Mozzarella! Mozzarella!

April 7, 2010 at 9:20 am

Keighty Alvarez

So we’ve come to mozzarella, “so easy, kids can do it”. Just so you know, I don’t believe that, especially since all the kids I know would never waste 30 minutes of their life making cheese when there are boys to chase and girls to pick on. And also because it didn’t work the first time for me and I’m an adult.

That said… onward.

First I want to tell you about It is the website where I get all my cheese enzymes and various cheese information. They have everything you could ever need and they have great starter kits too! You can go there to get the citric acid and the rennet.

For this cheese you will need:

1 ½ tsp citric acid, dissolved in 1 cup of cool water
¼ dissolved tablet of vegetable rennet, dissolved in a ¼ cup of cool water (if you have liquid rennet use ¼ tsp)
1 gallon of NOT ultra pastureized cow’s milk
an instant read thermometer (you don’t really need this but it’s so helpful!) But you do need some kind of kitchen thermometer
a big spaghetti pot (anything but aluminum)
a microwave and microwave safe bowl OR another spaghetti pot (I’ll explain this later)

*If you don’t have a microwave, you’ll need another big pot full of water heated to 185 degrees, so start heating that at the beginning (it’ll make sense later, promise).

Pour your milk in the pot and heat to 90 degrees. While heating add the citric acid and stir slowly for a few seconds. When it gets to 90 degrees, turn off the burner, add the rennet and cover the pot.  Leave undisturbed for 5 minutes.

If, after 5 minutes, you check the curd and see that your whey is clear, you can move on. If your whey is milky, give it a few more minutes. See the picture for what clear whey looks like. It’s not the best picture but you can kind of see where I’m pushing the curd down with the spoon – that clear liquid is the whey.

curds and whey!

see how the liquid is clear - that's how it's supposed to look

Once you’re satisfied with your whey color, it’s time to cut the curd. They say you need a cheese knife, but any long knife (that can reach to the  bottom of the pot) will do. I use a long frosting spreader since it looks exactly like a cheese knife  (marketing ploy for you to buy more things?!) You’ll want to cut the curd into strips going both horizontal and vertical so that in the end you get a lot of little squares – see the picture.

cheese cubes!

cheese cubes!

And here’s where we have to pick a camp. I don’t have a microwave and therefore use the water bath method of heating the curds. But I’ll show you both ways, since I think it’s probably safe to say I’m the only one without a microwave left in Chicago.

With microwave:
Turn the burner back on and heat the milk to 105 degrees.  Turn off burner and stir the curds for a few minutes. Then transfer the curds to microwavable bowl and push out as much whey as you can. Microwave for 1 minute. Drain more whey. Microwave for 30 seconds, drain again and start to stretch the cheese. If it is not stretching, heat it for another 30 seconds. Start stretching the cheese like taffy until it gets shiny and smooth.

Without a microwave:
Turn the burner back on and heat the milk to 110 degrees.
Ladle the curds into a colander (with a bowl underneath so it doesn’t spill!) and drain off as much whey as you can. Dip the colander (with the cheese inside) into the hot water pot and let it sit there for a few seconds. After a little while, check the cheese for stretchiness. If it’s not stretching put it back in the water. If it’s stretchy, stretch it like taffy until shiny and smooth.

In the end you have mozzarella!

You can form it into many shapes or make homemade string cheese!

various cheese shapes!

braids and string cheese!

Did it work? Was it horrible or awesome? Let me know, we can talk about what happened!

Let’s step away from our new cheese and talk about another cheese. My plan is to try a brand new cheese every week and share my thoughts with you. The only rule is that I have to have never tried it before and I have to try it and then write this right afterwards – it’s the closest I can get to trying cheese with you!

This week is Sottocenre al Tartufo.

This is an Italian cheese from the Vento region of Italy and it is made from raw cow’s milk. There was very little information about this cheese that I could find but one site says it means “truffles under ash”. I can’t confirm that’s true but it does taste like truffles under ash since there are bits of black truffle mixed into the cheese and the rind is dusty ash.

Sottocenre al Tartufo

The smell is a lot stronger than the taste. It smells and tastes very savory: truffles, salami, black pepper and it has a long lingering after taste. It’s a pretty mild taste and the texture is smooth and chewy and I venture to say that it would taste great on just about everything where cheese need apply.

It’s kind of expensive, $25/lb at Whole Foods, I got the smallest sliver (.11 lb – $2.86) but it’s worth a whirl.  I’d recommend it for sure! Enjoy!





  1. Gloria G. says:

    I can’t wait to make this wonderful cheese!

  2. Kelley Scott says:

    This is some good cheese. I know, because I’ve tried it!

  3. Raul A. says:

    I’m with Kelley. The mozzarella is very amazing.

  4. Liza says:

    Thank you – I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. And you’re not the only one in Chicago without a microwave – there are two of us ;)

  5. Kim says:

    Did you buy the veggie rennet here in Chicago? I’m looking for some! Thanks!

  6. Keighty Alvarez says:

    i buy my veg rennet online. — it’s the new england cheese company. i have not been able to find it in a store here. but i always have my eye out for some – i’ll let you know if i find some in chicago!

  7. Rachel says:

    I called around looking for rennet. Pastoral, Binny’s, Whole Foods, no luck, except the Whole Foods on Ashland. They say they used to carry liquid rennet, but don’t any more (or maybe are just out temporarily?)

RSS Feed for comments on this post