Cheesemaking: Mozzarella & Mascarpone

Equipment needed for Mozzarella:

  • Non-reactive pot
  • Accurate thermometer
  • Knife (not high carbon steel) to cut curds
  • Stainless or other nonreactive spoon to stir curds
  • Large stainless steel or other nonreactive colander
  • Large stainless or other nonreactive bowl
  • 1 ½ to 2 quart microwave-safe bowl if stretching curd w/ microwave method
  • Heavy rubber gloves if you do not have a microwave and are using heated water or whey to heat curd for stretching
  • Non-reactive bowl of ice water to help cheese set if not eating immediately


Equipment needed for Mascarpone:

  • 2 quart cooking pot
  • Stainless or other nonreactive bowl that can be used on top of pot to form a double boiler
  • Accurate thermometer
  • Stainless or other nonreactive spoon to stir curds
  • Large stainless steel or other nonreactive colander
  • Bowl or pot to catch whey from colander
  • Butter muslin


Milk and Cheese FAQ, Trouble Shooting, and Tips


Can I substitute cream of tartar for tartaric acid in my mascarpone?

No. Tartaric acid and cream of tartar have different acidity levels. Cream of tartar is not acidic enough for cheese making.


Cream of tartar is made by combining tartaric acid with potassium hydroxide. This partially neutralizes its acidity, making it suitable for helping to add structure to egg whites in meringue, but not acidic enough to coagulate milk or cream for cheese.


Tartaric acid occurs naturally in some fruits such as bananas and grapes. Most tartaric acid is collected from the wine making process where it forms naturally as the wine settles. You can also see tartaric acid crystals form if you allow grape juice to settle for jelly making. Tartaric acid also can be synthesized. In addition to its use in cheese making, it is used to flavor citrus soft drinks and as a food preservative to reduce oxidation.


Can I use skim milk to make cheese?

Yes, but the yield will be low, so low it may not be worth your time. It also will yield a drier end product.


Heavy cream, whipping cream, half and half, what do these terms really mean?

Heavy cream and whipping cream are the same and contain 36 to 40 percent cream. Light whipping cream contains 30 to 36 percent cream. Half and half is usually around 10.5 percent but can contain as much as 18 percent cream. Sour cream is 18 to 20 percent cream. And, whole milk is 3.25 percent cream.


What if I can’t find low heat pasteurized half and half?

You can mix your own in a 3:1 ratio of whole milk to cream. Scale as necessary.


What if I don’t have non-iodized salt?

For quick cheeses, this is less of an issue. However for aged cheeses, the iodine in iodized salt will interfere with bacterial ripening. Use cheese salt, sea salt, or Kosher salt making allowances for 75 percent less volume in the latter. Also Morton Kosher salt is saltier than Diamond brand.


Vegetable Rennet v. Animal Rennet, why does it matter?

You can make multitudes of vegetarian cheeses with vegetable rennet. However, for cheeses that age more than one year, you will need to use animal rennet as the vegetable rennet will break down. Modern vegetable rennet can be derived from mold microbes. Historically plant-based rennet has been derived from thistle, fig, yarrow, ivy, and other plants.


I can’t find rennet in town, can I use Junket?

Junket  is meant for yogurt and pudding. It can be used for cheese, but takes significantly longer to coagulate.


How long will my rennet keep?

Rennet tablets can be stored for one year at room temperature and up to five years in the freezer. Liquid rennet stores for one to two years if protected from light. However, once you dilute your rennet to make cheese, you need to use it within 30 minutes.


How do I know if my rennet is still good?

Heat one cup of milk to 90°F. Dissolve ¼ rennet tablet (or 1/8 tsp. double strength liquid rennet) in 8 ounces of cool unchlorinated water and stir well. From this diluted rennet, take 2 tablespoons and add it to the milk at 90°F. Stir gently, distributing the rennet from the bottom to the top for 30 seconds. If the rennet is working, the milk surface will begin to firm or form a slight film after two minutes. After six to ten minutes, it will have formed a curd that will hold a knife cut. If this doesn’t happen, your rennet is too old.


Can I use goat milk?

Yes, but the flavor will be different. You can typically substitute goat milk / cream for most cheese recipes.


Can I use raw milk?

Raw milk comes with some bacterial risks. It is best to know the farmer, visually verify the production and processing conditions, as well as see a clean bill of veterinary health for any raw milk. Ideally homemade raw milk cheeses should be consumed quickly. Aging them can pose additional risks. The recipes here will work with raw milk, though you may need to add more acid (33% more acid per gallon is a rule of thumb). If you frequently have access to raw milk there are recipes for using raw milk specifically in Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll. You can also find some of them online at her website,


What about all this whey?

Whey will keep up to a week in the refrigerator and it may be frozen for several months. Milk is almost 90% water and you will get about 3 ½ pints of whey from a half-gallon of milk. Whey contains lactose, protein, vitamins, and minerals along with traces of fat. It digests very rapidly; its amino acids enter the blood stream faster than other protein sources. For this reason, athletes often consume commercial whey protein shakes after workouts to help them head off lactic acid damage to their muscles. Whey can be used in soups and in baking. Some people like to soak their grains and beans in whey. Others make it into lemonade by filtering it and adding sweetener. Historically cheese makers fed it to their pigs. It can also be composted, but may attract rodents.


My mozzarella curds aren’t stretching after I microwaved them. How do I fix my cheese?

Your microwave may not be hot enough. Try putting them back in the microwave up to three more times at 30 seconds each to warm the curd sufficiently. It needs to reach 1450  F in order to properly stretch.


My mozzarella curds are very hot and they still aren’t stretching.

This could be due to how your milk was processed at the dairy and sometimes adjustments are necessary. Start over with a new batch and increase the citric acid to 1¼ to 1 ½  teaspoons. It may take several adjustments to find the correct amount of citric acid for the milk you are working with.


My mozzarella is very dry. How do I make it more moist?

Try skipping the step of heating the curd to 105°/110° F. Alternatively, you can decrease the amount of citric acid to ½ teaspoon or take care not to stretch the mozzarella as much and cover it immediately with cold water once you are finished with the stretching process.


Where can I order cultures and supplies if CGFC is out of stock or doesn’t carry them?

Online at and Amazon also has some products, but be sure to check ratings and comments before ordering.


What are some good resources for cheese making?

Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll is an excellent book. There are also several recipes on Ricki Carroll’s site, and on Cultures for Health at

30-Minute Mozzarella
Kilgus whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
1/2 gallon
citric acid powder diluted in 1/4 cup unchlorinated water
3/4 teaspoon
rennet tablet or 1/8 teaspoon single strength liquid rennet (rennet must be used within 30 minutes of diluting)
non-iodized sea salt, Kosher salt, or cheese salt
1/2 teaspoon
(optional) lipase powder diluted in 1/8 cup unchlorinated water and allowed to sit for 20 minutes to develop a stronger flavor. You may also have to increase the rennet slightly.
1/16 to 1/8 teaspoon
whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
1 pint
Kilgus heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
1 pint
tartaric acid powder
1/4 teaspoon
calcium chloride if you are using ultra-pasteurized cream. Kilgus is not ultra-pasteurized but other brands are)
1/8 teaspoon

For Mozzarella

  1. Dilute citric acid and any enzymes in small glasses, marking them if it helps you to remember what they are so you can add them at the right time.
  2. Shake the milk and pour it into the pot. Kilgus is not homogenized so there will be fat chunks that will disappear as the milk is heated.
  3. Heat the milk on low heat. When it reaches 550 F, add the diluted citric acid powder and stir. If you are using lipase, add it now, too. Stir gently.
  4. Continuing to use medium/low heat, bring the milk to 90°F stirring gently. (The milk will start to curdle.)
  5. Stop stirring. Remove pot from heat. Add the diluted rennet pouring in a circle. Mix it in using only an up and down motion with your stirring utensil for a few strokes for 30 seconds. Less is more. You want to preserve the integrity and softness of the curd. Cover the pot and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  6. At this point, the curd may already be pulling away from the sides of the pot. It will look like very thick yogurt and the whey will become clear.
  7. Cut the curd using a knife into a 1-inch checkerboard.
  8. For a softer cheese, you can drain the curd now. Or, gently heat the curd to 1000 F to 1050 F without stirring.
  9. Place a colander in a bowl. Using a slotted spoon, gently scoop the curd into the colander. Strain the curd. Do NOT discard the whey.


Stretching Curd w/ Microwave

  1. If you have a microwave, place the drained curd in a microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Drain off the excess whey. Using a spoon, gently fold the cheese over and over on itself as in kneading bread to distribute the heat evenly.
  3. Microwave two more times for 35 seconds each until the cheese reaches an internal temperature of 1450 F.
  4. Add salt.
  5. Using freshly washed hands, knead until it is smooth and elastic as if it was taffy. Less is more because stretching removes whey and makes the cheese firmer and drier.
  6. Roll the cheese into two palm-sized balls. Slice and eat warm.
  7. Or, place the mozzarella balls in a bowl of ice water for 30 minutes to bring the temperature down and produce a consistent smooth texture throughout the cheese.
  8. When cool, wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator. Use within the next two days. Do not store in liquid or the surface will become slimy.


Stretching Curd NO Microwave

  1. If you do not have a microwave, pour the whey back into the pot and heat to 1750 F. Add 1/8 c of cheese salt.
  2. Add the cut curd gently into the liquid. Using a spoon, gather the curd onto itself. When the curd starts to meld, put on your gloves. Using a ladle, remove the curd from the liquid and begin stretching. If it doesn’t stretch, return it to the liquid.
  3. It may be lumpy at first, but as the curd stretches, it will become smooth. Stretch it out several times and fold it back on itself. If it tears, reheat. When the curd reaches 1450 F it will stretch like taffy and develop a sheen. You can now form it into a single ball or multiple smaller ones.
  4. Eat immediately while warm. Or, place the mozzarella balls in a bowl of ice water for 30 minutes to bring the temperature down and produce a consistent smooth texture throughout the cheese.

When cool, wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator. Use within the next two days. Do not store in liquid or the surface will become slimy


Directions for Mascarpone:

  1. Dilute tartaric acid in 2 T of water and set aside.
  2. Set up a double boiler by filling a 2-quart pot with 2 to 3 inches of water and placing a metal bowl large enough to hold 1 pint each of milk and cream on top of the pot.
  3. Pour whole milk and cream into the bowl. Slowly heat the water, raising the milk/cream temperature to 1850 F to 1950 F. Stir it to keep it from sticking. It will begin foaming at about 1750 F.
  4. Hold the milk/cream mixture at this temperature for five minutes.
  5. Slowly add the tartaric acid solution. Stir very gently as the curd will be forming almost immediately. The curd will be small and grainy like grits or Cream of Wheat cereal.
  6. Remove the pot from heat and allow the curds to cool for 20 to 30 minutes.
  7. While the curd is cooling, place a sanitized colander over a bowl or pot. Line it with washed butter muslin.
  8. Ladle the curd into the cheesecloth. When all the curd is transferred, fold the layers of cloth over the curd and place it in a cool area or in your fridge to drain. A little over 1 cup of whey will be released.
  9. Drain for 1 to 2 hours for a traditional Mascarpone texture. Or, drain for up to 12 hours in your fridge for a whipped Cream Cheese texture.
  10. Mascarpone will become considerably thicker when refrigerated and will become more spreadable when brought back to room temperature. If you want a sweeter cheese for filling cannoli, blend it with sifted confectioner’s sugar or honey.
  11. When you are happy with the texture of your cheese, transfer it to a sterilized and rinsed covered dish or container.
  12. The cheese will taste best within two days, however, it will keep for 7 to 10 days.