Lazy Sunday: Pulling Mozzarella Cheese

To be fair, I am a bit drunk writing this post.  But I will try my best to tell you how I pulled this fresh mozzarella cheese from milk, and how I nearly burnt my hands while plunging them into salty 170 degree water.  

I will take this further next time (simple by design, limitless in inspiration): honey and pepper burrata, bleu cheese burrata, bison mozzarella (stolen from the bison who graze in Golden Gate Park).  I will fill it with a savory curd or perhaps uni and declare it a egg!  By god an egg!

But for now, I chronicle my 7 hours as a girthy Italian woman from Puglia, whose hands are grained with salted whey.

Um... Was a bit drunk.  After two Racer 5's, I became no longer a lyrical poet.  I ended up passing out, watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  Reality hits -- a savory curd? I must google it. 

So I found this recipe in the "Cooking School" part of  Gourmet magazine.  I have long hoped for a instructional "how-to" section, and my prayers have been answered.

I used to read pieces telling me that I hadn't truly tasted Mozzarella until I had eaten it fresh out of the cheesemakers hands, seconds old.  So naturally, I wanted this experience.  As we are in a recession, I decided to forego the $1,500 flight to Italy and buy a $6.49 gallon of Organic Strauss Creamery Milk instead. Though I missed out on in-flight peanuts, I was able to dig my teeth into fresh mozzarella, as if it were any apple.  

HAND PULLED MOZZARELLA (Makes a scant pound or 4 disks, 3-4 inches in diameter, 1-2 inches high)

SUMMARY: You need time and attention to detail.  The milk must be kept at a luke warm 88-91 degrees F, by heating it on and off the flame.  There is no "set-to-simmer and leave" scenario here.  This is simply a "stand-over-the-stove-with-some-red-wine" detente you play with your brew.  You will do this for 2 hours and then you will rest for however long you can hold out on forming the cheese  (at least 3 hours).  You will then melt the cheese curds in scalding water until your hands hurt and full them to form clouds of cheese. 

WARE: You need an instant thermometer, a thick 6 quart pot, cheesecloth, rubberband, some string.  These are more or less non-negotiable.  Plastic heat resistant gloves if you are a wuss (for cheese pulling).

TOTAL TIME: 7 hours; 3 hours to make curds, 3 hours to drain curds (inactive), 1 hour top pull cheese.

- 1 Gallon GOOD MILK (The better the milk, the better the cheese)
- 1 1/8 t citric acid
- 1/2 c water
- 1/4 crushed rennet tablet
- At least 1/3 c salt

**A note on purveying:  Hit up the hippie store for fantastic milk.  Ask the cheese section of a nice cheese store/market if they have rennet. (it may not be displayed in the open).  Citric acid is obtainable in places that seem like they have things to help you make jam.  It is essential because it makes the milk a bit acidic (like Italian milk), and allows us to pull the curds into balls.  No citric acid and your curds may not come together.  If you live in San Francisco, everything is available at Rainbow Grocery, a stunningly unique Co-op.**  

I here you can also buy a kit online...


1. Pour milk and citric acid into a large pot attached with an instant read thermometer.  Stir to combine.  Heat the milk on low to 91 degrees F. Turn of the stove.  Keep between 88-91F for 1 hour.  When milk drops to 88, reheat to 91 and toggle back and for as needed. 

2. After an hour, dissolve the tiny bit of rennet you have in a 1/4 c warm water.  Once fully dissolved, mix it into the heating milk.  Continue toggling between 88-91 F.  Let sit for 15-20 WITHOUT STIRRING, until a pudding forms. It should look like silken tofu. 

3.  With a long sharp knife cut 1/2 inch hatchmarks cross and lengthwise (to form a chess board).  Make sure to cut all the way down to the bottom of the pot.  Let stand for 5 minutes (no mixing).  Continue to monitor the temperature (toggle gobble).

4. Gently stir + stand for 10 min + stir + stand for 10 min + stir + stand for ten minutes.  A total for 30 minutes, 3 stirs. 88-91 F. 

At first the curds will appear plump.

But as time goes by they will deflate a bit.

5. After the three bouts of stirring, let rest for 30 minutes undistrubed, no stirring.  88-91F.

6. After the 30 minutes, you are ready to harvest your curds.  Line a strainer with some cheesecloth and removed the curds from liquid whey, placing them in a strainer.  Gather the sides of the cheesecloth and tie them with a rubberband like a ponytail.  Hang your curds up to a something and allow the liquids to drip out into a bowl beneath it.  The drying of the curds takes 3 hours.

**You can save your whey to use as storing fluid for the balls when they are made if desired**


Your curds will look something like this (!!!!!!):

7. It is a firm pine-cone like cake of curds.  The individual curds are large and can come away from the mass in it sold form.  Taste some.  Tastes good, but a bit bland. Cut the mass into quarters and crumble curds apart as they would naturally.

8. Heat 1/3 c salt in 5 quarts water until boiling in a large pot.  In a shallow pan, fill the bottom with the first quarter of curds.   The shallow pan should be equipped with an instant read thermometer.  The magic number here is no longer 88 (the luckiest two digit number in Chinese mythology) , but 170F. 

**To test if your curds are good to go, melt a small curd in the water and test for elasticity and cohesiveness.  If things do not come together, than your cheese may not be acidic enough.  I would recommend letting the curds sit in a warm place overnight to develop some natural acidity.** 

9 . Pour boiling water onto curds in the shallow pan by the ladle full, until the thermometer hits 170F.  It takes energy to heat up the curds, so even though the water is boiling it will loose a substantial amount of degrees (say 50) when you pour it on top of the curds. 

Begin forming. 

Cool ball in a bowl of water.

The video shows how you would pull a ball of mozzarella.  If you pull it this few times, the mozzarella will be very fluffy and when cut, a bit feathery.  

The stringy chewy quality is not there.  To form this texture, you must pull the cheese until it cools to the point where it is hard to work with, reheat by soaking in the salty hot water again, pull once more, reheat, and then pull a third time.  You are looking for a cheese that is shiny and that stretches to greater lengths.

The feathery ball is better for instant eating, while the stretchier one is better for eating once cooled in a bowl of water for a couple hoursand sliced.  When first formed, the stringier one is a bit tough, but will soften as it soaked in water.  The feathery one is delicate whereas the other one has a great bite.  Play around, find the texture you like. 

Here is another video of me pulling the more elastic cheese. 

Cool all the balls in some water or leftover whey. Eat!

I ate mine straight with a bti of salt.  And then made pizza too.  A pizza bianca with no-knead dough, and freshly cured bacon from porkpile.  More to come!


  1. If you all were wondering, the cheese was DELICIOUS!!! And, I really love how in the "Pull Three" video, I can hear Kasia, Daniela, and Carl...and I think a little Matt mixed in too...haha.

  2. awww katie, it was so fun watching you making and pulling those mozarella. You are so talented.

  3. omg i love that you were drunk when you first started writing this post-hilarious. that mozzi looks awesome!

  4. Wow i loved the hand pulled mozarrela recipe. I will try it out myself. Great website by the way. I am enjoying it completely. Well, I like the fresh mozzarella at Russo's in Watertown - the hand-pulled, fresh nature of it is much more apparent than much pricier stuff available at whole foods and other purveyors. thank you for posting and sharing it.

  5. I can't believe I finally did it! Thanks to you! I tried at least three other Mozz recipes I found on the internet. I made messes and ricotta cheese, but no mozz. The method you posted is so easy and it works great! So thanks for taking the time to put this together.
    I'm not Italian at all, but my wife and her family is so I've scored major points! ; )

  6. I took a class last year about making mozarella but we had to buy the curds. I wasn't that crazy about it.

    I wanted to learn how to make the curds, too. This recipe is great. It took all day but it is worth it. Thanks for posting it.

  7. Barry - you must try this! I must get out to Tusso's in Watertown.

    Erik, NinNin - It's fun yeah? I hope you didn't burn your fingers while pulling!

  8. Gorgeous post gonna try this soon


Post a Comment

Popular Posts