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!