Fresh Mozzarella - FAILED!!



I had decided years ago that someday I was going to start making fresh mozzarella.  There is nothing quite like fresh pulled mozzarella.  It is so soft and tender that it can melt in your mouth.  I had talked with people that told me it was so easy.  I had read instructions, watched YouTube demonstrations, read blog after blog. After all if you want correct information, bloggers are the perfect source...right?

I spent a day in search of the perfect ingredients.  I had purchased citric acid, rennet tablets and vegetable rennet liquid, and the freshest local whole milk I could find.  I had several recipes that I had compared and taken notes on.  I had bookmarked several different YouTube "how to" videos.

I WAS ready.  I was ready to become the next great cheesemonger.  Bring it!




I am about to share with you photos of my 5th and 6th attempt to make the perfect mozzarella.

My first attempt was probably my best.  However, the cheese had the consistency of a rubber super ball, no flavor and did not melt.   "Hmmm it must have been the microwaving of the curd", said I.  I only assumed that 30 minutes to fresh mozzarella was a myth...a blogger lie???

My next attempt took 3 hours to get the perfect curd.  I watched with anticipation.  I was certain my second attempt was my great success.  FAIL!  After dripping the curd tied up in cheesecloth attached to a cupboard knob in my kitchen overnight, I carefully untied and unraveled the cheese cloth to see beautiful curd.  I cut the curd carefully,  Nibbled on a bit of the curd.  Needs salt.  I warmed a gallon of salty water to 170 degrees and placed my lovely curd into the water.  Right before my eyes my curd dissolved.  NOOOOOO!!




I was not going to let mozzarella beat me.  I was never going to purchase rubbery mozzarella again.




I carefully watched the temperature of my milk and citric acid with my handy instant read thermometer,  I carefully lifted the curd and ever so lovingly drained the whey.

My next two attempts...FAIL!




On my final attempt I decided to try two different recipes side-by-side.  Everything was going so well. That's when I decided to adjust the cheese cloth a bit before tying string around the ball of curd to drain the whey while it dripped slowly into a bowl.

One corner of the cheesecloth slipped from my fingers and that's when the disaster occurred.   Every bit of curd came gushing out of the cheesecloth. I had cheese curd mixed with whey splashing all over me and my kitchen.  Just like a big baby hurling regurgitated milk.




The explosion was a brief moment that would take me hours to clean up.




I started to laugh, but wanted to cry.  Quick grab the camera!  This is a post in the making.




I looked at my kitchen floor.  It resembled what my floor looked like when I had a baby who spit up ALL the time.  I remember walking down the halls of my church when a little boy said, "hey lady your baby just barfed".  I turned around and sure enough all the way down the hall there were splats of baby puke that completely resembled this scene.  Not to mention that it smelled about the same.




I had curds and whey all down the front of me and on my shoes.  It was everywhere.

You know that husband of mine that rarely reads my blog?  He walked into the kitchen took a look at me and the kitchen floor and simply said, "Give it up"!

To which I shouted, "NEEEVVVAAA"!!!




All is not lost.  My kitchen floor is clean.  My cupboards are mostly clean.  I have buckets of curd.  I'm pretty sure I basically have made ricotta the HARD way.  I have GALLONS of whey.  I can hold my head high and say that I tried.




In the end I am defeated.  I give up.  As cool as this looks hanging in my kitchen I have to admit I have been beaten.  Fresh mozzarella has taken me down.  The price of fresh pulled mozzarella pales in comparison.  I'm taking a break from the cheese business.

C'est la vie.

26 comments:

  1. I've made ricotta (the easy way), but haven't tried to make mozzarella. My babies didn't have much reflux, but those photos of curdled milk all over your kitchen brought back some messy memories. You should be commended for trying so many times (I think I would have given up after the second attempt), and for writing an honest piece about the process. On reading it, I think I'll continue to get my mozzarella from the local Italian deli.

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    1. I only wish I had an Italian deli close by let alone one in my STATE! Lucky you. Thanks for your comment.

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  2. Oh, wow! I just get back from a few weeks off the internet, I get to your blog to see what is up, and... you are making cheese! Even if you still don't get it right, it's really cool!

    I've made cheese weekly during a whole year back in high school, would you post the steps that you follow so far? maybe I can help you find the problem?

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    1. I was hoping someone out there would say "let me help you". I didn't take photo's of the steps I took. I will probably try again because it's making me crazy. I'm thinking it could be my milk. I'm using the freshest local milk I can find, but it is pasteurized. Does my milk need to be "raw" with the cream on top without pasteurization? One recipe called for buttermilk as well as citric acid. I wonder if that's a problem?

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    2. Pasteurization is not really an issue, plenty of cheeses are made from pasteurized milk. So, don't worry about it.

      There is two ways of making mozzarella, one is with the use of some acid to drop the pH of the milk before the adition of the rennet. The other, and my personal favourite, is by adding lactic cultures and let them transform the sugars into acids (lactic and citric mostly), to drop the pH. I find this reaction more flexible and easier to control, since you want a just slightly acidic milk before the rennet.

      Well, from what I can see in the photos, the curd looks like ricotta, and it shouldn't. That happens when there is too much acid in the mix and the casein precipitates (separates from the rest of the milk) before the enzimes of the rennet can actually work. You're aiming for a "chunks of panna cotta in whey" look.

      Try this method by making a pilot batch: mix a cup of warm whole milk (or half and half if its from the store) with one or two tablespoons of plain yogurt, let it rest at 100 ºF just until you see the milk starting to change its density. Then add the rennet, following the manufacturer instructions. Also add a little pinch of salt (this is going to help to separate the fat, the sugars and the proteins from the water), mix as little as you can, and let it rest for one hour at, again, 100 ºF. After that time, the curd should look like a flan floating at the top of the liquid, and should be apart from the sides of the pot. Cut the curd with a knife, it should be a clean cut, with sharp edges. If it's not, maybe the issue is with the rennet.

      If it is a nice looking curd, try making a bigger batch, then cut the curd in cubes, drain it, squish it up, put it in hot salted water and knead it. Don't overwork it (that's why that one batch was like rubber) and inmediately put the mozzarella in icy water until is cooled off.

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    3. Both of these videos show how important it is to use cultures http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMAlToEYHJM; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G6yzLSByHQ

      The texture and the aroma of the cheese will depend of the kind of feeding of the cows and the type of culture that you use. The time of the year will affect it too, because the cows have a different diet and because the bacteria in the summer air are different that the ones in the winter air. How amazing is that?? I know, I know, nerd chemist alert; but fermentation processes will always be my true love, and I miss cheese making so much!

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    4. I LOVE you. I was hoping someone would come forward and take my hand and walk me through the process. Dang. Now I have to try it again. I will watch the videos. Thank you so much. I'm leaving town to visit my son for a few days. I'll be back next week and try again! I'll report what happens. You're the best. So glad your back on the "net". You just might save my sanity.

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    5. If you need further info, send me an e-mail (it's in my profile), I will be very happy to help you.
      Have a lovely trip!

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  3. Oh Janet! This post is so funny and so sad! I'm so sorry you failed in your cheese making attempts, on the other hand, I'm relieved to learn that you are human (not flawed on my scale, but nevertheless…). Thanks for sharing your failure, I need to be reminded that it's ok.

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    1. I look at it this way... I'm here to fail for you :)

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  4. I'm laughing, but I feel your pain, Janet! Seems I saw someone on the Food Network do this - Bobbie Flay, Tyler Lawrence, Giada? How is it they make it look SO easy! I admire your stick-to-it-ness, but sometimes you just know when enough is enough (wink). On the brighter side - everything else you show us how to cook always works well the first time!
    Cheers!

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    1. Thanks for your confidence. I'm trying not to loose sleep over it. Ugh!

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  5. I've tried making moz before - and failed. I even have the fancy etsy cheese making kit. First attempt I at least got some good ricotta out of it. Second attempt was a complete fail. I think my problem is I can't get the separation of curds and whey during heating properly. I don't know if it is the electric cook top or what....
    Also attempted a few times with goats milk (for goats cheese). Again first one okay second attempt no separation...
    My FH also told me to take a break lol.

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    1. So what are we doing wrong??? Someone will help us. Thanks for making me not feel so alone.

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  6. You are a tougher woman than I! I would have quit after 3, probably bawling my eyes out. I think I take this cooking thing a little too seriously sometimes... I have a tendency to throw tantrums at failure... Ah well. Thanks for sharing your journey. It was fun :)

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    1. I have a problem that I can't sleep until I can figure out what I did wrong. I went through 6 lbs of butter trying to figure out English Toffee. I figured out the problem and haven't had trouble since. Hmmm I'm stumped on this cheese. Thanks for your comment.

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  7. You can make mozzarella, and then ricotta from the leftover liquid, rather easily without all the work. I'm not sure what went wrong for you. I have to admit it is nice to see that someone has posted real photos of proof that they have had such messes from trying to do things. I seem to get things done, but I drop stuff etc.

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    1. Ahhh where did I go wrong? This isn't the only mess I have had. I figure it out eventually. Thanks for your comment.

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  8. Oh my goodness, you are one determined lady, Janet! Your text and photos made me laugh, but I know I should not. It is not funny when you try and try and try again and feel like you have been lied to... I will never attempt making mozzarella myself (not that I'd even considered it). x Mel

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    1. You can laugh. I did. I had to so I wouldn't cry. Ha ha. I'll probably try again....

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  9. Janet- My beautiful sister in Colorado taught me how to make mozzarella. It is a bit tricky but can be done with fabulous success. I think it's much easier to make with a friend. If you are ever in Texas or Southern Colorado come by and either I or my sister will make some with you. It is sooooooooooo good. And, yes the ricotta you make from the way is just as good. A bit time consuming but oh so worth the work!

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    1. This is what I needed to hear. I was thinking it wasn't worth the time. I go to Denver to visit my daughter, but not southern Colorado. Now I'm sad. I would LOVE to watch you make mozzarella. You have given me hope.

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  10. I too have been defeated 3 times in a row now. I get beautiful curds (now, not the first time but that was because of the milk being homogenized) but it doesn't turn elastic as it should when it is under heat. I refuse to be beaten, though! I will learn the art of mozzarella! The magic will be mine!

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    1. Way to go. I admire your ambition. Please pass on any secrets or tips you discover. I'm ashamed to say the mozzarella whooped me.

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  11. I am also having big trouble. I get to the part where you add the rennet and all I get is what looks like scrambled eggs sunk in whey. Do you know if that stuff is edible, or have you always tossed it?

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    1. I'm obviously NOT an expert, but is that the curd that is kneaded to turn into cheese? Maybe that's what is all over my kitchen floor :)

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