You can make your own cheese, and it’ll be tasty, local, and organic. Yes, right in the comfort of your own kitchen, probably with cooking equipment you already have.
If you have an hour of time and an adventurous spirit, you can easily make your own mozzarella cheese. After one failed attempt I made mozzarella cheese in about an hour, though with some practice, it could probably be done in half that time. Mozzarella cheese is one of the easiest cheeses to make and since it can be used in a variety of dishes, sandwiches, pizzas, pasta, etc. it will disappear quickly.
The only two ingredients you’ll need for your cheese that you may not be able to find in your local supermarket are rennet and citric acid, both of which you can purchase cheaply online. If you’re lucky enough to have an extensive local grocery store or cheesemaking shop in your town, you might be able to find them locally.
Besides rennet and citric acid, the only other ingredient that you’ll need is whole milk. You’ll need to read the label carefully and make sure that the milk is NOT labeled “ultra pasteurized”. Ultra pasteurized milk has been heated to a high temperature that kills the bacteria and cultures needed to make cheese. Raw milk or pasteurized milk is OK, and I prefer to get milk from an organic local source.
- Over medium low heat, bring one gallon of whole milk up to 55 degrees and add 1.5 tsp of citric acid (dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water), stir in thoroughly but gently.
- When the mixture gets to 88 degrees add 1/4 tsp of liquid rennet (dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water), stir in gently for about 30 seconds.
- Over medium heat, bring up to 105 degrees and keep it there for five minutes or until curds begin to form and separate from the side of the pot. The whey should be almost clear, if milky white, allow to heat longer.
- With a slotted spoon, scoop out the curds. Don some rubber gloves and gently squeeze out as much whey as you can with your hands forming balls of cheese.
- Place the cheese balls in the microwave (this is the faster method) for 30 seconds and then knead it, just like you would bread, squeezing out whey as you go. Repeat this step several times, until the cheese has a slightly glossy sheen to it and can be pulled like taffy. Add salt after the second kneading.
One of the best aspects of making mozzarella cheese is its simplicity, simplicity of ingredients and necessary equipment. All you will need is a pot large enough to hold a gallon of milk, a slotted spoon, some clean rubber gloves, and a kitchen thermometer. A candy thermometer is preferable to other types as you’ll want a large enough readout in the 100 to 110 degree range. This is the sweet spot for cheese, where you’ll want to hold the temperature of your mixture (once the citric acid and rennet have been added) so the curds can set, so a thermometer that’s easy to read in this range is optimal.
Once you’ve tasted the cheese you can make in your own kitchen, you may be hooked. I’ve added cheese making to my weekly kitchen tasks and enjoy watching the curds set, then massaging the curds into small mozzarella mounds. Sure I still get my other, more complicated cheeses from my local grocer or farmers market, but soon enough I may experiment with another type of cheese with a higher degree of difficulty. Once you’ve made your own cheese, you’re part of an ancient tradition of turning milk into cheese, and you’re part of a select group of people who’ve made homemade cheese.
Just in case you need some ideas for what to do with your delicious homemade mozzarella cheese, check out a recipe for Heirloom Tomato and Summer Squash Torte, or Fun and Easy Homemade Pizza. And though it may be far from organic, read about Kraft Foods Turning Cheese Waste Into Biogas.