- 1 gallon (3.8 L) of whole, low-fat or skim milk (not ultra pasteurized)
- 1 ½ tsp. citric acid
- ¼ – ½ rennet tablet or ¼ tsp. liquid rennet
- 1 ¼ cup water (cool, non-chlorinated)
- icewater bath
Step by Step:
Once you have all your materials together, start by dissolving the
rennet tablet in ¼ cup of the water (if you started from dry
Dissolve the citric acid in the remaining cup of water.
Pour the milk into the large stock pot and add the dissolved citric acid. Stir well.
Put the pot of milk on the stove and heat the milk to 90 °F (32 °C). Continue to stir as the milk heats. When the milk reaches 90 °F (32 °C), take the pot off the stove and very gently stir in the rennet in an up-down motion for 15 seconds. It is crucial to the curd that you don’t over stir during this step as you may inadvertently cut the curd with your spoon, which can prevent your initial curd from setting up properly. Cover the pot and allow it to sit very still for about five minutes.
After five minutes have passed, remove the lid and check on the cheese
curd. The curd should have set up in a solid, custard-like mass in the
pot and you should be able to see a clear separation between the curd
and the whey around the edge of the pot. You can put your spoon into
the pot in between the edge of the pot and the curd and pull the curd
away. If the curd hasn’t set up firmly, cover the pot again and let it
sit for up to 15 minutes. If the curd still doesn’t set up, try heating
the milk to 95 or 100 °F (35 or 38 °C). If the curd is still not
setting up properly (ie: grainy and looks like ricotta), your milk may
have been pasteurized at a high heat and the proteins will not form a
curd. (If this happens, see the section on troubleshooting on page 38.)
Assuming your curd set up properly, the next step is cutting the curd. Take your knife and cut the curd in a checkerboard pattern from top to bottom and side-to-side, making cubes of about 3⁄8 of an inch. The curd should resemble a firm yogurt.
Once you’ve cut the curd, put the pot back on the heat, warm the curds and whey up to 110 °F (43 °C) and remove from the heat again and gently stir the curds for two to five minutes. This allows the curd to firm up a little bit more. The longer you stir, the firmer the finished cheese.
Now ladle your curds into the strainer to separate them from the whey. If you have a purpose for using the whey, such as making a batch of ricotta, reserve it to the side and store for another time. Otherwise discard the whey.
In the smaller sauce pan, heat a few quarts of water to 185 °F (85 °C). You may salt the water if you would like your finished cheese to be a little salty. Dip the colander of curds into the hot water bath, heating them up to about 135 °F (57 °C) or until they become gooey and stretchable. If you have a pair of rubber gloves, this is a good time to put them on as you will be working the hot curds with your hands.
When the curds get stretchy, start out by kneading them like a piece of bread dough on a clean surface, working gently at first. When the curd cools down and becomes less pliable, put it back in the colander and dip it in the water bath again. After a few cycles, you will see the cheese starting to get smooth and shiny. Drain off the whey as you work the cheese. At this point you can start stretching it like taffy instead of kneading. Alternately stretch the cheese and bring it back together until it becomes white and shiny, dipping back in the hot water bath as needed. You can add salt during the stretching process, as well as herbs or spices, if desired.
When you achieve a good stretchiness and a shiny look, form the mozzarella into a ball and plunge it into a cold water bath to cool and set for about ten minutes