Dear Test Kitchen is back for season 2 and ready to take on all your kitchen conundrums. In this episode, Test Kitchen Director Josh Cohen and cheese expert Elena Santogade are whipping up a batch of perfect, creamy fresh mozzarella. Watch them mix, stir, and stretch in the video above, then follow the step-by-step guide below to do it at home, and read on for the recipe at the very bottom.
How to Make Fresh Mozzarella at Home
First things first, you have to make the curd. Start by dissolving rennet (on the left) and citric acid (on the right) in water. We prefer the rennet tablets over the liquid rennet. You can order these ingredients online from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company, which also has some nifty cheesemaking kits.
You can also buy mozzarella curd from a local cheese shop (which Josh and Elena use in part two of the video above), but making it from scratch doesn't take very long, so why not?
Set your dissolved citric acid and rennet aside for now and start to warm your milk. Place a 5-quart pot into a large bowl with enough room to pour water around the sides. Pour your milk into the pot and add warm water to the bowl—you're creating a water bath to gently heat up the milk. Once it reaches 86°F, add the citric acid solution and give it gentle stir with a slotted spoon to evenly distribute. Allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes at 86°F.
After 10 minutes, add more warm water to the bowl to bring the temperature of the milk up to 90°F. Once the milk reaches 90°F, add the rennet mixture. Very gently stir the milk in an up and down motion to disperse the rennet for about 1 minute, taking care not to stir too vigorously. Allow the mixture to sit for about 30 minutes.
At this point, the curds will have come together into a solid-looking mass. Add more warm water to the bowl to bring the mixture up to 105°F and allow to sit for about 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, it's time to drain the curds. Place a colander on top of a bowl. Use a slotted spoon to lift the curds and place them into the colander. Let the whey drain off.
Lift the colander to keep draining the whey. Using your hands, very gently (that's the key word when dealing with curds) press the whey out of the curds.
When your curds are drained, break them up into evenly sized pieces. Your curds are ready, so now it's time to make the mozzarella.
You need hot water for the next step—as hot as your hands can handle. We've found that 180°F is a good temperature for this step, but do be careful when you're testing the water with your hands. Wearing food-safe gloves can help protect your hands from the heat if you're sensitive. Once you've added the water to the bowl, gently drop curds into the water to start warming them up.
Using a large spoon, lift the curds to see if they're ready for kneading. They're ready when they are melty-looking, like in the photo on the right.
Now's the fun part: stretch and knead!
And stretch and knead, salting with sea salt along the way. If the cheese starts to get cold and stiff, dunk it back into the hot water, and swap in more hot water as needed. Keep doing this until the cheese starts to feel smooth—you don't want your mozzarella to have a rough, flaky exterior. This can take anywhere from 5-20 minutes.
Then form the cheese into a ball, or any other shape you might want.
There you have it.
Garnish as you like, and enjoy.
Makes 1 large or 2 small mozzarella balls
1/4 rennet enzyme tablet
1/4 cup cold filtered water (to mix with the rennet)
1 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
1 cup cold filtered water (to mix with the citric acid)
1 gallon whole milk (non-homogenized is best)
Salt to taste
Photos by James Ransom