Making cheese at home is surprisingly easy, and you don’t need a farm or special milk to do it! In this post, Vanessa walks us through the steps to make this easy homemade cheese from store bought milk. Covering which milk to choose, what simple ingredients you need like rennet and calcium chloride, and how to pick the right salt. With some basic kitchen tools and whole milk, you’ll be ready to create your own tasty mozzarella.
Whether you live on a big farm and have zero desire to own a cow, live on an acreage and aren’t properly zoned, or you’re living in the city and pining for the simpler life, I have good news for you – you CAN make your own cheeses with store bought milk. It is a common misconception that you need access to raw milk in order to make your own cheeses. Is raw milk a beautiful super food, teeming with good bacterias, fatty acids, amino acids, and vitamins and minerals? Absolutely. But the reality of it is that a low percentage of average households have a milk cow of their own, or access to raw milk; and in many states and provinces, selling raw milk is even illegal!
Here’s the reality – you can make cheese with milk you purchase in the store. So head to your local grocery store, face those glass doors, and consider the following helpful tips before you buy:
Milk Type: Cow’s milk, goat milk, nut milk, oat milk, the list goes on. In this article, I will only be referencing cow’s milk. I personally have no experience using anything else in cheese making, but I urge you to experiment!
Pasteurisation: This word simply means the milk is no longer raw, it has been held at a certain temperature for a certain period of time. Options in this category include: low, standard, and ultra high temp pasteurization. You want to reach for the low or standard temp pasteurized milk; the ultra high temperature in UHT milk has denatured the protein (called casein) in the milk, and the curd will not form properly.
Fat Content: Whole milk, 2%, 1% or skim. Using whole milk will give you a higher yield and better flavor, while 2%, 1% or skim milk will give you lower yield and a drier end product – this is due to the amount of butterfat in the milk.
Homogenization: Homogenization is a process in which the cream in the milk is broken up into tiny little portions so that it evenly disperses throughout the milk. If you have the choice of non-homogenised milk (sometimes called cream-top milk), choose it. That being said, I’ve always used homogenized myself.
Rennet: Rennet is an ingredient that is necessary for making almost all cheeses, except for a few. It is a complex set of enzymes used to coagulate your milk and form the curd, and is found naturally in the stomachs of ruminant animals. Rennet is available both as “animal rennet” or “vegetable rennet”. Note: animals are not harvested specifically for rennet, it is extracted when animals are butchered for food as an effort to make use of the whole animal. Vegetable rennet is a highly effective vegetarian option made from plants like thistle, nettle, and figs. I have used both and so far have preferred the animal rennet.
Calcium Chloride: Calcium chloride is a non-negotiable ingredient when making cheese from store bought milk. It is used to restore the calcium balance of milk, as well as to aid in coagulation. You will notice some recipes call for calcium chloride even if the recipe is intended to be made with raw milk, and this is simply to cover any imbalances due to the animal’s diet or its lactation stage at the time of milking.
Citric Acid: Citric acid is an ingredient that is not used in all cheese making, but is used in cheeses like mozzarella, ricotta, mascarpone, paneer, and more. Citric acid raises the acidity level of the milk, and without going into a lot of science, it gives mozzarella its stretch factor.
Cheese Salt: Cheese salt, simply put, is non-iodized salt. Iodized salt inhibits bacterial growth, which believe it or not, is essential to cheese making. I use either kosher salt or Redmond Real Salt.
Cultures: Some cheeses require a culture. There are multiple different types of cultures for different types of cheeses, too many to get into here, but it is imperative you follow your recipe closely. The cheese we will make together is mozzarella, and it does not require a culture.
Whole Milk: We will be using whole milk, this will give you a higher yield and better flavor due to the amount of butterfat in the milk.
Enjoy your fresh mozzarella sliced atop pizza, caprese salad, or in homemade mozzarella sticks! I always like to add a good sprinkle of large flaked sea salt on top of my fresh mozzarella when serving.