Recipe: Hand-Pulled Mozzarella
One of my favorite things to teach students is to make hand-pulled mozzarella from scratch. This milky, soft, stretched-curd cheese from Campania is best when super fresh, ideally eaten the same day its made. Fortunately, it's easier to make than most people think. You start by making the curd, which is the basis of the cheese, then warm and stretch it to develop mozzarella’s unique texture. Most restaurants buy prepared curd and simply do the stretching themselves, but if you don’t need a large amount, making the curd is easy, too.
- 1 gallon whole milk (preferably not ultra-pasteurized)
- 2 teaspoons citric acid dissolved in ¼ cup non-chlorinated water
- ¼ teaspoon liquid rennet diluted in ¼ cup non-chlorinated water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Place the milk in a large saucepan or small stock pot. Heat the milk over low heat, stirring occasionally. When the temperature reaches 55º F, add the citric acid and mix thoroughly. Continue to heat the milk until the temperature reaches 87º to 89º F. Remove from the heat.
- Gently stir in the diluted rennet with an up-and-down motion. Allow the milk to stand until the curds form, 15 to 20 minutes. Cut the curds.
- Once the curds form, reheat the milk slowly to 108º F. Turn the heat off and let the curds stand for 20 minutes while the whey is dispelled. The whey should be clear and the curd should be slice-able.
- Scoop out the curds and gently press to release the excess whey.
Yield: Makes about 1½ pounds
- 1 gallon (16 cups) water
- ½ cup salt
- 2 pounds (about 4 cups) mozzarella curd , cut into small pieces*
- Prepare the water: Place the water and salt in a large saucepan. Heat the water until bubbles begin to appear on the surface, or an instant read thermometer registers 180º F. Turn off the heat.
- Heat the cheese curd: While the water is heating, place the cubes of cheese in a large bowl. When the water is ready, carefully pour the hot water over the cheese. Let the cheese cubes sit in the water for about 1 minute without stirring them. After 1 minute, gently stir them with a wooden spoon and look at the curd. If the cheese is heated through the curd will look smooth (like melted mozzarella) and is ready to be stretched. If the cheese curd is not completely heated through it will look grainy and still have some of the cubes. If so, it needs to sit in the hot water for another few minutes until soft.
- Stretch the curd: Working quickly, before the cheese cools down too much, stretch the curd with the wooden spoon until the cheese is smooth and elastic. Lift and stretch the curd to develop a stringy texture. Be careful not to overwork the curd: this will make you cheese heavy and too chewy. As the cheese cools it will begin to stiffen and become harder to stretch. The cheese is ready to be shaped before it cools completely.
- Shape the cheese: Divide the cheese into two or three pieces and wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap, twisting the ends of the plastic wrap to help the cheese form a round shape. Place the cheese in an ice bath, if desired, to help hold its shape.
- Serve the cheese immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week
Sabrina is a lead instructor in the Culinary Arts Program at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. To learn more about cheesemaking, check out her recreational class on April 9th at ICE.