For many, the perfect storm of spending all this time at home and needing to cook most of our meals for ourselves has resulted in a lot of kitchen projects.
In the beginning, as sourdough starters, formerly reserved for the truly bread-passionate, proliferated all over the country, and everyone went all-in on banana bread and windowsill scallion regrowth, these projects were about basic sustenance and desire to be mindful of waste. By the time it was clear that summer wasn’t going to bring much change, everyone got on board with home gardens and preserving.
Easy never tasted so awesome.
But once your pantry is busting with jars of jams, pickles, and preserves, what do you turn to next?
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Meet cheese making: your next amazing at-home kitchen project
Cheese making is one of those projects that seems to be some complicated thing that is part magic and part alchemy (and must require your own cow or goat). But actually, basic cheese making at home is a simple and fun project, and with many easy DIY kits available, you can have your own homemade cheeses with less fuss than you think. And there is no better place to begin than with mozzarella.
RELATED: Our 100 Best Recipes with Cheese
Start with making mozzarella
Mozzarella is a great cheese to start with for many reasons. One, it is super simple: You can create a full pound of delicious fresh mozzarella in about 30 minutes, start to finish. Two, it is a very useful fresh cheese: Great on sandwiches and in salads, or topping a pizza or pasta bake, it’s guaranteed to be used up quickly. Finally, making mozzarella can involve multiple variations, from homemade string cheese and cream-filled burrata to flavored or seasoned versions.
The process is pretty simple. Here’s everything you need:
- One gallon of regular (not ultra-pasteurized) whole milk, which you can get from the grocery store
- A large pot
- Some form of acid (most kits use powdered citric acid)
- A thermometer
- A microwave oven
And while I’m generally the ultimate DIYer, I’m here to say that using a kit is absolutely the way to go in this case. For one, trickier to find ingredients like rennet and citric acid will arrive on your doorstep, and you’ll get all the detailed instructions you need.
Here's a preview of the process. It couldn’t be easier.
- Combine and heat up the milk and citric acid.
- At a certain temperature, add in and stire the rennet mixture.
- Let the curd separate from whey and heat again to another specific temp.
- Strain the curd.
- Use the microwave to heat and remove excess whey, getting the cheese to stretching temp.
- Enjoy some taffy-style hand-pulling and salting to taste.
Voila! In about 30 minutes, you can have a pound of fresh mozz floating in a brine to firm up.
Three great kits for making mozzarella at home
I highly recommend that if you want to try this project, you get one of the following kits. I tested each of these and can recommend them, especially when you take price into consideration. In other words, the budget-minded Beginners Mozzarella Cheese Making Kit is a fun and inexpensive way to give the project a try, the mid-price-range Ricki’s kit has a little more to offer, while the Standing Stone Farms Ultimate Cheesemaking Kit is truly worth the higher price (especially if you think you’d like to experiment beyond just mozz). Bottom line for all three, though: tasty, fresh cheese you made yourself!
Budget Buy: Beginners Mozzarella Cheese Making Kit
If you are looking for a super basic kit to have in your back pocket for a rainy-day activity, and if you already have a decent cooking thermometer, this is a perfect kit for you. It has clear instructions, plus the citric acid, salt, and rennet tablets you need to make four batches of mozzarella.
Buy It: Beginners Mozzarella Cheese Making Kit ($12.95), amazon.com
Medium-priced Winner: Ricki’s Cheesemaking Kit
If you need a more complete kit, this version comes with a thermometer, cheesecloth, and a great instruction booklet. This is a terrific mid-priced kit that has enough supplies for 20 one-pound batches of cheese, so either a kit for the family who thinks they might want to make cheese regularly, or if you want to make it and then share around the supplies with some friends.
Buy It: Ricki’s Cheesemaking Kit for Mozzarella and Ricotta ($26.95), amazon.com
Worth the Splurge: Standing Stone Farms Ultimate Cheese Making Kit
The word ultimate is right in the name and for good reason. This kit is for the cook who wants to experiment not only with mozzarella, but other cheeses as well. From halloumi to feta, mascarpone to ricotta, chevre to Monterey Jack, even cheddar cheese curds with the squeak built in, this kit can do it all. It comes with everything you need except the pot, milk, and water. And for me the thing that puts it above all other kits is the liquid rennet. The other kits have rennet tablets that have to be cut into quarters (harder than it sounds) and then dissolved in water (takes longer than you think). Having the little squeeze bottle of liquid rennet was a game changer and I am glad I tested this one last. This kit makes a minimum of 25 pounds of cheese, and with a wonderful instruction booklet with recipes for 11 different styles of cheese. Added bonus: recipes for easy homemade butter, cultured butter, and ghee! The mozzarella was also the tastiest of the bunch, because this kit comes with some lipase powder in addition to the citric acid and rennet, which brings a little extra something to the finished cheese.
Buy It: Standing Stone Farms Ultimate Cheese Making Kit ($44.99), amazon.com
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