Mozzarella Cheese Making Recipe (Cultured)
- 2 Gallons of Milk (Not Ultra Pasteurized)
- 1 1 Packet C201 Thermophilic Culture or 1/4 tsp TA61 Culture
- 1/2 tsp Single Strength Liquid Rennet
- Good Thermometer
- Curd Knife
- Slotted Ladle
- Large Colander
- Large Bowl
- Wooden Spoon
- Cultured Mozzarella Cheese Info
- Q & A
Acidify & Heat Milk
Begin by heating the milk to 100F (38C). You do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of very warm water. If you do this in a pot on the stove make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats
Once the milk is at this target temperature, the culture can be added (from list above). To prevent the powder from caking and sinking in clumps, sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in. The milk will need to ripen for 60 minutes before adding the rennet.
Tip: Before setting up and heating the milk, take 2 cups of the milk, heat to 108F (optimum for the thermophilic), then add your culture to this and stir well. Note the time you do this and allow this to set at this ripening temp for the indicated time.
Then carry on with your set up and milk heating which should take the better part of the hour and when the full milk is heated to your working temp and the ripening time for the mini starter has elapsed, just add it to the full batch and you have saved about an hour in time. **You can move right into the rennet addition.
You can do this with any cheese, just make sure the culture and milk stay proportionate
Add rennet and stir slowly top to bottom for about 30 seconds.
The milk now needs to set undisturbed for 45 minutes while the culture works and the rennet helps form the curd. Keep the milk at the 100F during this period, preferably using a sink or water bath of warm water. It can not be heated on a stove top because of the curd formation.
After setting for about 45 minutes to 1 hour the curd should be ready to cut.
Over a 20 minute span, cut the curd at 2 inch intervals and then make the same cut spacing at right angles to the first cut. Allow this to rest 5 minutes then break the rest of the curd into walnut or hazelnut sized pieces (1" - 1/2" ). The smaller the pieces the more whey will be released and the drier the cheese will be. This is your first control point in determining moisture for the final cheese.
After cutting and a brief stir, allow the curds to settle to the bottom of the pot for one hour, with a brief stir every 5-10 minutes, just to keep the curds separated, to retain the most moisture. Keep the temperature around 100F during this time.
For a drier cheese, more frequent or constant stiring will cause more whey to be released. The temperature can even be increased to 106-108F for more moisture removal.
The curds and whey can now be transferred to a colander or cheese mold to form into a consolidated curd mass.
The whey is allowed to run off and may be collected for other uses. This whey is sweet enough to make into Ricotta since the acid has not been fully produced yet.
At this point it is essential to keep the curds warm because the bacteria is now producing the acid that is so important for a good stretching Mozzarella. The easiest way is to place both curd and the colander or form back into the empty pot and keep this in a sink of warm water to keep the curd at 96-100F.
Once the curd is resting quietly, fill the extra pot with water (about a gallon or so) and bring it to a simmer to be used for the hot water stretch. Traditionally this was done with the whey already heated from the Ricotta making process but water works fine.
Allow the curds to ripen in the warmth for about another 2 hours then begin testing for the stretch. Cut a small piece of curd from the large curd mass and place it in a cup of the hot water tempered to about 180F. Allow this to sit for a few minutes and remove from the hot water. If it stretches, then you are ready for the final hot water stretching phase. If not, continue the warm rest for another 15-20 minutes and repeat the test until you see a good stretch. The stretch should be about 2-3 times the original length of the sample without breaking.
During the final rest, a pot of water should beheated for the stretch.
Stretching Part 1
Once the curds show that they are stretching, the curd mass is placed on a cutting board and chopped into 1/2-1" cubes and placed in the bowl or pot for heating and stretching.
The hot water is then added. Initially, about 2-3 cups are added by pouring at the edge of the curds (not directly on them) and the wooden spoon is used to gently move them around for heating. Gradually they will begin losing their shape and melding (not melting) into a smooth mass. If this is not happening after 3-5 minutes add another 2 -3 cups of hot water until you see the curd mass forming into a stretching mass.
Stretching Part 2
With the wooden spoon you can begin the stretch by lifting this curd mass and allowing it to stretch from its own weight. If the curd mass begins to cool and the stretch becomes less, add more hot water. After doing this a few times and the curd begins to look like taffy, you can lift the curds while turning the spoon and winding into a smooth mass.
At this point you can dump the water and give the stretching curd a few of long pulls, folding it back on itself and the finally rolling it all into a ball. Be careful to not get too carried away with this because it is a lot of fun but you could dry out the cheese excessively if overdone.
During this stretch is a good time to add the salt as per your preferences or any other additions to your Mozzarella. If you want to make one of those amazing Prosciutto rolls this would be the time to do that as well.
For the final form I find it easiest to break the mass into 2 smaller balls (about 1 lb each) because they are easier to handle. Now, hold the warm Mozzarella with thumb and forefinger of one hand using the other hand from underneath to push the curd up inside itself. Continue working the curd in this manner until the ball of cheese becomes smooth and shiny.
If you have ever seen a good pizza dough prep, this is much the same way, the curd is pushed in from below and at the same time the top surface is stretched over this. Finally the opening at the bottom is pinched off with the resulting perfect shiny globe of Mozzarella.
Drop the curd into a small draining mold to hold the shape and place the form and cheese into a very cold pot of water to chill and hold its shape. During the winter I just set it all outdoors. An hour or so of this and it is ready to be eaten or wrapped and kept in the fridge for a day or so.
There is not much to say on this because it should not be kept that long unless you are making a drier style Mozzarella. I simply wrap mine in a breathable Saran Wrap and keep it in the fridge for a day or so.
Tip: this might just be the best tip on this page. For those who really love Mozzarella, you can make a huge batch of the curd mass, cut it into single use (1 lb) portions and freeze it. When ready for more fresh Mozzarella, just place the frozen portion in the fridge to thaw overnight and the next day heat up the water for stretching and Voila, fresh Mozzarella.
You should know that most shops selling fresh Mozzarella buy frozen curd, in bulk, then thaw and heat for the finished fresh Mozzarella every day.
Notes on Making Mozzarella
In making Mozzarella with a lactic bacteria starter culture, this “cultured” mozzarella is much more flavorful because the bacteria produce their own flavor as they convert the lactose in the milk.
Cultured mozzarella can be made using either thermophilic cultures (used for high temperature cheeses) or mesophilic cultures (for low temperature cheeses).
The cheese can be made from full fat milk as well as low fat milk-the difference will be less flavor in the latter.
If a soft moist cheese is made, it is best eaten within a day or so (in Italy this would be considered fresh for only a few hours). The drier cheese however can be aged for longer depending on final moisture and will actually improve with a few days aging because of the live bacteria that are still working after the cheese cools and changes the protein structure.
Different Types of Milk
For this recipe I have used a range of milks, starting with a pasteurized and homogenized milk and then working with a higher temperature pasteurized milk that can be problematic. I have also included a great quality raw milk from a local farm for anyone with raw milk.
I have also focused on using a good thermophilic culture such as our C201 or TA61 but have had great results using the Y1 Yogurt culture as well.
The recipe and photos below will be for a normal pasteurized milk since so many of our customers have access to this.
I have included a chart here to guide you in using various milk resources:
- Normal Pasteurized Milk 161F for 16 seconds | Follow the guidelines in this recipe
- High Temp Pasteurization 168F+ for 20+ seconds | Increase rennet 50-100% plus increase the coagulation time by 2-3 times the amount specified in this recipe.
Raw milk | Reduce culture by 30-40% and rennet by 20-30%. After cutting the curd, reduce cook temperatures by 6-10 degrees, for a softer final cheese.
Note: Raw milk is not homogenized and the fat % is usually greater than can be held by the curd so you may see a much cloudier whey. This cream can be recovered by allowing it to rise and then skimming it off. It is good for butter or making sour cream since it also contains the bacteria.
- Ultra-Pasteurized Milk | It will not work due to protein damage and calcium changes.
What is Mozzarella Cheese
Mozzarella could be the first thing that pops into your head when we mention Formaggio and Italy. It simply means small bits cut off a larger cheese (mozzare, to cut off). But what is it, how does a fresh and mild cheese get such a reputation.
With Mozzarella it is all about the quality of the milk and the freshness of the cheese. In Italy freshness is measured in hours rather than days from its production.
A Cheese that Stretches
Mozzarella is a stretched curd cheese (Pasta Filata). It is best produced from very fresh milk in which the natural or added dairy bacteria convert the sweet lactose in the milk to lactic acid. When the acid level reaches a specific point and the curd is held in hot water, it changes from the normal curd structure to a cheese stretching out into long elastic strands that are worked into the smaller forms and shapes.
This process can include a wide range of cheeses ranging from the very freshest Mozzarella to the longer aged Caciocavallo, Provolone, and Ragusano styles distinguished by their final moisture levels. High moisture for the fresh cheese and low moisture for longer aging.
Those tiny little Boconccini in the deli, the soft moist "fior di latte" that are like a moist cloud of milky flavor, The small hanging pairs of Scamorza and Scamorza Affumicata (Smoke) cheeses, The big block of Pizza cheese that can be sliced and shredded. How can they all be Mozzarella?
All of these cheeses are stretched curd cheeses made with a similar process. The difference in texture and moisture however is due to the temperature at which they are made, how long they are stirred and how much stretching is done. Just to give a little more perspective here, if we take this process even further with more curd cutting, heating, and stirring we can then move the same milk along into cheeses that are drier, longer aged, and with very strong flavors such as Provolone.
Variations in Style
- Mozzarella di Bufala- The original mozzarella from water buffalo in southern Italy. Yes, water buffalo, the same creatures you see plodding through the rice paddies in the Far East but brought into Italy centuries ago to work the land in southern Italy. This is a moister version of the cheese with a very rich flavor due to the higher fat of the buffalo milk.
- Fresh Mozzarella from cows milk. Much of the Mozzarella we see today is made from cow's milk. This is usually the softer moister cheese that we see in delis and usually has a shorter shelf life.
- Low-moisture Mozzarella AKA pizza cheese. This is usually a drier cheese that is often made with reduced fat milk. This is the cheese that pizza shops buy and can be stored and aged for much longer than the fresh Mozzarella.
- The stretched Mozzarella wrappers for cheese such as Burrata and Manteca. The fresh cheese of rich cream mixed with small curd bits or butter made from whey cream is wrapped inside a wrapper of the stretched Mozzarella cheese.
- Goat or ewe's milk Mozzarella? Yes, the Mozzarella can be made from goat's milk as well as ewe's milk but the ewes milk version is quite unusual.