10 Cheese Making 101: Microwave Mozzarella & Ricotta

Microwave Homemade Mozzarella and RicottaEver since I saw Heather from Girlichef make her own homemade mozzarella, I just knew I had to try it. I had all the ingredients and then just never got around to making it.

It's hard to try something new sometimes.

Especially by yourself.

A neighbor of mine mentioned to me that she was going to teach a cheese making class the next week.

My ears perked up. "That would be so fun!" I said.

Have you ever made cheese? she asked.

No, have you?



"Well. Let's do it together. I'm sure it will be fun!"

And off we went....

You need 1 gallon milk. Boy. We learned a LOT about milk. For mozzarella, you NEED milk that is NOT Ultra Pasteurized.

Most milk that you buy at the store is pasteurized and some containers are clearly marked 'Ultra Pasteurized.'

So what is it? Pasteurization is where the milk is heated just below boiling for a short period of time to kill bacteria that may be harmful if consumed. It also helps increase the milk's shelf life. You may see it marked as (HTST) High Temp Short Time or (ESL) Extended Shelf Life on the milk. Milk that is simply labeled 'pasteurized' is usually treated with the HTST method.

Ultra Pasteurized (or Ultra High Temp UHT) means that the milk is heated to 161 degrees F for 15-20 seconds, then holds the milk at 280 degrees for a fraction of a second. You may see these milks in cartons, usually organic milk or creams that are slower moving than other milks. Some milks are UP for traveling long distances.

I would recommend using a milk that is produced locally. Heather is lucky that she is able to get fresh milk directly from a farm. Check your milk label. Find one that is farmed or distributed in your area. Call the phone number on the label if you are not sure.

I used Albertson's whole milk that is from Boise, Idaho and I live in SLC. There is a dairy farm that is closer to me, but the milk was twice the price. It was interesting to note that the Albertsons milk is actually from Meadow Gold Dairy. When I looked at their milk, they were from Texas. Go figure.

My neighbor made some AWESOME mozzarella with dry milk. Just mix up the milk according to the directions to make a gallon of milk and chill overnight. I believe she took out a cup or two of the non-fat milk and replaced it with heavy cream to make a full gallon. Her recipe yeilded almost twice as much mozzarella!

On the way to the store, I saw a couple of cows, grazing in a small pasture.

I wonder if I could just jump over the fence and get some milk....

Okay. Now you need Citric Acid powder. I just happen to have some that I use for my Lemon Drink. I buy it at my Bosch Kitchen Kneads store.

This is a natural preservative and helps stretch your cheese. If you use too little, it won't stretch. If you use too much, it will stretch like a dream, but will never quite become solid, not matter how cold it gets. It may even begin to look like 'plastic' cheese.

Increase/decrease your levels of citric acid by 1/8th teaspoons each time you make the recipe to get the desired result. I used 1 1/2 level teaspoons in this batch and did not get a very stretchy cheese. Next time, I will use the same brand milk and increase the citric acid, which is dissolved in 1/4 c. filtered water or non-chlorinated water.

The next thing you need is Rennet. It comes in liquid and tablet forms. Once opened, it needs to be kept in the freezer,

I found this at Albertsons in the pudding aisle, way up on the top shelf.

It is a natural ingredient and necessary for cheese, as it helps to coagulate, or make the curds from the milk.

I used 1 tablet, dissolved in 1/4 c. filtered water. It is important to use NON chlorinated water. It may take up to 10 minutes to dissolve.

The next thing I used was Calcium Chloride which is basically a liquid salt. *This ingredient is OPTIONAL.

The first time we made mozzarella, the curds didn't firm up and it just looked like, well, like ricotta cheese. We thought we made a HUGE mistake and threw it out. Well, we did make a mistake by throwing it out. We could have used it as ricotta. Duh.

After researching on the Net why it didn't firm up, a couple of cheese forums suggested increasing the rennet and adding just a little bit of calcium chloride. I used 1/8 teaspoon. This is also dissolved into 1/4 c. filtered water.

If you cannot find Citric Acid, Rennet, or Calcium Chloride, you may want to order some from the New England Cheesemaking supply. They have some great kits available. In fact, my neighbor got a great discount for ordering in bulk and offered it to the people in the class. They were snapped up in a hurry!

You need to have a stainless steel, glass or ceramic pot that will hold 2 gallons or more. If it has a thick or heavy bottom, that is better for heat distribution and retention.

You may use a wooden spoon or stainless whisk for stirring.

A thermometer is needed. I like the digital instant read thermometer as it is easier to read and therefore, more accurate.

Are you ready to get started?

Aw, come on....it'll only take you 30 minutes!

Good. Let's go~

Begin to heat the milk slowly, to 55 degrees F.

At this point, stir in the dissolved citric acid solution and mix thoroughly.

Around 88 degrees F, you will see the milk begin to curdle.

At 90 degrees F, remove the milk from the burner and stir in the 1/8 t. calcium chloride until thoroughly mixed.

Then 'sprinkle' your dissolved rennet into the curdled milk and stir in an up and down motion 5 times. Do not over stir.

Continue heating the milk to 105 degrees F.

Curds (creamy stuff in the middle) should be pulling away from the sides of the pot, ready to scoop out.

The whey (liquid stuff on the outside) should be clear, not milky.

If the whey is milky, wait a few more minutes.

A large, slotted spoon is handy to transfer the curds to a large sieve, nested in a 2 quart microwavable bowl.

I used a fine mesh scoop and all it did was plug up with curds.

A slotted spoon will work just fine.

A large strainer is handy, although you can use a colander. The whey will strain through much more quickly through a sieve or strainer.

Lift up the colander and transfer the liquid whey back into the stock pot. (We will use this whey for ricotta next)

Pour the curds into the microwavable 2 qt. dish.

Microwave on high power for 1 minute.

You may want to purchase some heavy duty rubber kitchen gloves, as they will be helpful in kneading the hot curds.

Press curds gently with your hand and try to drain some whey back into another bowl.

Knead the cheese with hands or a spoon to remove more whey.

Microwave for 30 seconds, remove whey, and knead.

At this point, you can add some cheese salt, sea salt or salt with NO iodine in it. I used 1 teaspoon, and it worked great. You may also use any flavored or smoked salts or herbs.

Knead in the salt/herbs thoroughly.

Microwave for 30 seconds, remove whey, and knead.

At this point, the cheese is greatly reduced in size and should be pliable and stretchy.

If there is still liquid whey in the bowl, repeat the microwave, kneading process.

Pull, stretch and knead the cheese like taffy until it is smooth and shiny.

If the curds break instead of pulling, reheat it a little bit.

If the cheese is still resistant to pulling, shape it into a ball, if possible, and use this as a 'grating' mozzarella cheese. This type of cheese is drier than fresh mozzarella, but grates really well into your favorite dish.

There you have it ~ my first log of fresh mozzarella!

I put this into some cold water to keep its shape and put it in the fridge.

It was smooth, creamy, and had just the right amount of salt.

This is the best glamour shot I have...it got eaten rather quickly!

But wait....

There's more!

All that leftover whey can be made into ricotta. I found that I got 1 c. worth when I made it immediately after making mozzarella.

My first batch waited over night and I got squat....more like 2 T. of some creamy stuff.

Heat the whey to 200 degrees F.

Turn off the heat.

Line a sieve with butter muslin, or cheesecloth.

Scoop the ricotta with a fine sieve or carefully pour the whey into the lined colander.
I prefer scooping the ricotta.

Gather the corners of the cheesecloth and form a knot.

Tie a string around the knot and hang the cheese over a bowl to drain.

This photo is from my farmhouse cheddar experience, which I'll post soon!

Add a little salt to taste...




Your cheese and ricotta will last up to 2 weeks, stored properly, in the fridge.

This is SO worth it....please, please, try making this soon and let me know how it turns out. You'll be glad you did!
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