Mozzarella: The Demon Cheese – November Cheesepalooza Challenge

If a person could have a nemesis and if that nemesis could be a cheese, then for me it would be Mozzarella!  I have struggled in vain with this cheese, with little or no success.  Currently as I type this I am 4 for 15 with this cheese.  Yes 4 successes in 15 tries!  I am the Maple Leafs of Mozzarella making, I succeed just enough to get the fans excited and then I tank the rest of the time.  I have tried several different methods of the “direct” acid methods.

3 of the four success had come from the so called “30 Minute” Mozzarella way of things using citric acid to acidify the milk and form the curd.  I even had success using this when I added cream to 2% milk.  It was lovely and melted well.  The best was when I used Vital Greens 3.25% whole non-homogenized milk.  It was lovey and flavourful and melted well.

Successful Mozzarella with whey Ricotta

But this challenge is using Mary’s method not Ricki’s way.

I knew this challenge was coming and I knew I needed to prove that I could make this cheese. So I decided it was time to face my nemesis in a mano a queso show down.  I took day to make Mozzarella for the Pizza I was going to make that night.  I used Mary’s Vinegar version of the cheese.  It seem to go ok, I had good curd, I had a good cooking of the curd, no shattering, it drained well too.  I heated the whey and did my bare handed pulling.  It was turning out to be one of the good ones, but I over stretched and cheese was a tad hard.  It melted, but it was very squeaky when you bit into it.  This in my opinion was a success, so I had vanquished my demon…Little did I know that Mozzarella was toying with me. NOTE: if you don’t have Junket Tablets (usually used for setting custards) use 1/2 tsp of rennet.

My successful attempt using Mary’s Vinegar method. Look at them just laying in wait to attack later!

Successful Mozzarella Tasting Notes:

  • Appearance: White and shiny
  • Nose (aroma): No noticeable smell
  • Overall Taste: Slightly salty and
  • Sweet to Salty: mild saltiness but
  • Mild (mellow) to Robust to Pungent (stinky): Very mild
  • Mouth Feel: (gritty, sandy, chewy, greasy, gummy, etc.): The Cheese had a slight squeakiness to it.
  • Melting Properties:  It melted fine, but it increased the “squeaky” factor.

Now if this was a movie series, my next batch would have been called the Fromagio of Revenge (or smack the cocky little git named Ian in the face and kick him again).  This time I figured I had it down pat, as I succeed on the first try using vinegar, so now let’s make it with Goat Milk.  Yeah right it was going so well too, I added the vinegar and the rennet, I had curd, I had solid curd with a clean break.  Now this is when Mozzarella decided to pounce in its weasely under-handed way that it does.  I started to raise the temperature and stirred every 5 minutes until it was up to temp.  Then I started to stir slowly for the allotted time and then as if the Wonder Twins were messing with me and Zan shouted “Form of Shattered Curd”.  I have been known, in the past, to toss the occasional frying pan across the room in a fit of rage when I have messed up a recipe.  This does not happen anymore thank goodness, I tried my best to salvage the cheese, I drained it, I tried to cheddar it, I tried to press it.  Nothing doing, and in to the bin it went.  I was angry at myself for getting cocky, for wasting time and effort, and at Mozzarella for being such a pain in my posterior.

There are no tasting notes on this one, or pictures.  Mozzarella won that time and I would not promote it, well until now.

Let’s flash forward a month and Valerie, Addie and I were gathered to make Mozzarella, originally for a CBC Radio interview that was cancelled, but it was now a chance for us to make our challenge cheese for November.  Things were going swimmingly, at first.  I used 2% Foremost Milk and then I toped it up with some cream (mistake one on Ian’s cockiness trip)  I had a decent curd and a good clean break and a good cooking of the curd.  This time the problem was in the draining.  I think it did not drain well enough.  It stopped dripping but was still wet.  The curd did not melt at all.  It was mush.  It tried to save it again.  This time I tasted it before it was binned and Valerie took some pictures of it the small pile of fail that is my Mozzarella.  All the flowing pictures are courtesy of Valerie at, thank you very much Valerie.

My little set up in the corner
The curd seemed good and strong, nice and springy.
Shattered Curds, shattered dreams!
My little pile of Fail.
From Left to Right – Valerie’s Mozzarella, Addie’s Mini Mozzarella and my little pile of shattered dreams in the corner.

FAILED Mozzarella Tasting Notes :

  • Appearance: White and grainy
  • Nose (aroma): No noticeable smell
  • Overall Taste: Slightly salty and
  • Sweet to Salty: mild saltiness
  • Mild (mellow) to Robust to Pungent (stinky): Very mild
  • Mouth Feel: (gritty, sandy, chewy, greasy, gummy, etc.): Gritty and nasty
  • Melting Properties:  none.

I gone back through my notes and have decided that most of my fails were with homogenized milk or using Foremost Brand. I will avoid these when trying again.  There will be a next time. I also noted that in  successful attempt with Mary’s recipe  I used a water bath set-up, I will have try that method as well. Addie asked me why I keep on making it if I am not successful to which I replied “it is because I can’t get it right, I will keep on doing it until I do.”

Do not loose hope, I know lots for home cheese makers that have issues with Mozzarella, and others can make it practically with their eyes shut and one leg tied behind there back.  Keep at it, I will  because  Mozzarella you have bested me for now, but I shall have the last stretch yet.

Go Make some Cheese and good luck with your Mozzarella.

19 Comments on “Mozzarella: The Demon Cheese – November Cheesepalooza Challenge

  1. You’re such a sport, Ian! I would have given up a long time ago. Having said that, your post is extremely educational and informative. I am going to give mozza another try, the Traditional Way. Let me see if I can find pH sticks somewhere!

    • Thanks Addie, I will conquer Mozzarella yet. I will try to get the “fast” mozzarella down then move on to Traditional.

    • I will, if first you don’t succeed then you get some love cheese spread. I’ve just have too much of the stuff. I should start selling it. 😉

  2. Love this post! Interesting that the goat milk one was such an issue – reminds me of my cheese making partner’s experience with ricotta.

    • I think part of it had to do with the goat milk. I used Happy Days, I have read that some people have issue when making cheese with that brand. I will have to try again with fairwind farms

    • I don’t know if I could call it conquering, but I would say I am making some headway. I will beat this cheese into submission one day.

  3. I shouldn’t laugh because I know how frustrating a failed recipe is, but the “pile of shattered dreams” almost made me snort tea onto my laptop screen.

    Keep trying! I’m nervous for this challenge

    • It is to the point that my Mozzarella skills are a source of amusement at home. Like I said in the post, many people have great success with making Mozzarella I unfortunately have a loosing record. But I will keep trying. Good luck.

  4. You gotta lot of love here, Ian, and you deserve it – I beg to differ with the tasting notes. I would have save the shattered mass; I quite liked it. Added some herbs, salt and olive oil and called it supper! But, you had it in the garbage before I could even taste it. That’s right, folks. I got my taste out of the pile in the garbage! That’s how I even got the photo of his shattered dreams. It is funny now – but it was actually so sad. No one likes to save an entire 1/2 day, drive all the way across the city, do everything right and then end up with mush. It is just evidence that cheese making is very very finicky. Oh, if I had my own big fat juicy Jersey cow!

  5. Thanks for this post. What exactly causes a curd to shatter? And how exactly can you save it if you start to see it shattering? I feel confident in certain aspects of this Cheesepalooza land but my troubleshooting abilities are limited… though it seems like I add some sort of versatility or adaptability to my qualifications with each cheese attempt.

    • Christine,

      It could be a variety of things, It could have been the fact I added extra cream, it could have been the milk it self. Well I know it was the milk. You don’t add Calcium Chloride to the milk because it impedes the stretching, but with store brand milk you get a weaker curd then if you were using raw milk. It can happen if you over stir the curd during the “cooking” phase.

      I have had curd shatter, I drained it longer and then I put the curd in a colander over the warm whey and allowed the heat to fuse the curd together. It did work out in the end, but I did not get a nice stretch. But it melted nicely.

      I am the first to admit that I rather suck at making Mozzarella. Stick with it and use good quality milk that is not homogenized and if you use Store Brand milk only go as high as 2% fat content.

  6. LOL…I loved the post Ian and kudos to Valerie for the tasting (hey 5 second rule..I would have done that as well ;P).
    I haven’t used homogenised milk to make cheese …I have a good supply of raw milk (and 2 jersey heifers who will hopefully mean I have my own …when they’re old enough).
    Do you add Calcium Chloride to your milk? Am just interested in how this works out (except with Mozzarella!!).

    • Thanks, I had access to “Fresh” milk but that has dried up so to speak. I use Calcium Chloride when using pasteurised milk. It helps to strengthen the curd, it is not necessary to use but you will get a weaker curd set with out it. I did not use it with my Semi-Lactic because I was looking for a softer curd.

  7. Love the title, Demon Cheese… I have also struggled my way through batches of Mozzarella. It’s not as easy as everyone (most of whom do the 30-minute method) claims. I’ve gotten better, although my best results came from using curds sold by a local dairy. It’s not my curd, but I did the stretching… a decent option when the Demon’s got you down!

    • Caitlin, it was either that or my Mozzarella Monkey. I really don’t know where I could get curd here, I can get sheep milk but Mozzarella curd…..I just smacked the demon! Now 5 for 16.

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