Why It Works
- Using nonhomogenized milk, pasteurized at under 170°F (77°C) guarantees viable curd.
- Setting the mozzarella in room-temperature whey yields better flavor and texture than using an ice bath.
Excellent fresh mozzarella is milky, tender, and mild, with a faint layer of cream beneath the skin that gushes a little when you slice it. In other words, this isn't that stiff, tough ball of vacuum-sealed supermarket mozzarella, and it's definitely not the low-moisture cooking mozzarella that you throw on pizzas or lasagnas. It's mozzarella for savoring on its own, perhaps with a sprinkle of sea salt, or torn up for a simple Caprese salad. You eat this mozzarella when it's still warm, and it never goes into the fridge. Here's how to make it at home.
- 1 gallon (3.8L) nonhomogenized, low-temperature-pasteurized whole milk (see note)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid
- 1/4 teaspoon rennet or 1/4 tablet rennet, diluted in 2 tablespoons (30ml) filtered or distilled water
- 1 tablespoon (12g) kosher salt
Pour milk into a large stainless steel pot and whisk to disperse butterfat. Sprinkle citric acid into milk and stir well to fully dissolve.
Stirring every few minutes, bring the milk to 88°F (31°C) over medium-low heat (this should take about 5 minutes). Add rennet and stir to combine, about 30 seconds. Milk will begin to curdle into small clumps and separate from liquid whey. Reduce heat to low and continue heating until whey registers a temperature of 105°F (41°C) on an instant-read thermometer, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer curds to a strainer set over a bowl, pressing gently to drain. Curds should form a single mass. Allow to drain until whey is no longer dripping, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer drained curds to a cutting board. Slice into 1-inch cubes and divide into 3 even portions.
Meanwhile, season whey with 1 tablespoon (12g) kosher salt (or more to taste), stirring well to dissolve. Transfer 1/3 of whey to a heatproof bowl and set aside.
If Using the Stovetop Method: Bring remaining 2/3 of whey to 180°F (82°C) over high heat. Working with one portion of curds at a time, place in a heatproof bowl and add enough hot whey to cover. Wait 15 to 20 seconds, until curd is soft, sticky, and clumping together.
If Using a Microwave: Working with one portion of curds at a time, place in a microwave-safe dish and heat on high in 15-second intervals until curd is soft and sticky.
For Both Methods: Put on clean rubber gloves. Pick up ball of curds and slowly draw hands apart, allowing gravity to stretch curds; avoid forcing, tearing, or kneading curds. Continue folding and stretching curds, reheating in microwave or whey as necessary, until curds are shiny and smooth (this should take approximately 2 to 6 stretches).
Fold curd into a mass that's roughly the size of your palm and make a C shape with the forefinger and thumb of one hand. Push curd through those fingers, exerting pressure to shape it into a sphere. Press hard enough to prevent large bubbles from forming under the skin. Alternatively, make a closed loop with thumb and forefinger and make several small, egg-shaped bocconcini.
Gently lower ball(s) into room-temperature whey and let rest 20 to 30 minutes before eating. Meanwhile, repeat with remaining portions of curd. Cheese should be eaten immediately or within a few hours; to store, wrap tightly in plastic and follow these reheating guidelines.
We strongly advise that you contact the dairy provider to determine the precise temperature at which your milk has been pasteurized. No mozzarella recipe will be successful with ultra-pasteurized milk, but even milks labeled "pasteurized" may not work. Seek out nonhomogenized milk that has been pasteurized at 170°F (77°C) or lower. The whey can be uncomfortably hot during the stretching step; we recommend wearing clean, heavy rubber gloves or a double layer of latex gloves to protect your hands.