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Fresh, HOMEMADE Mozzarella!

{Note: This tutorial demonstrates how to make fresh mozzarella using Junket Rennet Tablets, because they are readily available at most grocery stores.  However, I have since learned that Junket tablets are quite unreliable for cheese-making.  I’ve had consistent success using liquid vegetable rennet instead, and that is what I recommend to you.  It can be ordered on Amazon… here is a great brand to try!  It also shortens this process significantly!)

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Friends, today I took the plunge into cheese-making!

Make Your Own Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog

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My interest was first piqued when I read this tutorial from The Pioneer Woman.  Not only did she make homemade mozzarella sound fun and downright delicious, it sounded MUCH cheaper than purchasing a ready-made hunk at the grocery or specialty foods store.  (I had to alter my method slightly from the Pioneer Woman’s, because I had slightly different ingredients to work with.  You can refer to either tutorial, depending on what you’re working with.)

I stored the idea away and sat on it for many months… and this week, I did it!  I’m so proud and excited to share the method with you!

Once you have invested in one or two slightly uncommon ingredients, you’ll find that this really is SO much cheaper than buying Mozzarella.  Plus it is really fun!  My husband and I worked on it together today and it was like a fun little date project :)  And you can serve this gourmet treat on homemade pizzas, yummy baguette slices all toasted up under the broiler, or stuffed into calzones.  There are a lot of delicious possibilities!

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So… ALL YOU NEED is:

Mozzarella Ingredients >> Pretty/Hungry Blog1) 1 Gallon of Whole Milk (Preferably raw, unpasteurized whole milk… but regular will work too.)

2) 6 Tbsp. Lemon Juice or 1 1/2 tsp. Citric Acid Powder  (if you use the powder, you’ll need to dissolve it into 1/4 C water.)

3) 1/4 tablet of Rennet dissolved in 1/4 C water  (*If using liquid vegetable rennet, mix 1/4 tsp rennet with 1 C. water.)

4) 2 tsp. Kosher salt or Sea Salt

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As for equipment, you’ll need:

-a large non-reactive stock pot

-an instant-read thermometer (I use this one and I love it!)

-a large strainer

-a long knife

-a large heat-proof bowl

-a microwave

Rennet may seem like an “out there” ingredient… but it’s fairly basic!  It causes milk to curdle so that you can make it into cheese, custards, etc.

*One more side-note, and then I’ll get to the cheese… Did you know that in most states, the plant you need to make your OWN vegetable rennet for free can likely be found just outside your door??  See this recipe to give it a try!  (I would soooo do it, but apparently Arkansas is the ONE state this plant is not native to.  Just my luck.)

Ok, let’s make some CHEESE!

Pour the lemon juice (or citric acid powder dissolved in water) into a large stock pot.

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

Now grab your rennet and use a knife to divide one tablet into fourths.  Dissolve 1/4 tablet in 1/4 C room temperature water.  (Or alternatively, mix 1/4 tsp of liquid rennet into 1 C. water.  This works sosososososooooo much better than these Junket tablets pictured below.  I cannot stress this enough.)

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

And set the rennet/water mixture aside to use in a moment.

Now, pour the entire gallon of milk into the pot with the lemon juice or citric acid mixture.

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

Place your instant read thermometer so that the needle is submerged by the milk but not touching the bottom or sides of the pan.  Heat this mixture over medium-low heat, stirring very gently, until it reaches 90-degrees F.  Do not worry if the milk looks like it is already curdling a little.

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

When the milk has reached 90 degrees, remove it from the burner and pour in the rennet dissolved in water.

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

Very slowly and gently stir in a circular motion for 30 seconds.  Then use the spoon to make the milk “be still.”  Then place the lid on top of the pot.  If using Junket tablets, you will leave this pot untouched for the next 2 hours.  (If using liquid vegetable rennet, you will only need to leave the pot untouched for 5 minutes, as opposed to 2 hours.  Major time-saver!)

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

After two hours (or 5 minutes, if using the superior rennet I keep suggesting), the rennet will have worked its magic and the milk will be loosely “set”.  Remove the lid from the pot and use a long knife to cut a criss-cross pattern into the thickened milk (allowing the knife to reach all the way to the bottom of the pot while making your cuts.)  These cuts will help divide the curds of cheese so that they can release as much whey as possible during the next steps.  (Note: If the milk is still completely liquid at this stage, it is the fault of those dang Junket tablets.  They work very slowly.  You’ll need to place the lid back on the pot and wait another 1-2 hours, leaving the milk undisturbed.)

Once the milk has set and you’ve cut it into little cubes, return the pot to the burner and heat it, stirring very very gently, until the mixture reaches 105-degrees F.

You’ll start to notice some real separation occurring!

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

When the milk has reached 105 degrees, it is ready to be made into cheese!  Go ahead and remove the pot from the heat…

And use a slotted spoon to transfer the stringy curds of cheese into a large strainer sitting over a large bowl.

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

Fish out all the curds… and whatever you do, don’t throw out the remaining liquid (the whey.)  It’s can be used for cooking and baking in place of water or milk.

Gently swirl the large lump of soon-to-be mozzarella around in the strainer, allowing the whey to drain out.  Isn’t this awesome looking??

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

And gently squeeze it to release more of the whey.

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog

Now, place the mozzarella in a heat-proof bowl and microwave it on High for 1 minute.

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

When you take it out of the microwave, more whey will have been released.  Use your slotted spoon to press against the ball of cheese while pouring off as much whey as you can.  As the cheese cools a bit, you can pick it up and squeeze it gently to release even more.  The idea is to drain off as much whey as you can.

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

After doing this, you will return the cheese to the bowl and put it back in the microwave for 35 seconds.

Then repeat the process of gently squeezing it to release more whey.  (I let my husband do this one since he’s less of a wuss than I am when it comes to touching hot liquids.  But another option that works well is to press the cheese with your slotted spoon and pour the whey off the edge of the bowl, thereby protecting your hands from the heat.)

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

And then one final time you will return the cheese to the microwave for another 35 seconds.  After this last stint in the microwave, you will again pour/squeeze off whatever whey you can, and it is also at this point that you will add in the salt to flavor the cheese.  Gently fold the cheese over itself in the bowl (kneading) to get the salt well mixed in.  (If the cheese seems chunky or resists stretching, it has cooled too much.  Try warming it back up in the microwave very briefly… ten seconds or so.  That should melt it enough to make it stretchy again.)

You can also knead in other spices/herbs if you want to.  Garlic, basil, sundried tomatoes, Italian seasoning, all would be delicious!

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

Then roll the cheese under itself until it forms a neat ball.

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

And submerge it in ice water until it is completely cool.  (If you are not eating the mozzarella right away, store it submerged in salt water or oil in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it.)

Making Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog

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And that’s it!  It is now ready to serve!

And check this out!  After making that whole ball of cheese… this is how much liquid whey we extracted from the curds!  I seriously can’t believe this much was left over.

Whey left over from homemade mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

And isn’t this interesting??  I’ve made mozzarella both with raw milk, and with regular pasteurized milk from the grocery store… and the leftover whey looks very different depending on which type of milk I use.  (The photo above is the whey from a gallon of raw whole milk.  Very creamy and whitish-yellow in color.  But the photo below is the whey from a gallon of grocery store, pasteurized whole milk.  It’s so yellow and watery!  Weird!)

Making fresh mozzarella at home is easy and fun!

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And now… feast your eyes upon THIS!

Homemade Fresh Mozzarella >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

What a proud moment!

Anyway, this stuff is DIVINE served with pesto and garden tomatoes (with a drizzle of Balsamic vinegar.)  Out of this world!  I especially love the taste and texture of it melted.  We threw a few slices on a homemade baguette and toasted them up under the broiler with a sprinkle of Italian seasoning.  To-die-for!

Homemade Fresh Mozzarella~

And I can’t wait to try this stuff in homemade calzones!  That is what Chris wants for his birthday meal… but let’s be honest, it’ll be just as much MY gift as his.  Yum Yum and Yum!

And did I mention how affordable this is?  I did?  Well let me mention that again.  This single serving cost me maybe $4 … and for that four dollars we got a scrumptious hunk of cheese and almost a GALLON of whey protein to drink all week.  (Protein shakes can cost anywhere from $1-$3 for just a 12 oz bottle!)

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I hope this post will inspire you to try something new.  Mozzarella was not nearly as difficult to make as I used to think!  And what a good feeling it was to enjoy the fruits of our labor this evening for dinner.  I can’t wait to make it again!

20 Responses so far.

  1. emily cheatham says:

    Truly amazing, you are, Carissa. I loved the couple pictures in there of Chris’s big man hands. I’m used to only seeing yours on the blog!

  2. Kimmy says:

    This is so awesome! You’re so talented. Great job friend!

  3. Sarah says:

    This is a great tutorial! My best friend just started making his own homemade mozzarella and is super excited about it. I might just have to try it now:)

  4. kouzinista says:

    Great tutorial with wonderful details to go along with the photos. VERY helpful!

  5. […]  :)  For Chris’s Birthday dinner, I decided to save money by making my own pizza dough and my own mozzarella.  I did NOT do these things the day of the meal (because I can only handle so much time in the […]

  6. I’m so happy I stumbled across your blog! My boyfriend and I made mozzarella last night, and it was so fun! And Yummy :)

  7. […] time, your budget, etc.  For my lower-budget, more-time version, I make the dough from scratch and make the mozzarella (because cheese-making is my new-found love!)  But you are welcome to buy frozen pizza dough and […]

  8. Ben Zeller says:

    I read this word for word and then found out this was you… I’ve been looking at Foodgawker now for almost an entire year.. We have like 450 recipes in our “favorites” and it’s been a total blast. Hillary’s told me how you’ve had more than a few recipes put on the site. I think that’s SO cool… I’ve impressed myself a little bit with what we’ve done thus far but basically if you can follow directions you can do a lot more than people think…

    Anyway, it’s cool to see you doing so well and I hope to see more of your stuff on here!

    Say hi to your Dad for me…

    Ben Zeller

    PS. We’re having like 10+ people over for a x-mas dinner party in a month and we’re planning to do caprese salads so we plan to practice this recipe a few times.. I really hope it’s as easy as you make it look.

    • Carissa says:

      Very cool, Ben! Sounds like those Christmas Caprese salads will be a blast!

      I have a few recommendations…
      1) Make your mozzarella a few days ahead to cut down on your stress level the day of your party.
      and
      2) Use a more reliable rennet than Junket. Junket takes forever to set up and is just generally not as reliable. I’d use this one… http://www.amazon.com/Liquid-Vegetable-Rennet-2-oz/dp/B0064OLJ1K/?tag=prethung-20 It’ll set up much more quickly and reliably for you! Have fun cheese-making!!

      P.S. I love Foodgawker too! Such a great site for inspiration!! I’ll tell my dad hey for you.

  9. Ben Zeller says:

    And… I’m a moron cause I thought this thing was just going straight to you and not for everyone out there. Oh well… Still learning.

  10. Ben Zeller says:

    Ok.. This is the second time I’ve tried this and I’m BLOWING it somewhere.. Step by step it seems to do exactly as you say it will but the problem at the end when I’m supposed to stretch it and work the salt in, it’s in no condition to do so.. You’re looks smoother and mine comes apart the second I start to stretch it out. I’m using whole milk and the junket tablets AND I’m using bottled lemon juice and not straight from a lemon so maybe one of those things is the problem…

    Any suggestions?

    • Carissa says:

      So sorry for the frustration, Ben! What you’re describing sounds exactly like my 2nd experience making mozzarella. First time it worked like a charm… but I’m hearing more and more how unreliable the junket tablets are for cheese-making. So I would try a liquid vegetable rennet like this one.
      http://www.amazon.com/Liquid-Vegetable-Rennet-2-oz/dp/B0064OLJ1K/?tag=prethung-20
      Not only will it be more consistently reliable for you, but it takes way less time to curdle the milk than the Junket tablets do.
      As for the problem you mentioned about the cheese not being stretch-able at the end, I’ve heard that sometimes that is the result of too much rennet. I had the exact same problem the 2nd time I made mozzarella, but lucky for me I was chopping it up and melting it for pizza anyway so it didn’t need to be beautiful and smooth. So don’t throw it away, use it for pizza!

  11. […] So sorry for the frustration!  I’ve experienced similar issues and done a fair bit of research on the temperamental process of cheese-making… what you’re describing sounds exactly like my 2nd experience making mozzarella. The first time it worked like a charm, but the second time was a chunky mess!  I want to encourage all readers to give it a try anyway… don’t be intimidated!  My further reading has led me to conclude that the main culprit here is the Junket-brand rennet tablets we are using.  They really are not ideal for cheese-making.  I would recommend trying a liquid vegetable rennet like this one.  Not only will it be more consistently reliable for you, but it works much more quickly than the Junket tablets do… so it’ll speed up the whole process for you!  Just be sure to refer to the instructions on the bottle for how much water to mix with the rennet, instead of the amount listed in my tutorial. […]

  12. Betsy says:

    I just found this recipe via Foodgawker & I am so excited to try it. You make it look so easy! I do have a question. I don’t have a microwave (toaster oven instead) how would you go about warming it up to release more whey!?

    Thanks for your post!! I’m anxious to try it!

    Betsy

    • Carissa says:

      Hi Betsy! I’m sorry to say I was not able to find any helpful info for you about how to make mozzarella without a microwave. (I’m sure it can be done… afterall, cheesemaking has been around a lot longer than microwaves!) But everything I’ve read says that the process of slowly heating the curds in increments at the end, to release the whey, is a delicate process and is easy to overdo… so I’d hate to advise you incorrectly about how to try it with a toaster oven. :( So Sorry I can’t be more help.

      Here is another photo tutorial that I reference often (and this lady actually uses Junket tablets too!)… perhaps the greater detail in this one would be of some extra assistance to you. Best of luck!

      http://www.instructables.com/id/Great-Mozzarella-Cheese/?ALLSTEPS

  13. […] don’t always have the grocery budget to work it into my regular weekly meals, so sometimes I make it myself, and other times I just buy the Americanized shredded version.  But when I do have the fresh stuff […]

  14. Jess says:

    FYI the whey leftover is NOT pure protein.. It’s actually pretty much all carbohydrate (simple sugars) in water. The “whey protein” you buy at the store is an isolate of this, which only makes up a small percentage. Just saving you some confusion if you were wondering why you werent getting the results you want from the protein!

    1 cup of liquid whey has 2 g protein and 13 g carb
    http://www.livestrong.com/article/425693-the-nutrition-in-liquid-whey/