Grit Blogs > Recipes From the Micro-Dairy

Traditional Slow Mozzarella

By Jana Smart Koschak

Tags: Cheese Making, Mozzarella, Slow Recipe, Traditional, Culturing, Rennet, Curds, Jana Smart Koschak,

Jana Smart KoschakLike many home cheese makers, I have made my fair share of “30-minute” mozzarella – a recipe that calls for direct acidification with vinegar or citric acid. Though its simple formula gives almost instantaneous results, I have always found this version to be a bit lacking in flavor. I prefer the traditional method of using a starter culture to slowly acidify the milk over the course of hours. It will take most of an afternoon to make, but can be unattended for much of that time. This recipe is for 2 gallons of milk.

Phase 1: Heating and Culturing

If you are using raw milk, simply heat to 98-100 F. If you want to pasteurize your milk, heat to 145 F for 30 minutes). Cool milk down to 98-100 F. I like to use my kitchen sink as a cheese “vat," by placing a stainless steel pot full of milk in the sink and filling it with hot tap water. This is a gentle way to heat the milk and will prevent any scorching.

Milk warming in the sink

Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of TA 61 or other thermophilic culture on top of the milk and gently stir for 1-2 minutes. Let milk ripen for an hour. Maintain temperature between 98-100 F. You may need to drain and replace the hot water in the sink.

Culture collage

Phase 2: Rennet and Cut

After milk has ripened (it should smell slightly tangy), add 1/2 teaspoon of single-strength liquid rennet mixed with a little cool, tap water. Stir in a gentle up and down motion for 1-2 minutes, being careful not so cause too much turbulence in the pot.

The curd should be set after 45 minutes. Check for a “clean break.”

Checking curd

Phase 3: Stirring, Cutting and Draining

Using a straight-blade knife, make horizontal and vertical cuts in the curd (about 2 inches apart). Let rest for 5 minutes.

Curds cut

Gently stirring, cut the curds into hazelnut sized pieces with a butter knife. Maintain the temperature at 98-100 F and gently stir for 20 minutes. The smaller you cut the pieces, the drier your cheese will be, so stop stirring if your curds are getting too small.

Cutting collage

Let the curds settle under the whey for 45 minutes to an hour. If you have a PH meter, it should read 6.0.

Drain off the whey, first by ladling, then by slowly dumping curds and whey into a colander lined with cheesecloth. Gently press whey out of curds. Keep the cakes warm (95-100 F) to continue developing the acidity you will need for a good stretch. I recommend simply putting the curds back into the pot in the sink filled with warm water. Let rest for about 2 hours. You are building the final amount of acid needed before the stretch! In the meantime, heat up a pot water on the stove to 170-180 F.

Draining whey

Phase 4: Stretching

*Before you begin stretching, test your curd for readiness. Place a small chunk of curd in some of the hot 180 F water and leave it for a few minutes. If the curd stretches, you are ready to process the rest of your curd. If it doesn’t seem to be stretching, let the curd mass rest in the sink for another 20 minutes.

Once the curd is ready, cut your mass into large chunks and place one in a medium-sized stainless steel bowl. Sprinkle salt as desired (I recommend starting with an ounce and working up from there), then pour the hot water over the curd and let sit the 180 F water for a few minutes. Using wooden spoons or your hands (with rubber gloves!), begin to stretch the curd by holding it and letting it drop from its own weight. Once it seems pliable, you can begin to pull on either end and fold it in on itself to form a ball. If it seems uncooperative, add some more hot water to the bowl and give it another dunk.

Shaping collage

Once you have finished forming your mozzarella, place them in a bowl of cool water to help hold their shape. When you are ready to store your cheese, place the balls in an airtight container with a brine made of  1/2 gallon of water, 1 ounce salt, 1 teaspoon calcium chloride, and 1/2 teaspoon vinegar. If you plan on eating it in the next few days, you can also wrap it in cheese paper or plastic wrap.

karla uphoff
1/2/2014 10:22:18 AM

Thank you so much for your reply. I made this cheese yesterday and it came out beautifully!

1/2/2014 10:05:13 AM

(I've tried posting responses a few times with no luck, hope this works!) Karla--Yes, you need to refrigerate the cheese one you place it in the brine. NebraskaDave--Thank you for the comment. Good luck on your cheesemaking endeavors! Juan Pablo Rivas--You should read my first blog post on milk for cheesemaking. In short, you can use store bought milk as long as its not Ultra-Pasteurized. Non-homogenized or "creamline" milk is best.

1/2/2014 7:42:01 AM

Karla--Yes, it should be stored in the fridge. Good luck on your cheesemaking endeavors! Nebraska Dave--Thanks for the comment. Good luck! Juan Pablo Rivas--Check out my first blog post that goes over obtaining milk for cheesemaking. In short, store bought milk is fine as long as it isn't Ultra-Pasteurized. Also, it is best to use "creamline" or non-homogenized milk.

karla uphoff
12/31/2013 4:08:43 PM

Thank you so much for these instructions! Do the cheese balls stored in the brine need refrigeration? Thanks again.

12/22/2013 9:09:25 AM

Jana, I always had envisioned that cheese making was difficult but your post makes it look easy. Like bread making it's not hard but just takes some time. It's not something I try to fit into a busy schedule. Now that gardening season is over and time is more available, I might just try a to make a curd or two of cheese. ***** Have a great cheese making day.

juan pablo rivas
12/21/2013 11:27:38 PM

How do you go about obtaining raw milk? I live in N.C., Here no one will sell you raw milk, and of course I don't own a cow, can regular store bought milk be used?

juan pablo rivas
12/21/2013 11:04:54 PM

How do you go about obtaining raw milk? I live in N.C., Here no one will sell you raw milk, and of course I don't own a cow, can regular store bought milk be used?