Mozzarella Cheese

Making your own cheese is neither a time-saver nor a money-saver, but it’s a great experiment to see how closely related two seemingly different things can be. Cheese is made from curds—coagulated casein proteins—in milk. The whey is separated out via an enzymatic reaction, allowing the curds to be cooked and then kneaded, stretched, and folded to create that characteristic structure found in string cheese.


American string cheese is really mozzarella cheese that’s been formed into long, skinny logs. Other countries make string cheese using goat or sheep’s milk, sometimes adding in cumin seeds and other spices, and often braid several thin strands together.

You’ll need to order a few chemicals to do this.  In two small bowls or glasses, measure out and set aside:

½ teaspoon (1.4g) calcium chloride dissolved in 2 tablespoons distilled water

¼ tablet rennet, dissolved in 4 tablespoons distilled water (adjust quantity per your rennet manufacturer’s directions)

In a stock pot, mix and slowly heat to 88°F / 31°C:

1 gallon (4 liters) whole milk, but not ultra-pasteurized or homogenized

1½ teaspoon (12.3g) citric acid

¼ teaspoon (0.7g) lipase powder


Where it says “not homogenized,” it really means not homogenized. (The milk can, and probably should, be pasteurized, though.) If you use homogenized milk, you’ll end up with a squeaky mess that vaguely resembles cottage cheese but doesn’t melt together. The homogenization process disrupts the protein structures such that they can no longer bind together.

Once the liquid is at 88°F / 31°C, add the calcium chloride and rennet mixtures and continue to slowly heat to 105°F / 40.5°C, stirring every few minutes. At this point, you should begin to see curds separating from whey.

Once the liquid is at 105°F / 40.5°C, remove from heat, cover the pot, and wait 20 minutes. At this point, the curds should be fully separated from the whey; if not, wait a while longer.

Transfer the curds to a microwave-safe bowl using a slotted spoon, or strain out the whey and transfer it from your strainer. Squeeze as much of the whey out of the curd as possible, tipping the bowl to drain the liquid. Microwave on high for one minute. Squeeze more of the whey out. The cheese should now be sticky; if not, continue to microwave in 15-second increments until it is warm and sticky (but not too hot to handle).

Add ½ teaspoon flaked salt to the cheese and knead. Microwave for one more minute on high until the cheese is around 130°F / 54.4°C. Remove and stretch, working it just like playing with silly putty: stretch, fold in half, twist, and stretch again, over and over, until you’ve achieved a stringy texture.


  • The addition of acid denatures proteins in the milk, helping curd formation. Citric acid is commonly used. For similar reasons, many cheeses use rennet—traditionally derived from calf stomach—because it has a number of enzymes that break down proteins in the milk.

  • The lipase powder is not chemically required, especially given that animal-based rennet contains lipase. Your rennet source might not contain it, however, and the lipase enzyme is responsible for the characteristic flavor of mozzarella because of the way it cleaves the fats in milk. For a lacto-vegetarian mozzarella cheese, use vegetable-based rennet and skip the lipase powder, but note that the cheese will not have the traditional flavor. 

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