“Cheese Queen” Ricki Carroll’s recipe for quick, creamy, fresh mozzarella is perfectly suited to the beginner cheese maker.
Fresh cheeses like mozzarella require little equipment and are excellent choices for beginning cheese makers, as they are quick, delicious, and easy to make — no fermenting or aging required.
Many of these high-moisture cheeses are called bag cheeses because the curds are drained in a “bag” of butter muslin. They are made by coagulating milk or cream with cheese starter or with an acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice. Some recipes call for a little rennet to help firm the curds.
It’s important to drain fresh cheeses in a place where the temperature stays close to 72°F (22°C) — usually the kitchen. If the temperature and humidity are too high, you will have problems with yeast, which may produce a gassy, off-flavored cheese. If the temperature is too low, the cheese will not drain properly. The yield from 1 gallon of milk is usually 1½ to 2 pounds of soft cheese, depending on the type of milk you use and the desired consistency of the cheese. The greater the butterfat content, the higher the cheese yield.
Fast, Fresh Mozzarella
This is a quick and easy way to make fresh mozzarella at home in less than 30 minutes if your milk is not ultrapasteurized. The protein in ultrapasteurized milk is denatured and it will leave you with a ricotta-like product rather than mozzarella. If all you can find is ultrapasteurized milk, a delicious alternative is to use dry milk powder and cream. Make 1 gallon of milk and let it sit overnight at room temperature. To make mozzarella, use 7 pints of the reconstituted milk with 1 pint of light cream or half-and-half. (Because of the ratio of cream to milk, the cream can be ultrapasteurized.) You may use skim milk in this recipe, but the yield will be lower and the cheese will be drier.
The curds are heated to a very high temperature to produce that famous mozzarella stretchiness. Have a pair of heavy rubber gloves and a wooden spoon handy for working the curd in hot water.
Yield: ¾–1 pound
- 1 teaspoon citric acid dissolved in 1 cup cool water
- 1 gallon pasteurized whole milk (not ultrapasteurized)
- ¼ teaspoon liquid rennet (or ¼ rennet tablet) diluted in ¼ cup cool, nonchlorinated water
- 1 teaspoon cheese salt (optional)
- Pour the citric acid solution into the pot, add the milk, and stir well. Heat the milk to 90°F (32°C) then remove the pot from the stove. Some curdling will begin as the milk is heated, which is fine.
- Add the rennet solution and stir slowly with an up-and-down motion for 30 seconds. Cover and let set for 5 minutes, or until a solid curd forms. Test it by gently pressing with the back of your hand on the curd near the side of the pot to see if it pulls away and shows some clear whey. If the curd is soft, wait another 5 minutes.
- Cut the curd into 1-inch cubes. Return the pot to the stove and heat the curds to 105°F (41°C). Remove from the heat and stir slowly for 2–5 minutes. (The longer you stir, the firmer the final cheese will be.)
- With a slotted spoon, scoop the curds into a colander set over a bowl. Gently press on the curd mass and fold it over on itself a few times to release more whey.
- In another pot, heat a quart of water to 180°F (82°C).
- Turn the curd mass onto a cutting board and cut it into ⅛-inch slices, similar to a brisket. Submerge the slices into the hot water and using a slotted spoon or your gloved hands, quickly work the pieces of curd by pressing them together and folding them over to heat evenly and for one mass. (You can do this step with half of the curds at a time for ease of handling.)
- Once the pieces form a mass, begin to pull it out of the water with a spoon, letting the curd stretch down from the spoon and then folding it back on itself. Repeat several times until it becomes smooth and elastic. If it isn’t stretching, check your water temperature and adjust if needed. If the curd becomes too cool, it will start to break rather than stretch. If this happens, dip it back into the hot water.
- Once the curd stretches like taffy and develops a sheen, you can roll it into a ball, shape it into a braid, or leave it in long strands. Place the cheese into a bowl of 50°F (10°C) water for 5 minutes and then into a bowl of ice water for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, if using, and eat it up or store for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
If the curds turn into the consistency of ricotta, try another brand of milk. It may have been pasteurized at too high a temperature. I find anything pasteurized over 171°F (77°C) will not work with this recipe.