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Creating things that you typically only ever buy is stores is fascinating to me. I’m not sure if that’s come across in this blog yet or not…

Recently I’ve been wanting to learn how to make my own cheese. I’ve made paneer quite a few times, because it’s super simple (milk and lemon juice, and salt if you want) but I wanted to make some real cheese. I heard mozzarella is one of the easiest, so I figured, why not?

I tried the recipe the first time using a gallon of whole milk from Aldi. It was… ok, but it didn’t stretch or form into a mozzarella-like cheese. It did taste ok, just too crumbly. So I tried again with a gallon of organic whole milk, and that made quite a difference. This blog illustrates that event.

The ingredients that you need to make homemade mozzarella are

-a gallon of milk (organic, though I’ve heard raw milk is the best)

-sea salt (or cheese salt., it just needs to be non-iodized)

-1 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid (you can get this at a beer & wine making shop, a health food shop, or on-line if you don’t have either of those close by)

-1/4 teaspoon of vegetable rennet (you can find this stuff the same places you can find the citric acid. Also, if you can only find the rennet tablets, the conversion is 1/4 teaspoon of liquid rennet = 1/4 of a rennet tablet dissolved in a 1/4 cup of cold water)

This website has a lot of awesome cheese-making tips and you can order stuff on-line from them; they seem to have the best prices.

You’ll also need:

-a big pot

-a slotted spoon

-a food thermometer

-a microwave-safe bowl, like a casserole dish

To start the cheese-making process, pour the entire gallon of milk into your large pot on the stove and put your thermometer into the milk. Set the stove-top on low and stir in your citric acid. Slowly heat the milk until your thermometer reads 95°F. Turn off the heat and pout in your measured rennet. Stir slowly and continually for 30 seconds and no more. Now let your milk sit completely still for 3 minutes. Extra agitation can mess up the entire batch. During these 3 minutes the curds will begin to separate from the whey.

After 3 minutes, gently run a sharp knife through the curds in order to break them up. Be sure to cut all the way to the bottom of the pot. Using your slotted spoon, scoop the curds into your microwavable dish. I used my hands to get all the little crumbs of cheese.

You can keep the whey to use in cooking if you like, I used mine in place of water for pizza dough, bread, soup, etc. It’s got a lot of vitamins and stuff.

Drain as much of the whey off your cheese as you can, pressing down on it with your hand to squeeze whey out of it. Microwave your bowl of curds for one minute. Squeeze more whey off, then microwave for 30 more seconds. Again, use your hand to squeeze off whey, and then start kneading the cheese. This was the most painful part of the cheese-making, because those curds are so hot. I constantly kept running my handing under cold water in between kneading. Your cheese should become like bread dough. If it still seems too crumbly try microwaving it for another 30 seconds, knead it some more, and microwave it again. Heating it kind of melts the curds together and helps them to become stretchy. While you do all this kneading add a generous pinch or two of sea salt.

Once it’s at a good dough-like or stretchy consistency form it into a smooth round shape. I pulled my cheese under a handful of times to create a nice smooth and uniformed shape.

In that last photo there you might’ve noticed the cheese is underwater. From what I’ve read, homemade mozzarella doesn’t last real long, a couple days at most. It’s best when eaten fresh, and if you store it in the fridge it’s recommended that you submerge it in water. When the water gets cloudy simply drain it and add fresh water.

If you’re excited to try out your new cheese immediately after you make it, I’d recommend thick slices with fresh tomato, basil, olive oil, and cracked pepper. (Minus the olive oil & pepper, everything here was either homemade or from my garden!! So exciting!!)

Another thing I did to make the cheese last longer was to shred it while it was still fresh, then freeze the shredded cheese. And remember my tomato sauce post…? How about homemade tomato sauce, on homemade pizza crust (made with left over whey) topped with homemade mozzarella?! Yes. (Also, you’ll notice that for half of this pizza I used pesto instead of sauce. Yes, I made that too, using basil from my back yard. I CAN DO ANYTHING!)