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June Kitchen Challenge Results: Mozzarella

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

June Kitchen Challenge - MozzarellaI’ve got mixed feelings about this challenge. While what I produced was technically mozzarella, it wasn’t anything special. Although I was comparing the final product to what I consider the “gold standard” of cheese: Tom’s homemade mozzarella. Orbs of milky white, tender layers, gloriously melty and perfect for pizza or caprese. It’s incredible. And ready every Saturday.

My mozzarella, however, was firmer, slightly rubbery, more yellow in color, and melted like what I’d expect from a cheap frozen pizza.

Although we ate it and it made for a perfectly acceptable caprese, it wasn’t anything like Tom’s, and thus, slightly disappointing.

It was a learning experience, that’s for sure, but I am not entirely convinced that the time and effort is worth it. I’ve made it twice now (the first time, I forgot the salt, and then I went and inadvertently deleted all the pictures from my camera before I could transfer them to my computer, hence the need for batch #2). Needless to say, I don’t think there’ll be a batch #3 any time soon.

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

Curds. Very, very soft curds that were almost impossible not to break while stirring. The second time was even softer than the first, despite the fact that I heated the milk a few degrees warmer than before. I wish I had a reference point to know whether this was “normal” or if I screwed something up in the process.

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

After straining, the soft curds pretty much disintegrated into what looked like cottage cheese. I almost gave up at this point.

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

Luckily, however, the cheese did seem to come together after microwaving. Tip: get some clean rubber gloves. The first time I did this, I burned my hands pretty badly trying to handle it. Ouch.

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

$7 worth of local milk and an hour of my time and all I get are two lousy balls?

Just for reference, I used the method/instructions outlined here, with good quality local milk (from JD Country Dairy the first time, Hatcher Farms the second) and double-strength liquid vegetable rennet (would animal have produced better results, perhaps?)

I’ll call this mission accomplished, but I’m ready to move on to the next challenge.

I did have a few takers on this challenge, some of whom had mixed results like I did. Oh well, I guess every month can’t be a resounding success. We’ll just chalk it up to a learning experience and move on to something better next month.

Kitchen Challenge, Mozzarella: Cassie

Kitchen Challenge, Mozzarella: April

Kitchen Challenge, Mozzarella: Erin

Kitchen Challenge, Mozzarella: Erin

Kitchen Challenge, Mozzarella: Meghan

I think the turnout this month reflects my tepid thoughts on the subject, or maybe more folks tried it and didn’t produce anything even worth submitting. Which means, next month’s challenge has got to be good to make up for it. Something over the top delicious. Shall we tackle something sweet? Or perhaps something yeasty? What say you?

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37 CommentsLeave a Comment →

  1. 1
    Mark S
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 7:59 am

    I’m big on DIY but I’ve come to the conclusion that some things, like cheese making, which I could technically do myself, are nevertheless better left to professionals who do it all the time and thus have the art mastered. It’s just not worth it for the investment of time and the quality of the product I get out of it.

    Reply

  2. 2
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 8:04 am

    I’ve made ricotta and mascarpone at home but I don’t really have the urge to tackle mozzarella…I feel like it’s the kind of thing that’s best made by the experts although it’s interesting to see how it can be done. Looking forward to the next challenge and I hope I’ll be organised enough to take part this time!

    Reply

  3. 3
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Oddly enough, I’m a little comforted by the fact that you had mixed results. I’ve made this a few times and have had inconsistent experiences. The first time was easy peasy, the curds were nice and big and I was able to do the microwave and stretch. The second time was awful and the curds wouldn’t form no matter what I did. Were you able to save the whey and make ricotta? I want to make mozz again and use more milk. The amount of ricotta from a half gallon of milk is minimal; I felt better about the fact that I wasn’t wasting, but it didn’t seem like it was worth the effort.

    Reply

    • Posted On June 28, 2013 at 10:44 am

      I didn’t think to try ricotta. I saved some of the whey for smoothies, used some in a batch of pizza dough, and then used the rest to water my tomatoes. haha. Nothing went to waste!

  4. 4
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 8:11 am

    I almost tried this challenge, however I couldn’t find rennet or milk that wasn’t Ultra Pasteurized. I think the lower turnout of participants had more to do with the difficulty of finding the ingredients.

    Reply

  5. 5
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Great recap on your Homemade Mozzarella Cheese challenge, Lindsay! Very well written. I, too, wonder what the difference would have been when using animal rennet vs. vegetable. I have never made homemade cheese before (just yogurt), but have wanted to try. Good for you on your attempts!

    Reply

  6. 6
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I’ve actually never made it, but that photo of you stretching the cheese out makes me cry. I want to lick that.

    Reply

  7. 7
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 8:42 am

    I was all excited to participate this month, and tried a batch – but it just didn’t turn out at all. Kind of like a gooey mound of uniform cottage cheese – or something like that. Don’t know if I’ll try it again for the same reason as noted above – is it worth another gallon of milk + time?

    Reply

  8. 8
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Stinks your results weren’t what you had hoped for! Your cheese certainly looked better than mine, but I really liked how mine tasted. Although after I let the leftovers sit in the fridge it kinda got all mushy. Oh well! I’m down for something sweet or yeasty next month. Homemade yogurt could be fun too.

    Reply

  9. 9
    Kathleen/The Bloomy Rind
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Good on you for giving it a go! I had similar experiences when I made mozz: lots of time, effort, and expense with underwhelming results. And all the dang websites about it make it sound so easy, so I felt like a nimrod that it was hard for me. It was the beginning of a deeper appreciation for cheesemaking.

    One thing you might try is starting mozzarella curd. That’s what Tom does. The pH of the curd is what makes it stretchable. So if you take that variable out of the equation by starting with curd that is already where it needs to be, I think you’ll have happier results. Of course you still have to put your hands in really hot water!

    Btw, the yellower cheese is because you used grassfed milk. That golden color is the beta carotine from the grass coming through in the milk. It’s a good thing.

    Reply

  10. 10
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 8:50 am

    I love this. I am going to try my hand at making mozzarella as well. Toughest challenge that I’ve had is finding the curd, so I appreciate the inspiration. Well worth making if I can get it right. I feel the way about calamari as you do about mozzarella. Rather buy than make from scratch. If I figure any tips or tricks, I’ll share and maybe you’ll give it one more try :)

    Reply

  11. 11
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Just a suggestion – as a cook I’ve tried making my own curds a ton of times and love the challenge. But if you are looking for a really amazing result – I think some of the best curds out there are being produced by Rynn and her husband down at Caputo Brothers in PA. They make a pasteurized curd that you can use to make mozz from…it’s tangy and remarkable, a really good product. Just wanted to share – its made my home mozz making and work mozz making much improved. Good Luck!

    Reply

  12. 12
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 9:43 am

    This post AND your picture with the gloves on reminded me of my experiences making string cheese. I made it once and it turned out awesome, but tried it twice after that and it was just eh – haven’t tried mozzarella from scratch yet, but when I do, I’ll have to use those curds to try the string cheese again. I think I over-melted the curds or something. Maybe the first batch was just a case of beginners luck? :(

    Reply

  13. 13
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 9:52 am

    My first batch was awful and the curds were too mushy and never came together after microwaving so I gave up. I am up for something sweet or yeasty next month!! Hopefully I’ll have better luck.

    Reply

  14. 14
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 9:53 am

    “I went and inadvertently deleted all the pictures from my camera before I could transfer them to my computer,” <– omg that is a huge fear of mine and I triple check before I delete things if I made a mistake or to make sure the pics are REALLY on my computer. Shudder.to think of a lost photo shoot, remaking a recipe(s), reshoot(s). So sorry that happened to you!

    Cheesemaking. If I wasn't up against other massive deadlines and projects I may have joined you, but as you said, the local milk$$, the time, and energy, meh, I dunno. As you said, mixed bag.

    However for next month, sweet or yeasty, I am on board. I think. If you say macarons or some super complicated braiding for dough or something that looks like it belongs on a Saveur cover and totally perfect, I am not good as sweets or yeasts like that :)

    Reply

  15. 15
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Though the Mozzarella Challenge was a little more difficult than I had anticipated, I am glad I at least came out with a few good balls of mozzarella. I am thinking of trying again and maybe adding some herbs this time… I can’t wait for the next challenge! How about something yeasty and sweet? Or is that asking for trouble….?

    Reply

  16. 16
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    I just started following your blog (love it!) and I’ve made mozzarella twice before. It is way more difficult than it looks! The only thing I will say is that our cheese was better the second time we made it, which means maybe everyone will be more successful the next time around? I’m excited for your next challenge so I can actually take part!

    Reply

  17. 17
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Homemade Mozz!!! Oh my gosh, I wish you lived next door!

    Reply

  18. 18
    Sharon/Franklin Farmers Market Cookbook
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    I would say that it’s Tom’s curds that have magic in them, but when I went to a cheese makeing class at Whole Foods we used Tom’s curds and the result (with an instructor at our side) was certainly not as good as the cheese we buy from Lazzaroli. I think it must be Tom’s hands that have the magic.

    Reply

  19. 19
    Nessa
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Looks really good! Probably amaaaazing in caprese :)

    Reply

  20. 20
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Sorry you didn’t have the exact results you were hoping for, but hey, I’d still gobble it up! It looks gorgeous. Thanks for sharing this interesting (and I bet challenging) challenge, Lindsay!

    Reply

  21. 21
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    It’s in my todo list, to make fresh mozzarella and now that you mentioned I HAVE to get a rubber gloves before that.

    Reply

  22. 22
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    I can see how it would just be much easier to mosey on over to the grocery and just buy some fresh mozzarella, but what an adventure into the world of cheese you had. I do love the photo of the pulling of the cheese…and it looks beautiful by the way. Some things are great just to try, but only once or twice….I think I will just live vicariously through your experience.
    On the other hand we do live within a block or two from Tom’s/Lazzarolis so maybe I will just continue to let him do the hard part!

    Reply

  23. 23
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    I have never made mozzarella, but I am bummed to hear you were not all that excited about it. It looks delicious though!

    Reply

  24. 24
    Posted On June 24, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    I’ve made paneer and ricotta cheeses at home. But mozzarella is just another ball-game. Thanks for sharing the whole experience. It looks quite tricky, but I hope to try my hands on making some soon.

    Reply

  25. 25
    Posted On June 25, 2013 at 5:08 am

    So scared to make my own cheese, but this looks like a success!

    Reply

  26. 26
    Posted On June 25, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Hmm.. I desperately wanted to participate and try this. I couldn’t find the ingredients in stores that I checked, and then I got cold feet when I was about to order online. I was going to follow Pioneer Woman’s method, which is really very similar to a lot of others that I saw. Not sure if I’ll try it now. Honestly, your cheese looks really good (and so do the others), but I know I probably can’t do any better than you, and if you weren’t blown away then.. maybe it’s not worth it. I think it’s awesome though that you tried it in the first place and shared with us anyway!

    Reply

  27. 27
    Posted On June 25, 2013 at 10:25 am

    I tired the mozzarella challenge, and I failed no less than 5 times. (Thankfully, I wasn’t discouraged and kept trying!) My first batch came out “okay”, but I forgot to add the citric acid so the cheese wasn’t the right consistency. After that, I swear I kept doing the exact same process, but the cheese curdled and would not set up in the tofu state. Finally I figured out that the rennet I purchased was double strength! When I reduced the rennet in the last batch, the cheese finally set up properly! Needless to say, $25 in milk later (Yay for fancy Whole Foods milk!), I was less than impressed… But your challenge did motivate me to try making homemade pizza dough (including a batch of chocolate dough for dessert pizza!), which turned out amazing! Looking forward to participating in the next one! :)

    Reply

  28. 28
    Posted On June 25, 2013 at 10:54 am

    It is VERY cool that you did it, though! I want to try making my own sometime, too.

    Reply

  29. 29
    Mickey Ross
    Posted On June 25, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    I just ran across this artical.
    I make my own mozzerrela cheese every week and it so much better than anything I can buy in the store. I do double the amount of salt that most recipes ask for. yea, those rubber gloves are needed.

    I do however have my own dairy cow living in the barn in the backyard. I have a small personal hobby farm. I do pasturize my milk at temperatures of 145 degrees for 30 minutes, but it is non homogenized and think homogenization may be a factor. Also my cow is feed is all natural and good quality hay.

    Reply

  30. 30
    Posted On June 25, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    This looks delicious. I can’t wait to try this.

    Reply

  31. 31
    Posted On June 26, 2013 at 6:45 am

    You are a master in the kitchen. Who makes their own mozzarella!!! you rock lady.

    Reply

  32. 32
    Posted On June 27, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Oh wow, I am in love with this! It looks so perfect, you rock :)

    Reply

  33. 33
    Sue
    Posted On June 27, 2013 at 10:18 am

    My husband got me a DIY cheese kit from Etsy for my birthday and the first thing I tried was mozzarella. I used organic homogenized milk and had pretty good results. It was easier than I expected, my curds came up just fine, but I wasn’t sure how long to stretch and knead the cheese. My cheese tasted fine, but it wasn’t as good as a good quality store bought mozzarella and it melted slightly strangely. Did I over work it?

    Reply

  34. 34
    Posted On June 27, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    I think too soft curds can happen easier with milk that has been pasteurized at a very high temperature (ultra high pasteurization). I have found much easier cheese making with raw milk (expensive) or milk pasteurized at a lower temp. (read the back label it will tell you but I know Saint Benoit is one good brand)

    Reply

    • Posted On June 28, 2013 at 11:09 am

      I know the milk I used wasn’t ultra-high pasteurized as it was from a local source. So the issues must have been from other causes, who knows!

  35. 35
    Posted On June 30, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    I finally took on this challenge tonight, the very last night of the month. I used a kit from Williams Sonoma, and it actually turned out really well. I haven’t made pizza with it yet — that’s on the menu for this week — but the curds formed quickly and were strong. I used 1/2 whole, local milk in glass jugs from Whole Foods, and the other half was Purity brand sweet acidolphilus — just what we happened to have on hand. All in all, it took about an hour and a half. Not too bad!

    Reply

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