We are getting cheesy


I did it! I made mozzarella! I have to admit, I failed miserably the first two times and ended up with a whole lot of ricotta. The third time, I got what tasted like mozzarella but was a texture of brie, I assumed it was because I did not stretch it or knead it enough.  Later, after reading about cheese making, I learned the true reasons behind my delicious fails–using pasteurized milk and over heating the cheese in the microwave during stretching.

For my birthday, a dear friend gave me a book I have been eyeing for awhile, Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll.  My friends and family know me so well, I got so many great books!

cheese book

A few weeks ago, we made a trip down to a farm and bought two gallons of fresh raw milk.  It was pretty to look at.  A quarter of the gallon was pure cream! You don’t see that at the grocery store because what you think is “whole” milk, is milk that has been centrifuged and all of the cream removed. After centrifugation, “appropriate” percentages of milk fat is added back to the milk, 4% for whole, 2% , 1% and obviously nonfat (the blue milk as we call it on our house).  During this process, factory milk is also pasteurized and homogenized. What do these words mean?

Pasteurize: Heating the milk to 145 degrees for 30 minutes.  There are lots of good google articles about pasteurization.

Homogenized: Physically breaking down the fat molecules in the milk.  Cream top milk is not homogenized. Homogenization changes the molecular structure of milk and there is evidence that this process prevents the delivery of important nutrients to the body.

I read in my book that scalding the milk (bringing it to 140-150 degrees for a minute is sufficient in killing all of the bacteria in the milk and preserving the integrity of most of the protein.  When milk is pasteurized, a lot of the protein is degraded.  So using pasteurized milk may produce a soft mozzarella tasting cheese.  To solve this problem for other hard cheeses, you can add calcium chloride to aid with the clotting of the milk.  Pasteurization also destroys a lot of calcium in the milk and that is an essential for perfect clotting.  Calcium chloride is not added to mozarella because it will prevent the stretching of the cheese.

I gave mozzarella another try using the scalded farm fresh milk and was beyond thrilled that I made cheese!  I used the recipe outline in my new book and it worked great.  Here is the recipe and my experience making my first hard, unaged cheese.

The recipe calls this the 30 minute mozzarella, I would say it took me about an hour, but I am an amateur–one day!  To make about a pound of mozzarella, you will need the following ingredients and equipment:

  • 1 gallon pasteurized whole milk (make sure that your milk is never ultra-pasteurized, as cheese will never be made).   If you have access to raw milk, get it, scald it and use it
  • 1 1/2 tsp. citric acid dissolved in 1 cup of distilled water
  •  ingridients
  • 1/4 tsp. rennet diluted in 1/4 c of distilled water
  • 1 tsp. cheese salt
  • Distilled water
  • Large stainless steel pot
  • Stainless steel slotted spoon
  • Thermometer                                                                                            thermometer

I bought my rennet and  citric acid on Amazon.  A great deal and with prime shipping,  I get free shipping. We are not selling anything for Amazon, I just really like the convenience of having things come to me.

The directions are pretty easy:

      • While stirring add the citric acid solution to milk at 55 degrees if you let your milk stand at room temperature for about an hour, it will be at 55 degrees or higher.  Higher is ok, because you will be heating the milk to 90 degrees in the next step.  Adding citric acid will make the milk a little chunky.  You can use lower fat or skim milk but your yield will be considerably lower.


    • Heat milk to 90 degrees with constant stirring. Remove from heat and slowly add the dilute rennet with an up and down motion for about 30 seconds. Cover and let stand for 5-10 minutes.  (I have left it longer and it only gets better).

      • Check the curd.  It should look like custard.  You should see clear separation from the whey (yellow liquid). Cut the curds using a cheese knife or a long thin spatula.  If the curds are too soft, or the whey is cloudy or milky, let it stand for another five minutes.

curds2 cut curds

      • Place back on the stove and bring up to 105-110 degrees (this will happen fast), while gently moving the curds with a spoon.  Remove from heat and continue to stir slowly for five-ish minutes.

cutting curds

      • Scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon and put into a microwave friendly bowl (2-quart).  Press curds with your spoon or hands to get off as much whey as possible. (Reserve the whey).

curds pouring

    • Microwave the curds for one minute, Drain excess whey, gently fold the cheese over and over (as if you were kneading dough) this will distribute the heat equally.
    • Microwave again for 35 seconds, add about 1 tablespoon of cheese salt, knead and redo one or two more times.
    • When the cheese is hot, knead quickly and stretch (like taffy) as much as you can.  If the curds are not stretching and are rather breaking, it means the cheese is too cold, heat again for 35 minutes.

      • When your cheese is smooth and shiny, roll it into a ball or a log.  You can eat it fresh/warm or place the cheese into ice water to cool cheese rapidly, cover and store in the fridge.  Good for about a week and this recipe should yield about a pound.

cheese balls

This is the ‘fast’ mozzarella recipe. There is the traditional recipe where you use the hot whey instead of the microwave, I read that the microwave method is ideal for beginners.  I have not tried the traditional method as time is lacking most of the time at our house.

There are lots of uses for whey.  You can attempt to make ricotta, but I find that unless you have whey form one gallon of milk, your ricotta recovery is roughly 2 tablespoons but it takes an additional hour or so.  I don’t find the time investment worth while since I can make 3lbs of ricotta from 1 gallon of milk.  Other uses for whey are; substituting whey for milk or buttermilk in pancakes or baked goods, feeding it to your livestock or poultry or watering acid loving plants (blueberries).

Give cheese making a try!  It is super fun and very rewarding!  As of now, for my family I make ricotta/farmers cheese, queso blanco/casero and mozzarella.  Paul is in the process of making me a cheese press and converting a freezer into a cheese cellar (55 degrees)…once he is done…I will be attempting hard aged cheeses…stay tuned!

casero IMG_20140509_210434251

4 Replies to “We are getting cheesy”

  1. Hi, which farmer’s market did you get your milk from? And is there an easy way to figure out which Seattle farmer’s markets would have this milk? Kate bought me some cheese making supplies (including the book you show above) and I want to try it!!

      1. Thanks! It will be a fun little project… or maybe not so little, but totally worth it for fresh Ricotta and Mozzarella/Burrata. 🙂

        1. Totally worth it and it’s not bad if you start with a soft cheese and 30 minute mozzarella…yay! super excited for you Jim, let me know how it goes!! For ricotta and queso blanco, pasteurized milk works really well…play with cheaper milk 🙂

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