Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Homesteading Question #3 - Making mozzarella cheese

Here are the steps for making mozzarella cheese. The recipe for this version came from Ricki Carrol's Home Cheese Making. Some of these photos will be used to illustrate a comprehensive article on basic cheesemaking that will appear in a future issue of Backwoods Home Magazine. I'm posting them here so the editor has a chance to look over the pictures and select the ones she needs.

I start with two gallons of fresh milk:

I use two pots nested together to act as a double boiler.

Add 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid to milk, and heat the milk slowly to 90F.

While the milk is heating, dissolve 1/4 teaspoon lipase powder in 1/4 cup cool water, and put it aside to dissolve.

These are frozen thermophilic starter cubes. Once the milk hits 90F, I add three or four to the milk and stir until the cubes are melted and mixed. I also add the dissolved lipase powder at this time. Then I cover the milk and let it ripen for 30 minutes.

Add 1/2 teaspoon rennet (I use liquid animal rennet) to 1/4 cup cool water...

...and add to the milk. Mix thoroughly, then cover and let set, undisturbed, for 75 minutes.

Using a long, thin kitchen knife, slice the curds in a criss-cross pattern to make about 1/2" checks...

...then criss-cross again, this time at an angle.

This cuts the curds into smallish cubes. Don't stir. Now let the curds rest for 20 minutes.

Slowly heat the curds to 100F, raising the temperature no more than two degrees every five minutes. Gently stir the curds during this process. As they heat, the curds will slowly shrink and become firmer. Once they have reached 100F, let them set, undisturbed, for five minutes.

Line a colander with a clean pillowcase:

Pour the curds and whey into the pillowcase:

You can see how heavy the proto-cheese is. The whey needs to drain some more from the pillowcase... I put the pillowcase back in the colander, place it inside (or on the lip of) the pot, and cover to keep the heat in. I let it sit this way for about 15 minutes to drain.

Pour the wet curds back into the pot.

Keep the curds at this temperature for 2½ hours. Every 20 minutes, drain the whey and flip the curds over. The curds will get drier and firmer.

At the end of the 2 1/2 hours, heat a pot of water to 170F.

Take the mat of curds out of the pot...

And slice in a criss-cross pattern to cube the curds.

Add the cubes to the hot water.

Works the curds with wooden spoons. The water will start to get cloudy as the whey presses out of the curds. Keep working until you have a large mass.

It will get very stretchy!

When the cheese has all melded together and is stretchy, take it out and put it into a bowl of cold water in order to cool and firm.

After this, you can brine the cheese (a brine is made by taking 1 gallon of water and adding two pounds of non-iodized salt and letting it dissolve). Soak the cooled cheese in the brine for about 30 to 35 minutes.

I like to let the cheese sit in the fridge overnight to improve the flavor. Grated on pizza, this cheese is delicious.


  1. Patrice, You should invest in a stainless steel bucket for the milk. You can never get the plastic as clean as the stainless steel. It could give off flavors to the milk from the plastic since you can never get it as clean as stainless. An old stainless steel pot, improvised with a handle would work. Also, I have bought my stainless bucket in the dog section of a feed store. try they have them and cheese supplies too (no affiliation) or amish supply company Shetler's wholesale co. PO box 8 630 high st. geneva IN 46740 14 quart pain 39.95 It is worth it to get a nice bucket for the milk. Take it from a goat milker!! Cheese looks great!

  2. I love cheese, especially sharp cheddar and mozzarella but, wow I know why it's EXPENSIVE! That was a lot of work!!

  3. How long does it take you to make a batch of cheese like you described?

  4. Wow! That's a pretty long process with some tightly controlled temps. Looks like tasty cheese though!

  5. That sure is a long process. Lots of controlled temps too. I don't know if I could make such a cheese! I will have to try an easy recipe in my first attempt. What is the easiest cheese to make?

  6. Nah, I'll never get stainless steel buckets. I can't swallow spending $80 on two buckets when I can get two seamless plastic buckets for $5 and they last a long time. While stainless steel may be more "sanitary," I've found bleach and boiling water work wonders for sterilizing. I've milked into plastic buckets for eleven years and it hasn't killed me yet.

    - Patrice

  7. Patrice, fascinating post. I look forward to reading more of it in Backwoods Home. I'll echo Paul's question -- what is the easiest cheese to make?

  8. I only have experience in making three types of cheese - mozzarella, cheddar, and cream. Of those three, I'd say cream is the easiest by a long shot. It's time consuming but not labor intensive. I plan to make a batch shortly and take photos of the process.

    - Patrice

  9. Just finished first successful batch of mozz. cheese; thank you for the how-to! Did you know you can use the "leftover" whey to make ricotta cheese? Check out for instructions. It's actually not super difficult, and it comes out quite tasty. Can't wait for pizza tomorrow with homemade crust, sauce, and now CHEESE!