Making Mozzarella from Fresh Curd
A Di Bruno Bros. Guide to DIY Deliciousness
We’re the hot spot for mozz in Philadelphia, and there’s a reason why ours is the best. Danny and Joe Di Bruno, our founders, started out buying local handmade mozzarella from a New Jersey company that we still have a great relationship with today, over 75 years later! However, we quickly realized that the demand for fresh, handmade mozzarella is too good to pass up for our House of Cheese. In the early 1990s we began making our own, and continue to do so five days a week in South Philly with a five-man crew. However, since we like you, here’s our methods of mozz-iness for you to make your own at home.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
10-pound bag* of fresh mozzarella curd
2 large mixing bowls
Water — cold and hot!
Kosher salt (optional)
*10 pounds of curd will yield roughly 8 pounds of mozzarella—we’ll show you how to make a half-batch, which is a little easier than dealing with all 10 pounds at once!
Cut your bag of curd in half (watch out for moisture!) and tightly wrap one half in plastic wrap to save for your next batch. It’ll keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge, OR you can wrap it tightly and freeze for future use! Let it thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before you make batch number two.
With your remaining 5 pounds, using a large knife, cut the curd into roughly quarter-sized pieces, or 1-inch cubes. Toss them into one of your mixing bowls and let them sit out at room temperature for about an hour. THIS IS IMPORTANT—the curd must be at room temperature before we introduce hot water, otherwise the cold curd will lower the temperature too much and the magic won’t happen. If you need to speed up the process, pour some warm water (around 100-110 degrees) into the bowl just to cover the cubes. Don’t pour directly over the curd, pour around the edges of the bowl.
Once your curd is at room temperature (test it by splitting a large chunk open—if the inside is still cold, hold tight for another few minutes) drain the water into the second bowl. If you didn’t add any water, fill the second bowl with cool water. Now you get to decide if you want to salt your mozz! Add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt for every pound of curd to the cool water and stir until dissolved. Mozzarella can be very lactic and bland without salt, but if you’re watching the old sodium intake, it’s your call to skip this step. Set the salted water aside.
It’s time for some hot water! Heat up enough water just to cover the curds – you can do this in the microwave, stovetop, or an electric water kettle, just make sure your thermometer is handy and safe for your chosen method (i.e. no metal in the microwave!). We’re looking for170°-180°F. Handle with care, and if you’ve got sensitive hands now is a good time to “glove up”. Powder-free latex gloves, multiple pairs if needed, are great, but you could also grab unused dishwashing gloves.
Pour the hot water into the sides of the bowl until the curds are covered. Let ’em sit for about 5 minutes or so, until the curds start to stick together. Drain about half of the water at this point and replace with fresh hot water, which at 170°-180°F should be uncomfortable to the touch. Grab your spatula or spoon and fold the curds together in the middle, drawing them into one mass. Keep them submerged while you work, no need to rush.
Let’s get our hands in there now – mozzarella is a “pasta filata” style cheese, which means “pulled curd”, so it just isn’t mozz until we give it a little stretch. Grab the mass of melty curds under the water with your less-dominant hand, and with your other hand, pull a chunk of the cheese away from the mass slowly, like you’re handing it to someone across the table. Don’t let it separate before you bring it back down into the water to rejoin its curd brothers under the water. Do this for a minute or two, so that all of the cheese mass has been pulled and rejoined several times. It’ll get shiny, too, which is great! Think of this step as dealing a deck of cards in slow-motion, or being a human taffy-pulling machine.
We’re ready to make some balls! It’s up to you what size to make them, and it might take some finagling of hand positions, but for roughly one-pounders, here’s what to do. Pull a good portion of the cheese towards you, up out of the water, and start bunching up roughly a quarter of what you started with—this technique looks like bunching up a tube sock or a stocking, and then pushing the bunched bits up through the “toe” which will stretch over and look like a bubble gum bubble. Using a C-shaped hand position, smooth over your ball of goodness and pinch it off on the bottom. Plop that bad boy into your bowl of salted cool water and repeat until all the curds have been formed into balls. Wrap tightly in plastic or put in tupperware and fill with brine before refrigerating.
For a variation on size, make “ciliegine” or “cherry” sized balls by pinching off smaller pieces, or to make a single loaf that you can slice off of as needed, form the whole mass into a log on a big piece of plastic wrap, roll tightly like a giant Tootsie Roll with the ends folded over, and put the entire plastic-wrapped loaf into the cool water. The possibilities are endless!
For best results, enjoy your mozz within 24-48 hours of making. Can be refrigerated for 1-2 weeks or frozen for up to a month. Serve a million different ways or cook up a storm, but congrats on making amazing cheese by hand—just like we do!
Great explanation guys, question is about how many ciliegine will 8# finished product yield ?
We estimate there’s around 40 in a pound, so roughly 320.
Great instructions! Followed another recipe to make the curd and immediately switched to your recipe to finish the cheese. It came out great. Thanks again
This curd and recipe is great! Perfect mozz the first time. We found Di Bruno’s in philly when I went for my Italian citizenship appointment. My favorite place now. Forza Italia!
To help some of the other reviewers out a bit who were having some trouble , I wanted to refer them and yourselves to a slightly different method for making fresh mozzarella that appears in Tony Gemignani’s Pizza Bible cookbook. I had used his method first but I would also like to try the one here. I believe the reason why it was easier and I think I managed to ball the cheese on the first time I did it was owing to his visual aids leading you through each step of the process. One major difference I did notice in his method in contrast to yours is he boils the salt in water then adds ice water to it . Also he only makes 1 pound of it at a time, keeps another hot pot of water hot on the stove in case extra must be added throughout the process if it’s not coming together after a minute. I suppose there are a few different ways to do this and I’m not sure who is right, but I thought I would at least make note of this for others whom may become frustrated because it is so hard to explain something in mere words no matter how well the explanation seems.
Are your curds made from rennet or acidic based like lemon juice?
Our curds are acid coagulated with vinegar. Thanks for reading!
I followed the recipe to the letter. I failed. My cheese was stringy and Bally and pilly and would not adhere into a ball. I boiled the water to 175 degrees and confirmed with a thermometer. Not sure where I went wrong.
Sorry for the delay in responding! Do you recall if you let the curd sit out at room temperature for a bit, or did you start working with it straight out of the fridge? Was it our curd you used in your attempt or did you find our instructions and work with a different product?
We’ll be reaching out via email to work through some more details with you and make sure you have a great experience. Sorry you didn’t have success here, it can be tricky and so we’re reviewing our instructions to determine whether some updating is required. Please check your email for more communication from us!
Finally a comprehensive tutorial on how to make the little mozzerella balls! Thank you! I have made fresh mozzerella in the past and it’s very easy. But to make the little balls, staying in the water must be the secret. No? To keeping that soft and light texture? Because if you pull outside the water you are squeezing all the water out and you have a firmer cheese
Yes, do try and keep them in the water!
I need some help in troubleshooting. I got to the point of adding hot water to my curd, as they became soft and warm all the way through, but they never began to melt and come together. They stayed separate and in pieces. I drained it and added more hot water, but still no change. What went wrong? Is it fixable? What can I do with these curds if they it is not fixable? Please advise.
So once you add the hot water you need to stir the curds around do make sure that the curds are warming and getting soft. This takes roughly about 5 to 7 minutes. Then you start to “pull” the curd over a wooden or stainless steel paddle/spoon and stretching the curds over the back. This is to bring the cut curds back together. You pull and stretch until all of the curds are melded back together and there is a nice shiny sheen to the curd.
Let us know how your Mozzarella turns out!
I own a thriving restaurant in the Raleigh area but lived in Philly my whole life until 2012 and am a big fan of you guys and your products. What is the largest amount that you think 1 person can handle making by themselves at one time? How much curd? I am thinking of doing this at my restaurant thinking it may cut some cost for me while adding more of that “fresh” appeal which we thrive on at our place. And I am curious about the warm milk too as I am pretty sure I have seen it done that way before too.
Hi Kevin – thanks for the comment. What’s your restaurant called so that we can make a note to check it out if we’re ever in Raleigh!
So in terms of your production questions…that’s a lot to handle without more information. We are happy to help more, but also are thinking that the very best thing for your situation would be to contact Rynn Caputo at Caputo Brothers Creamery. https://caputobrotherscreamery.com/ Please do say that we referred you!
Caputo does restaurant wholesale and also training on many different things to do with their curd. We can’t recommend them strongly enough!
Let us know if we can help any further.
I was watching a restaurant show and they made fresh mozzarella from cheese curds, but I thought they had used hot milk instead of hot water. Is that a possibility?
Hi Tracy – we had to do a bit of research on this topic. It sounds possible, but it is not traditional. The hand-stretching of fresh mozz is typically done in hot water. We were thinking that there’s a chance that the milk enzymes may damage the curd, but are not positive about that for sure. Looking into it and will report back if we find out for sure!
I was looking for a possible reason for the fact that my mozzarella turned out quite tough. The answer to my e mail stated that the water should be 110 degrees. The instructions say 160 then 165. Which should it be? I followed the instructions and mine was 160. I am disappointed that Di Bruno could not be more helpful. Obviously, I will not be purchasing more curd.