Honestly is there anything better than cheese? Cheese is one of those foods that so many people are hesitant to tackle, when in fact anyone can do it. All you need is the right equipment, and some milk! I was even able to get the milk at my local Whole Foods! Through this instructable you're going to learn how to make some delicious homemade mozzarella!
Step 1: What You Need
Here's what you're going to need.
- Non-reactive 5+ qt pot - needs to fit 1 gallon of milk with some headroom. Mine was made out of stainless steel
- Thermometer - You're going to need a temperature range from about 75F to 150F.
- Slotted spoon
- knife for cutting the curds (just make sure the blade is longer than 5" or so)
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoon
- large microwave safe bowl
Step 2: Sanitizing!
It's really important that when you make cheese you do it in a sanitary environment with sanitized equipment. One easy way to do this is to fill your cheese pot up with water and get it to a boil. Stick any equipment that will be touching the cheese into the water, the most important being your thermometer and your stirring spoon.
After a couple of minutes have passed, turn the heat off and take out your equipment. Rest it on some clean paper towels and be sure not to touch the parts that you have just sanitized. The really exciting part about this step is that you've also sanitized your pot at the same time! Give yourself a pat on the back. and let's start making some cheese!!
Step 3: Get Started!
This is where the whole process will start together! I highly recommend reading over all of these steps before starting to make the cheese, because things can happen very quickly and you should be prepared!
Start by mixing 1.5 teaspoons of citric acid into 1 cup of water. I got this from the tap and it was totally fine. Make sure that the citric acid is totally dissolved in the water.
Add your gallon of milk to the (non-reactive!!) stock pot and gently stir in the citric acid/water mixture you just made.
note: I like to mix the milk with an up/down motion rather than an swirling motion. This stirs everything without really agitating the milk/cultures.
Place the milk/citric acid mixture over medium heat, place the thermometer in the pot, and slowly heat it up to 90F, monitoring the temperature very carefully. Make sure to not go too much over 90F. This should happen over the course of about 10-15 minutes.
While your milk is heating up, mix 1/4 of a rennet tablet (or 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet) until the rennet has dissolved in the water. Put this aside.
Once you hit 90F, take your milk off of the heat (move it to a different burner)
Note: the reason you add citric acid to the milk is to help break up all the calcium. Calcium helps to keep all of the proteins in the milk together and keeps them sticking to each other. In order to make cheese we need these proteins to separate (into the curds and whey), so we need to break up the calcium. We use an acid (citric acid in this case) to break down the calcium in milk so that our cheese will be able to separate later.
Step 4: Coagulate!
Now that your milk has reached 90F and it is no longer over heat, add your 1/4 cup water and 1/4 tablet rennet mixture! Stir this in (gently!) for about 30 seconds and then cover your pot. Seriously. Step away from the pot for 5 minutes.
During this process, the rennet is helping to allow your milk to separate into curds and whey. Rennet allows the proteins in milk to stick together (thus coagulating)!
After five minutes have passed go ahead and take a peek at your cheese. Poke it with your finger. If you get a clean break (the curds break around your finger and don't stick to it), move ahead! If you don't get a clean break, cover the pot back up and wait for another 5 or so minutes.
Step 5: Cut the Cheese
Once your curds are looking nice and curd-y, take your knife and carefully make lengthwise cuts along your pot, cutting your cheese into about .25-.5" slices. Turn your pot and make the same cuts so that you have squares of cheese.
If you're feeling extra fancy, cut hold your knife at a 45 degree angle and insert it into the cuts you have already made (both horizontally and vertically). Through this technique you can cut your curds until they are even closer to squares. Cheesemaking.com has a great graphic describing this method.
Go ahead, laugh a little bit, and make some "cutting the cheese" jokes because you are really mature.
Stir the curds gently, taking care not to break them up very much, and place your pot over medium heat again until you reach 105F. This slightly higher temperature cooks the curds and helps them to stay together throughout the next few steps.
Once you reach 105F, take your pot off of the heat again and stir gently for another 5 minutes or so.
Step 6: Curds and Whey
Using your slotted spoon, scoop curds out of your pot and into your large microwaveable bowl (it should be noted that the bowl has to be able to fit into the microwave...). Try and get as much out as possible! When you've done all that you can, try doing an initial draining of the whey from the curds. I did this in a very scientific and precise manner (I poured the whey from the bowl into the sink and used my hands to stop any curds from escaping).
Put your bowl of delicious curds into the microwave for a minute on high! Check the temperature when they get out. You're shooting for 135F. If you didn't reach it on your first try, just keep microwaving your curds in 30 second spurts while draining excess whey after each microwaving.
The whole point of this process is to remove as much whey from the curds as possible.
It took me a few minutes to get the cheese up to 135F, but once I did I got a little help from my roommates and we began to fold the cheese!
Step 7: Stretching the Mozzarella
Once your cheese has reached 135F and you have drained any excess whey, you are going to start folding the cheese.
TAKE CARE THAT THE CHEESE IS VERY HOT RIGHT NOW. It would be wise to use gloves to protect your hands from the heat! (I had a cut on my finger so I wrapped it up and made sure that I didn't touch the cheese with that hand).
Sprinkle about a teaspoon or so of salt onto the cheese. Fold the cheese over itself a few times. Press down on the cheese to try and squeeze out any more whey. Once you see your cheese starting to come together rejoice! It was at this point that the cheese was split in half and my roommate and I began to fold the cheese over on itself, stretching it and forming it into a smooth and delicious looking cheese ball. Mmmmm!
Once your cheese looks satisfactory you can stop! Congratulations!! This cheese is literally ready to be eaten right now. I can almost guarantee that you haven't tasted anything better than fresh and warm mozzarella. We picked up some bread, tomatoes, and basil and sat down and ate it. Within an hour, we went from milk and some cultures to bellies full of delicious cheese.
Now enjoy the fruit of your labor!
If you for some reason are not able to finish all of your mozzarella right here right now you can store the extra in a tupperware with some leftover whey.
I truly hope that this instructable has inspired you to go out and try making cheese. Not enough people have tried it, and my roommates were thrilled to be a part of the process (huge shout out to you guys for helping me take pictures and eat the product!).
Please let me know how your cheesemaking adventures go and stay tuned as I tackle hard cheeses and making my own cheese cave (currently in the process of cleaning out an old mini fridge now!).
Don't forget to vote for me in the cheese contest! (shameless plug)