We have been making this mozzarella cheese recipe for years, since back when we had our cows and had an abundance of milk! It’s a “rustic” mozzarella—imperfect and approachable. Great for roast vegetable salads, pizza, pastas and everything in between!
We have spent the last 7 weeks here in Italy, so we thought it only fitting to share our simple and rustic mozzarella recipe with you. I mean cheese really is everything here in Italy. It's beautiful to see the love that goes into making it, how each person really makes it their own, how each region makes it their own, and that it's still made in so many households. In many regions, the houses were traditionally built so that the top level was dedicated to making and smoking cheese—it had a wood fired oven and ventilation built into the top level, just so each house could smoke and cure their own cheese.
And cheese really is built in to the culture. There is always time for Aperitivo (afternoon drinks and snacks, that often include cheese/salami/olives) and there is always time for friends and family. And these things—community, the village—is what has inspired our latest book (available for pre-order now!).
So here is a taste of that life, a cheese recipe to make at home wherever you live, and share with your village, whoever that may be. These are the moments that make life special—the sharing, the laughter, the chaos. And even if your cheese fails, enjoy it, make it with someone you love and it will still be a beautiful experience and a great memory.
Mozzarella is a slightly more involved cheese, it’s actually super easy but just has lots of little steps and relies the mixture reaching certain temperatures. But we have tried to make each step as foolproof and as commonsense as possible. This recipe uses cows milk, because when we had our cows we would milk them everyday - so we had an abundance of cows milk. But now, as we sit amongst the olive trees and listen to the bells of the sheep around us, it seems much more fitting to use sheeps milk. So use whatever is local and abundant for you.
All year | GF, VG // Makes 450-500g
Time 45 minutes - 1 hour
90 ml (3/8 cup) lemon juice
¼ teaspoon liquid rennet (calf or chymosin derived vegetarian)
3.8 L milk (raw where possible)
1 teaspoon unrefined salt
2 small bowls
muslin cloth / nut milk bag
Prepare the lemon juice and rennet: combine lemon juice and 1 cup water in a small bowl until well combined. In a seperate bowl, combine together rennet and 1/4 cup water until well combined.
Next warm the milk. Pour the milk into a large pot and stir in the lemon juice solution. Place the pot on a medium-high heat and bring to 32-35°C, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn. Allow the milk mixture to sit at this temperature for about 5 minutes or so to make sure all of the milk reaches the right temperature (otherwise it may not set to tofu consistency in the next step).
Turn off the heat and add the rennet mixture. Gently and constantly stir in the rennet solution while you count to 30, then stop stirring. Cover the pot, and let it sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, curds should have set and should look solid like tofu.
*NOTE: If the mixture is still 'liquidy'/watery and the curds haven’t come together, re-cover the pot and let it sit for another 5 minutes, then check again, until they have.
Once the milk has set, cut the curds into large cubes, by making parallel cuts vertically through the curds and then parallel cuts horizontally. Make sure your knife reaches all the way to the bottom of the pan.
*NOTE: Do not stir.
Cook the curds. Place the pot back on the stove over medium-high heat and warm the curds to 40°C.
*NOTE: Do not stir the curds! You want to avoid breaking the curds too much. Run a chopstick around the edge of the pot to loosen slightly if needed.
Remove the pot from the heat and leave to sit for 5 minutes.
*NOTE: once again, no stirring.
Now place the muslin cloth over a colander and sit it over a bowl. Tip the mixture gently into the colander, separating the curds from the whey (or alternatively, pour the mixture into a nut milk bag and hang over a bowl to seperate the curds from the whey).
**NOTE: Try to handle mozzarella as little as possible.
Place water into your pot, filling it almost to the top. Bring to the boil and check that the water is at about 95°C. Then place the curds (that are still sitting in the colander in the muslin cloth or nut milk bag) so they're sitting on the top of the pot, so that the curds are fully submerged. Place the lid on and the heat on low, to keep the water warm. Let the curds sit in the hot water until the internal temperature of the cheese (place the thermometer into the centre of the cheese) reaches 60-65°C (should take about 5 minutes). Take out of the water and massage the cheese, stretching it a little to bind it together. Place back into the hot water until the internal temperature reaches 60-65°C again.
Quickly transfer the mozzarella to a wooden board (while it’s hot!). Take a small amount of curds at a time, sprinkle with some salt and squish with your fingers to incorporate. Then quickly squeeze and stretch it into a ball, with the messy side underneath. The cheese will start to tighten and become firmer with too much handling, so work quickly and with minimal handling.
The mozzarella can be used immediately or store it in the fridge for up to 1 week. To store it in the fridge, make up a salty water solution (5% salt to water ratio), place the mozzarella in a jar, cover with the salt water brine solution and place the lid on.
Some people suggest to store the mozzarella in the leftover whey, however we have found the cheese doesn’t last as long as compared to if it is stored in a fresh salt water brine. Happy cheese making!
All recipe images in this post by Shantanu Starick.
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