How To NOT Make Fresh Mozzarella Cheese

Spring is here…summer is coming…you can already taste those ripe, meaty tomatoes growing in your garden…

Yeah…

Caprese salad…garden tomatoes so fresh they still think they are on the vine, aromatic basil freshly picked and creamy HOMEMADE mozzarella cheese all drizzled with olive oil and balsamic.

That was me today. I was already tasting this summer meal before I even decided to attempt to making fresh mozzarella.

What could be so hard? Milk, citric acid, rennet, kosher salt…a few pots, a thermometer and some cheesecloth. I had it all. I could DO this, right? Wrong.

BIG FAT DOUBLE FUCKING FAIL.

Sigh.

So, to save you some headache, here’s what NOT to do when you think you’re going to pump out some luscious mozzarella on the first try (and if you do, don’t tell me about it.)

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Do not use Junket Rennet tablets. Although, the box says you can use it for cheese making, apparently the rennet is not really strong enough to make a nice, firm cheese curd. I found this out AFTER I noticed my milk was not curdling in an allowable amount of time.

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When your cheese looks like this, instead of a smooth, thick custard, do not think you can just mix up an extra tablet of Junket Rennet and all will be okay. It’s already jacked up by this point.

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 With high hopes of the extra rennet working, cutting through said curds with a knife does not mean you have a “clean break.” After thinking, “It only needs more time to set up,” it’s still not going to work. The required 5 to 7 minutes turned into 2 hours and I ultimately did not have the smooth custardy curds I was looking for. The only result was thicker pin-head curds.

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 Most importantly, do NOT buy regular grocery store milk, especially if it’s on markdown for $1.99. (Hey, I wanted to do a trial run on the cheap…whatever.) I already knew I could not use ultra-pasteurized milk, but this was just pasteurized. Apparently, even regular pasteurized milk is brought to such high heat that it’s not good for cheese making. Who knew? After some internetz research, I found THIS to be a picture of milk that has been over-heated.

What’s good in all of this? Well, if you happen to get to this stage, you can still use salvageable curds, mix them with some herbs and use as a cheese spread. Though, I didn’t even have enough to do that; they just dissolved upon straining. To justify the waste, I fed it to the compost pile.

What did I learn? Well…

  • I need to find fresh milk. It sounds like raw milk is the way to go, if you can find it.
  • I need to find cheese making rennet, not Junket tablets.
  • Don’t be a cheapskate. I wasted more time and effort than it was worth.
  • Patience. (I have none…maybe Craigslist has a bundle?)
  • Screwing things up only makes you better as it allows you to understand the process and troubleshoot more clearly.
  • Most of all, I learned that I HATE TO FAIL.

Round two, coming up…

(I do need to give a shout-out to Chef Chris, @MyFavoriteChef on twitter, for giving me a bit of insight and encouragement on this endeavor!)

 

18 Responses to How To NOT Make Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
  1. jennydecki
    May 7, 2013 | 2:51 PM

    Commercially available organic milk I’ve always used for my yogurt and whatnot that turned out divine is Super Natural Milk (http://www.kalonasupernatural.com/our-products/organic-milk/) The stuff works like a CHARM. It’s batch-pasturized but it’s not homogenized. This is a non-compensated comment. LOL

    • Toni
      May 7, 2013 | 2:55 PM

      Oh…I’ve seen Super Natural before. Maybe my upcoming trip to Whole Foods will fulfill the need. (non-compensated reply)

  2. Paige Worthy
    May 7, 2013 | 2:51 PM

    Amazing entry — a heartbreaking tale of disappointing curds and failed cheese… AND BUILDING THE COURAGE TO BEGIN ANEW WITH FRESH MILK AND SUPERIOR RENNET.

    • Toni
      May 7, 2013 | 2:53 PM

      Paige, I big fat heart you. <3

  3. Jen
    May 7, 2013 | 2:55 PM

    Pin-head curds sound very appropriate for something that threw your project off the rails!

    I’ve read elsewhere (as you no doubt did) that grocery store milk works fine as long as it hasn’t been “UHT” pasteurized. I’m disappointed to see that may not be true. I don’t think I’d feel safe making and eating stuff with raw milk, so if what you’re saying is true and I can’t use any pasteurized milk, my cheesemaking dreams may have to die.

    • Toni
      May 7, 2013 | 3:02 PM

      That’s what I thought too! I don’t even buy regular milk, only organic. But, for this “trial” I didn’t want to get all spendy (just in case of failure.) Not only was it Dean’s whole milk, but it was also marked down…which means it wasn’t even close to fresh. I whammied myself front to back on this one. LOL I’ll be honest, I’m a raw milk skeptic myself. I mean, it all makes sense and stuff…I just think I’ll start with something more “fresh” then, maybe, move to something more “raw.” We’ll see :)

  4. Corrin
    May 7, 2013 | 7:14 PM

    Womp womp. This is when you buy it at the farmers market and call it a day. Cheaper, faster, and you keep a cheese monger in biz.

    • Toni
      May 7, 2013 | 7:54 PM

      But, but…I wanna do it MYSEELLFFFF! (I spend PLENTY with the cheese monger. #bitchesgottaeatcheese)

  5. DB-The Foodie Stuntman
    May 8, 2013 | 10:10 AM

    They say you learn more from your failures than from your successes. I hope you have better luck next time.

    • Toni
      May 8, 2013 | 10:24 AM

      You really do. I have been putting off even trying to make cheese because I feared the process. Now? I know the process and just have to get the correct ingredients. I’m determined to make a delicious ball of CHEESE! :)

  6. Melissa Cowan
    May 9, 2013 | 9:31 AM

    I don’t necessarily want raw milk because I think it has more benefits but I do want some for making cheese. That being said, I sampled some fresh, raw goat’s milk from http://www.pasturesdelights.com and it was SO good. It had been milked the day before. They actually deliver to Knox but you have to purchase a herd share. Sander’s Farm in Chesterton sells raw goat and cow milk for “animal consumption.” That’s where I want to pick some up to make cheese and some other things.

    • Toni
      May 10, 2013 | 9:30 AM

      I think the whole cheese thing is just going to take some trial and error. My original thought was to try and make it cheaper at home than buying it…we eat a LOT of it, especially during the summer. The cost of some of the more “fresh” milks, even at Whole Foods, would defeat my whole purpose. Yes, I still want to make it from scratch just for learning’s sake…but on a regular basis, $8+ a gallon plus time isn’t really saving me any money. Even this Kalona Supernatural was $4.19 per half gallon and I’m still unsure if it would work. http://www.kalonasupernatural.com/our-products/organic-milk/organic-whole-milk/ I suppose I could buy one and try a half batch :)

  7. Jim
    October 4, 2013 | 10:37 PM

    I have been using Junket rennet for some time t make cheese. The secret of use is use 1 tab per gallon of milk. As for the milk if you use no homogonized (sp?) -this can be found at whole food markets chain of stores. It comes out fine. as a starter for regular pasturized milk put 2 oz of yogurt (with live cultures in the milk and stir 5 hours before starting your cheese attempt. leave at room temp. and if a clean break doesn’t happen in a half hour just wait a little longer 1 usually wait about an hour before checking for the break.
    Cheeses I have successfully made with junket
    Mozzarella, american basic, provolone, cheddar, parmessan and romao, feta, gouda and of course ricotta( I love cannoli’s) and also gyetost(sp?) norwegian cheese made form leftover whey

  8. Kris
    December 5, 2013 | 7:35 PM

    I knew I was in trouble when after adding the rennet and letting it sit and it never looked like “soft custard”. I proceeded with the rest of the steps and ended up with a rubbery ball. Nothing stringy about it. I’ll try again using everyone’s tips. My milk was a little old, too. Next time I’ll go organic and see what happens. Boo hoo.

  9. S Martin
    January 14, 2014 | 12:12 PM

    This is EXACTLY what happened to me just now. I used that exact brand of rennet and have just what you had – hardly no curds, no separation at all for curds and whey, and a waste of all this. But, we don’t have access to raw milk so I, like you, bought pasteurized whole milk thinking it would work (another blog said it would!). WRONG! Ugh!!

  10. Donna
    November 21, 2014 | 8:42 AM

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  11. Jd
    January 18, 2015 | 11:07 AM

    Howdy use junket all the time for mozzarella, cheddar,and parmessian,romano, asiago and provolone cheese. use 1 tablet for every gallon of milk. but the milk is the key read the label a lot of the milks are so denatured that they are then refortified with powdered milk. so don’t use them.
    If you can get it non homogenized or raw is best. I use whole milk from food lion and Iga. But never krogers walmart or publix as they are refortified ie not real milk.
    also allow 2hrs for your clean break.
    I have made probably 200 lbs of cheese family members actually ask me to ship it to them as gifts and it comes out creamy and tasty. all with junket rennet.
    Enjoy

  12. Eddie
    February 27, 2015 | 11:41 PM

    Thanks for the write-up! Although, I learned the hard whey, get it, that Junket is, well, junk! I did a quick google search and read that Junket is 80% pepsin–those bastards! That would explain Jd’s comment requiring 1 tablet for 2 hours rather then 1/4 tablet for 5 mins–lesson learnt!
    Thanks again, Toni!

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