1 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
1/4 rennet tablet
1 gallon whole milk, not ultra-pasteurized
1 teaspoon cheese salt
Prepare the Citric Acid and Rennet:
Measure out 1 cup of water. Stir in the citric acid until dissolved. Measure out 1/4 cup of water in a separate bowl. Stir in the rennet until dissolved. A sharp knife or pill cutter works best to cut the rennet. Make sure to save all remaining rennet for future batches.
Warm the Milk:
Pour the milk into the pot. Stir in the citric acid solution. Set the pot over medium-high heat and warm to 90°F, stir nice and easy, just enough to make sure nothing will stick to the bottom of the pot. Clumps of curds are good!
3. Add the Rennet:
Remove the pot from heat and gently stir in the rennet solution. Stir gently for 20 seconds. Stop stirring, cover the pot, and let it sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
Cut the Curds:
After five minutes, the milk should have set, and it should look and feel like soft silken tofu. If it is still liquidy, re-cover the pot and let it sit for another five minutes. Once the milk has set, cut it into uniform curds: make several parallel cuts vertically through the curds and then several parallel cuts horizontally, creating a grid-like pattern. Make sure your knife reaches all the way to the bottom of the pan.
Cook the Curds:
Place the pot back on the stove over medium heat and warm the curds to 105°F. Stir slowly as the curds warm, but try not to break them up too much. The curds will eventually clump together and separate more completely from the yellow whey.
Removing the Curds from the Whey:
Remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring gently for another 5 minutes. The less stirring you do the better. DO NOT OVER STIR. Ladle the curds into a glass microwave-safe bowl with the slotted spoon. Optional: you can place the butter muslin over a colander to help with draining the whey.
Microwave the Curds:
Microwave the curds for one minute. Drain off the whey. Put on your rubber gloves and fold the curds over on themselves a few times. At this point, the curds will still be very loose and cottage-cheese-like.
Microwave the curds to 135°F. Microwave the curds for another 30 seconds and check their internal temperature. If temperature has reached 135°F, continue to step 8, stretching the curds. If not, continue microwaving in 30-second bursts until they reach temperature. The curds need to reach this temperature in order to stretch properly.
Stretch and Shape the Mozzarella:
Sprinkle the salt over the cheese and squish it with your fingers to incorporate. Using both hands, stretch and fold the curds repeatedly. It will start to tighten, become firm, and take on a glossy sheen. When this happens, you are ready to shape the mozzarella. Make one large ball, two smaller balls, or several bite-sized bocconcini. Try not to over-work the mozzarella. Repeat steps 7 & 8 as many times as you think necessary. I like my mozzarella a bit on the dry and firm side, so I repeat steps 7 & 8 until I have folded as much whey out of my cheese as possible.
Using and Storing Your Mozzarella:
The mozzarella can be used immediately or kept refrigerated for a week. To refrigerate, place the mozzarella in a small container, cover and refrigerate.
Instead of microwaving the curds to make mozzarella, warm a large pot of water to just below boiling (about 190°F). Pour the curds into a strainer and nestle the strainer into the pot so the curds are submerged in the hot water. Let the curds sit for about five minutes. Wearing rubber gloves, fold the curds under the water and check their internal temperature. If it has not reached 135°F, let the curds sit for another few minutes until it does. Once the curds have reached 135°, lift them from the water and stretch as directed in step 8. Repeat this process until cheese is at the consistency that you would like it.