Cheese Monkey Mozzarella Info Page:
This information is to help you get the most from your Cheese Monkey Mozzarella making kit, you can also use it to help with other mozzarella recipes. If you wish to buy one of our kits, they are available here.
Mozzarella is an Italian fresh, stretched-curd cheese made from water buffalo milk. Its defining quality is that mozzarella is elastic with a high moisture content. It was originally from Naples and has been around for since at least the 16th Century. Mozzarella now comes in many forms; from the soft fresh balls sold floating in whey to the harder blocks of “Pizza Cheese”. The stringy cheese packaged for kids’ lunches is also a form of mozzarella. The more solid blocks of mozzarella have a lower moisture content, which is why they have a longer shelf-life. The name mozzarella means to “cut its head off”, which refers to the part of the making process where knobs of cheese are cut, heated and stretched. It can be used as a fresh cheese and you can use the balls of Mozzarella or bocconcini (small mozzarella) immediately, but its properties as a pizza cheese that make mozzarella the worlds most popular cheese. It melts without separating, goes all stretchy and browns nicely.
It is accepted that mozzarella is the perfect pizza cheese because it melts and stretches when heated and browns. To understand why mozzarella is just so damn good at what it does you need to understand a little bit about the properties of cheese and how each stage in the making process affects the outcome. You could start by reading our introduction to cheese making. The important points regarding the properties of mozzarella are due to the lengths of the protein chains…
Cheese is made up of fat, protein (casein)and water (plus lots of complex chemicals that give it colour/odour/flavour)
The casein forms a matrix that gives cheese its form and texture, the water and fat in occur in between the units of casein. The casein units form fibres than can interconnect and weave into a solid matrix. The more firmly bound the caseins fibres are to each other, the “tighter” the structure of the cheese.
When a cheese melts, the casein proteins don’t actually melt themselves but rather slide past each other.
If curd is left undisturbed, the caseins will all bond together forming a tight network. The heating and stretching if the curds forms the caseins into long lengths of fibres. When the mozzarella melts then these fibres can unravel and slide past each other to form long “strings” of melted cheese.
Mozzarella has both a high fat and a high water content. The fat holds the cheese together whilst solid and as it liquefies, it gets between the fibres and lubricates them which also allows the fibres to slide past each other with little resistance. The process of stretching the mozzarella as you make it causes the fat to form fewer, but larger globules than with other cheeses, this means that the fat can have a greater affect upon the melting cheese.
The rennet supplied with the kits is vegetarian, and is extracted from mushrooms. The actual active enzyme chymosin is exactly the same as in traditional rennet made from calf’s stomachs.
The rennet tablets do not need to be stored in the fridge and have a long life span, (about one year from the date of manufacture. The “use by” is printed on the outside wrapper of the cheese making kit. The shelf-life can be extended by several years if they are frozen.
When cutting the rennet tablet, the size does not have to be precise – there is a a good deal of leeway in the quantities given in the recipe.
Crush the rennet between two spoons before dissolving in water. It is okay if a bit of powder remains in undissolved.
Rennet is heat sensitive, if it goes above the temperature specified in the recipe it will denature and no longer work.
Do not try to store the rennet solution, it should be used as soon as you dissolve it.
When you pour the rennet into the milk, do so slowly and with constant stirring from the bottom of the pan. If it is not evenly distributed through the milk it will form hard curds in localized areas whilst leaving the rest of the milk unaffected. Aim to have the rennet mixed with the milk in half a minute, if you keep stirring after this then you will be breaking up the curds as they form.
Citric acid is used to lower the pH of the milk in preparation for the addition of the rennet. If you have the equipment to check, you are aiming for a pH of 5.4.
The citric acid is not affected by heat. Add it whilst stirring quickly.
Citric acid occurs naturally in fruits (Citrus Fruit) but is manufactured by the fermentation of syrup. Simple cheeses can be made by using lemon juice, but the acidity can vary greatly between different individual fruit, so results can be very inconsistent. We don’t recommend it for our mozzarella but you could have a bash at a rough and ready paneer.
Traditional mozzarella is made using the milk of the water buffalo. Water buffalo milk has twice the fat content of cows’ milk. You can try to emulate water buffalo milk by replacing 10% of your milk with cream and add a little bit more acid.
The best milk to use is full fat, non-homogenized milk – but any cows milk will make a form of mozzarella except … DO NOT use UHT milk, it will not work.
There is a great deal of variation between the composition of different bottles of milk. Throughout the year the diets of the cows will change and throughout their lives the content of the milk produced by an individual cow will also change. The recipe we include with the Cheese Monkey mozzarella is general for most types of cows’ milk. The older the milk, the weaker the curds will be – this is because during storage calcium leaches out of the casein and into solution, this can be counteracted by using more rennet, but it is better to ust use fresh milk!
In mozzarella, the salt helps with the melting properties (because of the way it interacts with the water in the cheese).
Cheese salt is a non-iodized salt and can be replaced with any non-iodized salt (eg. Sea salt). Iodine is added to table/cooking salt as part of a public health initiative, in much the same way that fluoride is added to tap water.
Add the salt at the last stage of the stretching, if you add it any earlier then it can cause the cheese to weep as you work it, the result is a drier cheese that will not melt/stretch as readily.
The action of the acid, followed by the rennet separates the curds from the whey.
As soon as the rennet has been added, the pan of milk should be left undisturbed to allow the casein proteins to knit together. When the curds are ready to cut they will have a texture similar to a “set custard”. You can check if they are ready by cutting with a knife, the life should leave the curds cleaved and they should not reform. If the curds are not ready then give a more time to form check every five minutes. If after 30 minutes your curds have still not formed properly, that probably means that the milk you used was either old or had insufficient calcium. Put the pan back onto the heat and warm to 43 degrees Celsius, then take it off the heat and strain through a cheese cloth.
Your curds might not form nice even cubes, but any curds that form will make a cheese.
Once cut, stir the curds gently, trying not to break them into smaller pieces.
The size of cube that you cut the curds into affects the properties of the mozzarella. As soon as the curds are cut they will start to shrink and expel water, the smaller the cubes you cut, the drier the mozzarella will be. We recommend heating the curds to 41 degrees for 5 minutes, the higher the temperature or the longer the time – the firmer/drier the cheese will be because all the time they are being heated then the curds will be contracting, expelling water. Feel free to experiment with time/temp to get different styles of mozzarella cheese.
The stretching of the curds is the defining part of the manufacture of mozzarella cheese, the purpose of it is to form the cheese proteins into strands. The method of making stretched-curd cheese is called pasta filata in Italian, which means “spun paste”
Whichever method you use to heat up the curds (hot water or microwave) you are aiming for an internal temperature of the cuds of approx 56 degrees. It needs to be soft enough to pull and stretch but so soft that it melts. If is too soft, let it col down, too hard then heat a little more.
Do not knead the cheese like you were making bread, this might be fun and you might feel like your doing the correct thing but it is in fact going to have a counterproductive affect because you hill be forcing the proteins together and the water out – the exact opposite of your intentions!
Work the salt into your cheese as the final stage of the curd-stretching process.
If your curds form as expected but then don’t stick together this could be because either the rennet didn’t set them properly (wrong temperature, old/denatured rennet) or the curds formed correctly but weren’t allowed to set because they were stirred/agitated hen they should have been resting. Remember that once you have added the rennet only stir for long enough to distribute it evenly – they milk must then remain still. Also, after cutting the curds they should be stirred VERY gently to avoid breaking up the cubes. You may be able to salvage your mozzarella by leaving the curds in a mass in the cheese cloth for a while before carrying on with the recipe. If they still won’t hold together than add salt/herbs and eat anyway!
If your curds will not stick together to form cohesive mass, this could be caused by one of several reasons: either the milk has been overheated (either by you or during the pasteurization process) or the milk could be too old. The curds that have formed can still be used, just not for making mozzarella! Instead, use them as if they were a type of ricotta – just drain them in the cheese cloth, add salt and then either press or use as a soft cheese.
This is because when the rennet was added then curds formed locally rather that throughout the milk. To avoid this then stir the milk while adding the rennet solution, rather after adding it. But remember to add and stir for 30 seconds – then stop stirring.
This could mean that you overheated them. Every microwave is different and some are very inconsistent with different amounts oh heat going to different areas of the oven. The best thing to do is to heat you mozzarella for no more than 30 seconds before taking it out to check – either by feeling it for stretch or checking the temperature in the middle of the mozzarella lump. Once they’ve been overheated you can’t salvage the curds for making mozzarella because the water and fat will have been released from the casein chains, but it is still a cheese and can still be eaten.
More likely then not this is because the curds that formed were too weak and as soon as the fat warmed up they just lost their solidity. The weak curds could have been caused by a number of factors (see above)
This is most likely because either the water was too hot or the curds were left in the water fro to long. Use water at 70 degrees Celsius and only leave it long enough for it to be stretchable – you can always put it back in the water if you took it out too soon. There is not much you can do if the curds have fully dissolved in the water, but you might be able to salvage something by passing it through a cheesecloth.
There are basically two types of mozzarella; the fresh, soft wet kind that you get from a delicatessen in balls and the harder type that comes packaged in blocks. If you want to great the mozzarella then you’re aiming to make the harder kind. Things that make the cheese harder are cutting the curds into smaller cubes, leaving the cubes for longer or at a higher temperature before draining or using a bit more rennet. You can also make the mozzarella easier to grate by cooling it in the freezer to fim it up a bit.
You probably either overheated the curds before draining or overworked them when you heated/stretched them. Remember you are stretching the curds to elongate the chains of protein, not kneading them to squash them down.
If you had a lower than expected yield, take a look at the whey you drained. If the whey is clear then that means the milk you used just didn’t contain very much butterfat and/or proteins, so try a different brand of milk next time. If the whey is very milky/creamy looking then that means you lost some potential mozzarella because it wasn’t locked up with the whey. Next time, give the curds a bit longer to set and be gentler in the way you treat them to stop them breaking apart and spilling out cream/butterfat.
The properties that make mozzarella melt are the amount of fat/water and how well the caseins have been formed into chains by the stretching process. Firstly look at the milk you used, if it was low-fat milk then this could be the cause. If it was full-fat milk, then either moisture was lost by overheating the curds or the curds were overworked when you stretched them. If you knead the curds rather than stretching them then you are forcing the proteins together which prevents melting, you are also pummelling out fats/water that are needed for perfect melting mozzarella.
The mozzarella you make is a fresh cheese and is best eaten within a few days. It is a moist cheese so still contains a lot of lactose, this makes it very prone to spoilage. (lactose is food for bacteria). If you want to keep the fresh mozzarella for up to one week then after it has cooled, place the balls in ice cold water for 15-30 minutes (this allows some of the lactose to dissolved out) then take it out and place in an airtight container in the fridge.
Expect some weeping of water/butterfat as the mozzarella is stored, this is because the liquids are not bound into the casein matrix as tightly as they would be in traditional mozzarella, which is prepared using a bacterial starter
The drier and/or saltier the mozzarella is, the longer it will last.
The cheese will keep for several months if frozen.
The chemical ingredients are safe of used as directed, so the only thing to look out for is accidentally burning a child whilst stretching the cheese. Using smaller lumps will cool faster, or use a clean pair of rubber/catering gloves. Cheese Monkey is making a children’s cheese making kit which will have instructions designed to be followed by kids – until then just make sure a responsible adult is supervising all stages of making the cheese.
Mozzarella is a fresh cheese so will spoil in the same time and same conditions that the milk it was made from would, so treat it as you would fresh milk. It’s best eaten within 24 hours, but will keep for a few days in the fridge and a few months if frozen.
Of course you can experiment with different methods. Indeed most people need to change things a little bit just to get the best result from their local milk. Just remember if you reduce the quantities, then be extra cautious with the times you microwave the curds for – it is very easy to overheat small quantities of cheese in a microwave. As regards the temperatures and times, they are all open to little bits of experimentation – if you’re making your own mozzarella then it’s the perfect opportunity to play around until you get the exact style of mozzarella that you’re looking for.
No, unfortunately not. Traditionally ricotta is made from whey – (although the cheese monkey ricotta kits are made for use with milk)- but because this kit uses citric acid rather than bacteria to acidify the milk, there is very little protein left in the whey for making ricotta with, so you can try but the yield you achieve will be very, very small.
Buy a Cheese Making Kit
How to make Mozzarella Cheese Video
Traditional mozzarella making (video)
Ideas for using up whey