicious..no off taste. She canned 17 qts of milk but it did not seal... Everything was sterilize and in a pressure canner. Any suggestions why??
    Linda in NM

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  9. I have been making my own mozzarella for a few years now. It's now consistently coming out correctly. It's amazing how one little slip up can change the outcome!! In my recipe, there is a suggestion to not heat above 88 degrees if using raw milk. The cheese comes out moister (supposedly). Then, I heat to 110 degrees for a water bath. But apparently you can make mozz in the microwave!!!! Good luck in the rest of your cheese endeavors!!

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  10. Great post, as usual, Kathi! I have never made mozzarella before, so this one is getting pinned for future experimentation!

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  11. I hope this post helped to make the recipe clear, Janet. There are a LOT of steps to making mozzarella; they aren't hard on their own, it's just that there are so many things to remember to do. Good luck on your effort!

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  12. I am definitely saving all of your cheese recipes and it looks like you did a great job :)

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  13. Thank you, Heidi. I hope you have a chance to try these sometime. It's so fun being able to make your own cheese!

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  14. I pinned this tasty looking recipe the first day you posted it :) Thank you for linking up with the Art of Home-Making Mondays!

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  15. Thank you for pinning it, Jes!

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  16. Linda in NM, I've never tried canning milk so I don't know what went wrong. Maybe it was a bad lot of lids? or the jars were too full?

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  17. Wow, this looks so good! Love the step by step instructions! Saying hello from strut your stuff Saturday and I really enjoyed spending some time on your blog!
    Cathy @ three kids and a fish

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  18. Welcome, Cathy; thank you for stopping by!

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  19. Great tutorial. If I had a goat I would try you make it look simple! I will try the salad. I haven't had it in a long time thanks for the reminder. I happen to have some very nice Mozzarella,tomatoes and my own grown Basil. Yea me! Perfect for supper tonight! I enjoyed this post. Have a wonderful weekend.
    Sherry

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  20. Enjoy that salad, Sherry. It's sure to be delicious!

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  21. After reading your post I really want to make cheese!!! Thank you for sharing at Tuesdays with a Twist. YOU have been featured at Back to the Basics this week!

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  22. Thank you, Mary! How exciting to be featured!

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  23. I'm going to save this - looks amazing I appreciate you sharing this tutorial! I do appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,
    Kathy

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  24. we love cheese in my household. And we love to try to make new things, so definitely adding this to the list!

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  25. I might give it a try.

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  26. Your cheese came out beautifully! I bet it tastes as good as it looked.

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    1. It was delicious on homemade pizza, and it melted beautifully.

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  27. I have tried making cheese so many times and have never been able to get it. It is just beyond me for some reason. I may give it another try following your steps! Thank you for sharing this with us at the Homestead Blog Hop!

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    1. I hope it works for you this time, Ann. Have you looked at my other two cheese posts, ricotta and farmer's cheese? They are easier to make than mozzarella is.

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