When I first started making Mozzarella it took a full 24 hours to finish the process. I loved making it, but had issues with the time commitment. I came across a “quick” method and struggled with it the first couple times I made it, but I have tweaked things now and I get great results every time I make it and the whole process takes less than 2 hours.
This cheese also freezes well, so I make batches anytime I have extra milk and then shred it and freeze it in quart bags for later use.
Here’s how we do it at Star Creek:
Large stock pot
2 gallons fresh cow or goat milk, raw is best.
2.5 tsp citric acid
¼ tsp liquid rennet or rennet tablet mixed in 1/3 cup cool water
Bring the milk to 80* by putting it in a large stock pot on low heat. If your milk is fresh from the cow or goat, then it should be about the right temperature, but if you’ve pulled it from the fridge you will want to warm it slowly, over about 15 minutes, to room temperature. Then turn off the heat.
Use your thermometer to check the temperature. It’s important.
Once your milk is warm, you will add in the citric acid. Measure carefully, because too much will make a cheese that does not stretch, but crumbles, and too little will make a tough cheese. Give the milk and citric acid a good stir for a minute or so to make sure it is completely incorporated throughout. Bring it to a stand still and let it rest a few minutes.
I take this opportunity to wash dishes, or sweep, or get breakfast on the table or….you get the idea! It’s not an exact science; it just needs to sit for a bit to let the acidity develop.
After waiting a few minutes, add the rennet diluted in cool water to the milk. Just slowly drizzle the rennet in a circle pattern and stir slowly to fully incorporate.
Slowly bring the milk to a stand still by turning your spoon sideways in the milk and holding it there. Once the milk has stopped moving, let it stand undisturbed.
During this time the milk is transforming from one liquid to two separate components: Whey and Curd.
Whey is the liquid that separates from the solids, or the curds. It is a fabulous source of protein, and it is high in vitamins and minerals.
Curds are the solid substances that form when the whey is separated from the milk. The curds are what will become our cheese.
This is a beautiful process to watch!
After about 15-20 minutes, check your milk to see if it has a “clean break” This sounds intimidating, but is really quite simple. When your milk has ceased to be milk and has become cheese and curds you will be able to indent a knife or flat spoon, even a scraping spatula will work, about an inch or two into the top of the milk. If you pull to the side slightly and whey fills in the gap as the curd separates along the slice, it is ready to cut. Most the time this only takes about 15 min. But there have been times that it’s taken an hour or longer. Some of the things that I have found that affect it are old rennet, and the temperature being too cold or too hot, also humidity.
Once you get a clean break in your curds, you will slice them into chunks, like a checker board. Once the curds are cut like a checker board I use my (clean) hands and break up all the curds in the pot into pea size pieces. Give a gentle stir with you hands when you are done.
Let the curds rest for about 5 min. then gently stir the curds again, making sure none of them have stuck together again. Mozzarella really likes to stick together, so you may have some curds to break apart.
Now, turn the heat back on to med/low. You want to bring the temp of the curds up to 110* over about 15 minutes. This is called cooking the curds, and helps them release all the whey.
Slowly stir the curds now and then. Once the curds have reached 110* turn off the heat and let them sit. While they are sitting, set up a pan, ( I like to use my milking pail) a strainer and some cheese cloth. Put the pan/pail in the sink, the strainer on top of it, and the cheese cloth draped over the strainer with the sides evenly spread out.
Bring your pot of curds and whey and slowly pour them into the strainer. Most of the whey will strain off through the strainer and into the bucket. Save this whey! It’s so valuable! If you don’t know what to do with it, read my post titled Things To Do With Whey
Once you have all your curds in the strainer, you will want to add about ½ cup of sea salt to the curds. Pour this over them while they are in the cheese cloth and work in thoroughly with your hands.
Now hang your curds in the cheese cloth to finish dripping into the pot/pail for about 10 minutes.
While the whey is dripping, prepare a large bowl with HOT water, as hot as you can stand it. I boil about 2 cups and then fill the rest of the bowl about ½ way up with hot tap water. This is uncomfortable, but not unbearably hot for me.
Take your curds out of the cheese cloth and lie them on a clean counter or cutting board. Cut them into ½ inch strips and place them all in the hot water. Let them sit about 30 seconds. Then reach in and scoop them all up. Hold them up high and let gravity pull them back down towards the bowl. Work them back and forth, stretching and lightly pulling, letting gravity do most of the pulling. If you force the curd to stretch, you will expel too much whey and it will loose some of it’s wonderful flavor. The hotter the curds are, the easier it will stretch on it’s own.
Do this until they start to cool. Then put them back in the water and start the process over.
Stretch the curds until they are shining and smooth.
Guess what? Your curds just got a new name! They are now Mozzarella Cheese! They are ready to eat!
If you want to freeze your cheese for use later, just wrap it up and put it in a bowl in the freezer until it is cool and just a little hardened, not frozen. Then take it out and grate it up, place it in a freezer tight container, label it with the date, and place it in freezer. It will keep up to 6 months.