The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to make mozzarella

Four days of milk

My first try with mozzarella tasted and looked a little funny since I used balsamic vinegar to acidify the milk. (That was the only acid I had in the house.) But after a trip to the store to pick up a bottle of lemon juice, my second attempt came together quite easily. Total time: 30 minutes active, 2 hours total in the kitchen, 3 days wait on the milk.

Skimming goat milk

First of all, Leigh warns not to try to make mozzarella until goat's milk is at least three days old. So I started a careful milk-aging system in the fridge --- new jars went in the right side, wrapped around the back, and we drank out of the jar in the front left. The great part about aging the milk before turning it into cheese is that I was able to skim off enough cream to whip as berry topping. Yum!

(Edited to add: I made this later with the cream left in, and I have to admit that whole mozzarella was tastier than skim mozzarella. So you might consider skipping the skimming step.)

Candy thermometerOkay, back to the point. I poured eight cups of three-day-old milk into a stainless-steel pot. Next, I mixed 1/4 cup of lemon juice (bottled) with one cup of water and poured that mixture into the milk, stirring well.

The next step was to warm the milk to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. My jelly thermometer doesn't go down that low, so I used the inside-of-your-wrist test that is recommended for warming water for bread-yeast proofing.

Once the milk was warm, I mixed 1 drop of liquid rennet into 1/4 cup of cold water. Our raw goat milk requires very little rennet, so I then poured half of the rennet-water mixture into my acidified milk. In other words, I ended up only using half a drop of rennet for this recipe, which makes the mozzarella come out at more the consistency I was looking for than the harder, chewier cheese resulting from following a recipe.

After mixing the rennet-water into the acidified milk, I was ready for the first waiting step --- 1 hour for curds to form.

Cheese curd

When you gently tilt your pot of proto-mozzarella and the clearish whey slides away from the solid curd, you're ready to move on to the next stage. Use a knife to cut the curd into squares, then put the pot back on the stove over medium-low heat.

This is where the candy thermometer comes into play. Your goal is to achieve a temperature of 105 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit, then to hold your liquid at that temperature (stirring every five minutes) for thirty-five minutes. During this time, the curds will shrivel and clump together to form a substance much more like mozzarella. Be careful because I feel like overdoing the heat here makes the mozzarella a little chewier than I would have liked.

Mozzarella curds and whey

Now strain the curds from the whey by passing the contents of your pot through a stainless-steel sieve.

Homemade mozzarella

Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the curds, then put them in the microwave (in a microwavable dish) for between 30 seconds. The mozzarella should melt enough to be stretched and easily formed into a ball. If not, put it back in for 15 to 30 seconds before stretching a few times and calling the cheese done.

The result is about six ounces of cheese from two quarts of milk, with the possibility to get more cheese out of the whey later. All told, mozzarella seems a bit more wasteful of milk than cultured cheeses, but it's definitely quick and easy. In fact, there's a 30-minute version knocking around the web that cuts out some of these steps, if you don't mind trading a bit of flavor for time.

What fun to add another homemade cheese to my arsenal!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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