Earlier this year I was sent a Mozzarella and Ricotta Cheese Making Kit as part of a sponsored Indiana Family of Farmers campaign. I’ve always wanted to start making my own cheese, or at least mozzarella, so I was super excited to give it a whirl. I mean, how hard could it be?
Um, not real hard. But hard enough that if you’re attempting to make it during dinnertime, which just happens to be “shirts optional” spaghetti night, while your husband is out of town – it might feel hard.
Admittedly, my first batch was a total flop, and I’m not not even sure we ate it all. I completely blame the cheesy sadness on the milk I used (Oberweis, just staying transparent), it was too ultra-pasteurized to produce a nice and stretchy cheese ball.
Since my flop, I’ve experimented with a few different brands and types of milk, and in fact have become quite a milk snob along the way. I basically only use raw milk (we recently bought a cow milk share so we’re all legal and stuff) – but if I don’t have raw, Trader Joe’s Organic whole milk has proved to be a nice substitute. The general rule of thumb is not to use ultra-pasteurized because it simply won’t provide a nice curd.
So making basic mozzarella and ricotta cheese is super easy if you know how to follow a simple recipe. If you want an all-inclusive go-to kit that has everything (but the milk) you need, I highly recommend the kit I linked to above. But if you think cheese might be your thing and you want to go ahead and invest in some ingredients – here is what you need to get started:
Basics items you need to get start making soft cheeses (mozzarella & ricotta):
Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses by Ricki Carroll ($13). Yes, it’s by the same folks that created the kit I linked to at the beginning of the post. I personally think the book’s recipe for mozzarella is better than the one that comes with the kit – so there’s that. Also – I’ve looked at a ton of cheese making books over the last 6 months, and this one is by far the best and easiest to follow and is packed full of helpful technique, supply and recipe info.
Citric Acid – aids in coagulation.
Lipase Powder – an enzyme that is added to the milk to give it a stronger flavor.
Liquid Animal Rennet – helps create the “curd”.
Cheese Salt – because salty cheese is goooooood.
Other helpful supplies (you probably already own):
Large Strainer – to aid in the separation of the why from the curd.
Stainless Steel Stockpot – to cook the milk that will eventually become cheese. This pot should be able to hold at least a gallon of milk, or a Superbowl Sunday’s worth of chili.
Knife w/long blade – part of the cheese making process is “cutting the curd”, which you do after the whey has separated. You’ll need a knife with a really long blade. It doesn’t have to be super high quality or even sharp, I use my bread knife.
Cotton Cheesecloth – many cheese require hanging the curds to drain in cheesecloth.
Digital Thermometer – when making cheese, keeping track of the temperature of the milk is essential. You must have a waterproof kitchen thermometer next to the pot at all times. I prefer digital – because I’m lazy like that.
If it was me getting started all over again, I’d buy the kit (because it has everything you need at a really great price, less than $20, give or take a few) – and then pick up the book too because it has a TON of really helpful information in it, not to mention lots of hard cheese recipes if you ever decide to go down that rabbit hole like I have.
Tonight Michael and I waxed our first hard cheese, a Farmhouse cheddar. I’m crossing my fingers it turns out – because it wasn’t without effort!