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Homemade Mozz...w/o rennet, et al?

I've all of a sudden got a hankerin to make my own mozz. But all the recipes I've seen so far use rennet/citric acid and I'm looking for one without those ingredients. I'm assuming people way back when did not use those when making mozzarella so I'd like to give it a go as they did. I hope I'm not coming off as pretentious, and I certainly have way little experience with cheese but would love to make cheese the natural way. Any advice? Thanks, Hounds.

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  1. Both rennet and citric acid have been used for centuries. Rennet has been used in cheesemaking probably as long as people have been making cheese. In fact, one conjecture is that cheese was discovered when it formed from milk stored in pouches made from animal stomachs (which is what rennet is).

    1. the only cheese you can make (to my knowledge) w/o rennet is a kind of mild farmer's like thing you'd use in sag paneer.

      3 Replies
      1. re: hill food

        There are a number of cheeses made without rennet or rennin. Here's a link:


        TJ sells whole milk mozzarella made with a "vegetable rennet", so apparently it can be made without animal rennet. I don't have a recipe, but I'll look. You might consider contacting fhe group of the above website.

        1. re: Richard 16

          There are alternatives to rennet. The point hill food and I were trying to make was that using rennet to make cheese is neither a modern shortcut nor "unnatural" as the original poster seemed to think, when he said: "I'm assuming people way back when did not use [rennet/citric acid] when making mozzarella ... but would love to make cheese the natural way." You need to add something to the milk to make the curds form -- rennet is the traditional catalyst, but whether you choose to use that or an alternative, it's integral to the cheesemaking process.

          I suggest the orginal poster do some research on cheesemaking in general, and not just look for recipes for mozzerella.

        2. I should have also said that the reason rennet (or some kind of equivalent) is used to make cheese is that the naturally occurring enzymes in rennet are part of the chemical reaction that causes the milk proteins to coagulate and form curds. No rennet (or something similar), no cheese. If you're going to try to make cheese, you should probably do some research and learn more about it. Google is your friend!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            someone on the DC board was sourcing fresh rennet, and I did indeed Google for recipes but the first few pages were ungratifying, do you, Ruth (or others) have trusted recipe sources out there?

            I'm a random kinda person, ("try it - see what happens" is one of my mottos - "I'm along for the ride" seems to be a good one as a guest) but I'm new to the process and reading all sorts of conflicting advice. I do realize climate, altitude and ingredients are all going to do different unpredictable things. which is cool, I just don't want to create something poisonous, although I define cheese as deliciously rancid dairy in the first place.

            and yes Google is our friend (for now - but they're working on that!)

          2. Yeah, the others are correct...rennet and citric acid ARE the natural way. I've been making cheese for a while and learned from my great aunt, who, as far back as the 1940s, has used rennet she obtained from her farm's meat processor (slaughterhouse). And she learned from her mother, who did essentially the same thing, so that's how I assume old Italian cheesemakers did it, as well. Now it's conveniently available in tablets or liquid vials. You can also use the vegetarian kind. I've had better luck with the traditional rennet, but if your objections are the source, the vegetarian can be fine - might take a little more than the recipe requires to get a reasonably firm cheese. Also, I use the powdered citric acid sold at a local brewshop, but you could probably use lemon juice or a similar souring agent to replicate the curdling action required to make mozzarella. I'm guessing they work the same, because I replace citric acid with lemon juice when I'm canning...just a thought.

            By the way, mozzarella is a very, very easy cheese to make, and the result is SO worth the effort, even with cow's milk...just make sure you get the freshest, least altered (and definitely NOT ultra-pasturized) milk you can find - that's the way to keep the cheesemaking natural. Ultra-pasturized milk is not always labeled, and employees at supermarkets rarely (if ever) know whether their milk brands come from facilities that ultra-pasturize, so unless you call the dairy or processor yourself, you won't know you've got ultra-pasturized milk until your mozzarella ends up more like sub-par ricotta.

            1. The posters are right about the need of citric acid or rennet to make mozzarella. For an excellent discussion of the subject, see Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, or this excerpt in the new Mother Earth News: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-F.... The magazine includes a recipe for making cheese. For supplies, including a kit for making mozzarella, see the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company at http://www.cheesemaking.com/. You can order animal and vegetable rennet there. Have fun!

              1. I've just started making mozzarella at home. I ordered microbial rennet (from mushrooms) online. Citric acid is hard to find sometimes - I got a health food store to order it for me specially. Thankfully it's cheap! The citric acid is allegedly what gives the cheese its stretchy quality - essential for mozzarella. It's not difficult to make, it just takes a while to get the hang of the handling.

                I make mine with raw milk, so I can't comment on working with pasteurized milk. I think homogenization (when they emulsify the milk to keep the cream from splitting out) is a bigger problem than the pasteurization, though. Some health food stores supposedly sell pasteurized but unhomogenized milk. Worth a try.

                And the difference between very rubbery mozzarella and soft, melty mozzarella seems to be (from trial and error!) the temperature, the amount of rennet & Citric acid added, and how gently you handle the curds. So patience (not rushing the process by increasing heat/adding more 'stuff'/squeezing the curds) is important!

                If this seems intimidating, try making ricotta at home. You can do this with just regular whole milk from the grocery store and a little lemon juice. and it tastes amazing. Try looking here: http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main... for a sense of the process. It's totally worth making at home.

                10 Replies
                1. re: Gooseberry

                  Thank you, Gooseberry, TNexplorer, and bflocat! Your posts were quite helpful in understanding the process. Rennet it is then!

                  But one more query to you cheese making experts, I read a little blurb in the cheesemaking.com Mozzrella FAQ about using cultures. Anyone here have any experience making mozz with cultures vs. citric acid vs. lemon juice, etc.?

                  1. re: baloney

                    Hey Baloney - I've never heard of making mozza with a culture...it's not a cultured cheese - although the website may be meaning a different sort of "culture" than I'm thinking (I'm thinking of those I use in my blue cheeses). I'd think lemon juice would work, but you may want to start out with citric acid, since it's easier to work with...at least until you get the hang of the process. As Gooseberry points out, there's already a lot of trial and error involved with the heating, stirring, and stretching of the cheese, so before you add in another element to experiement with, you might want to try and get the basics down.

                    Also, I'd HIGHLY recommend that beginners look into the Ricki Carroll website TNexplorer mentioned (http://www.cheesemaking.com/), and consider buying her homemade mozzarella kit, and/or her book 'Home Cheese Making'. (My local brewshop sells both, so you might not even need to pay for shipping). Like I've said, I've been making cheeses for a long time, and her methods and instructions are the best I've seen. If you can't learn directly from an artisan, this would be the next best thing. And I have to admit that I now use her "microwave" method for mozzarella (the hot water bath is a lot difficult, even for a seasoned cheesemaker). Her kit contains ingredients to make a lot of batches (20-30 or something), so it's well worth it if you think you'll be making a lot of cheese. BUT, for some reason her instructions in the kit are slightly different than those in her book, so use her book instructions, not the ones in the kit, for the best results.

                    Oh - and last thing. You can use homogenized milk and pasturized milk to make mozzarella. The results won't be as good as fresh, raw milk, but that's hard to find in a lot of areas. You just need to avoid ULTRA-pasturized milk - this is the type that will not ever turn into mozzarella. And remember that just because milk is labeled "organic" does not mean that it hasn't been Ultra-pasturized.

                    1. re: bflocat

                      Thanks so much for the tips. I'll definitely look into buying the book as I'm on a cookbook buying spree these days anyway. How's the taste difference between the microwave and hot water bath? Significant?

                      1. re: baloney

                        I've never done a side-by-side taste test, but I've never noticed any difference. Probably the best thing about the microwave method is that you can get stretching as soon as you pull it without burning your hands, working with it until it cools, and then popping it back in the microwave. Sometimes the water bath temp is hard to control, and there's a lot of back and forth between the bath and the stretch, with waiting in between for it to cool to a reasonable (non-burning) temp. Some people wear gloves to counteract this, but I didn't, so microwave is way to go for me.

                        Really, a lot of this is about experimentation. You really have to make a couple of batches to understand different things (like stretching technique) will affect final flavors and textures - but that's the fun of it, right? It took me probably years to get to the point where I feel I make a consistent product every single time...and every now and again things go wacky (like when my thermometer's batteries stopped working and I ended up with ricotta).

                        1. re: baloney

                          Here's a great website about making all sorts of cheeses; better than any printed text cookbook I've seen.

                          I'd like to see other good sites, if any of us have them.


                          1. re: baloney

                            I have the most recent edition of Carroll's book (I think). What I don't like is that the recipes all call for "one packet" of this or that - the way they sell them on the website - instead of measurements. But it's a great site and their shipping is quick and cheap.

                            As far as cheesemaking in the olden days, there's a chapter in the Little House books on cheese - and Ma used rennet for hers - she just had to make the rennet herself from the calf stomach. Doesn't get much more natural than that. Also research the raw milk laws in your state - that will determine what quality of milk you'll be able to get.

                          2. re: bflocat

                            You're right -- in fact, a lot of the large brands of organic milk (like Horizon) are ultrapasteurized. Ultrapasteurizing gives it a longer shelf life, and organic milk doesn't sell as fast as conventional milk, and because there are fewer producers it's often shipped farther. Ultrapasteurizing doesn't change the fact that it's organic -- it's just a different way of heating the milk and doesn't involve adding anything.

                            1. re: bflocat

                              Ricki Carroll has a special for $50 that includes the mozarella/ricotta kit (citric acid, rennet, chesses thermometer, cheesecloths...) that makes up to 30 batches (of 1 gallon milk each), a DVD, and the Home Cheese Making book (which has recipes for dozens of cheeses.) I ordered it 2 weeks ago, and it arrived in about 5 days.

                              1. re: bflocat

                                that's funny - I'm intimidated by the microwave method! Too worried about accidentally cooking the curds. I find it a lot easier to heat up a gallon of salted water to a set temperature then just pour it over my curds, stir and then stretch. The main problem - the heat - I solve by wearing lined dishwashing gloves I reserve solely for cheesemaking.

                                Yesterday I tried making fresh cheese (mozzarella without citric acid, and without the remelting of curds) with milk from the grocery store. Ended up with wispy curds and something that was more like ricotta than cheese. So I'm going to stick with the raw milk.

                          3. good info all.

                            I wondered why Horizon always has a month-off sell by date...

                            1. haay balonev...you can make mozza with a vegetarian rennet. To make the rennet is fairly simple. You can use many different herbs that carry the same enzymes as an animal rennet. I normally use nettle or thistle herbs. You can easily find them at any health food stores, normally located with the teas. All you gotta do is make a strong tea from the herbs, strain it and cool it down. The ratio is approximately 1/2 cup veggie rennet to 1 gallon of milk. Though play around with it XD. Hope this helps!!!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: airbear

                                I read recently where a significant percentage of 'vegetarian rennet' is a genetically modified organism which, after the chemical magic is performed, provides 'vegetarian' rennet.

                                Alas, the SOURCE of the materials used in veg rennet continue to be from slaughtered calves, so...depending on your view, while vegetarian rennet through microbial science and process may no longer actually contain material from a dead calf's fourth stomach, it was used to source it.

                                Maybe there are other sources for vegetarian rennet?

                                1. re: chrisjuricich

                                  There are cheese coagulants that come from vegetable and microbial sources. Here's a good breakdown: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rennet

                                1. Tonight I made mozz without rennet/citric acid just cheese curd and salt. Stretched in a hot bath.

                                  Wound up with 7 large balls and 8 fresh rolled mozzarella with prosciutto. Took an hour; a total cheat from the longer process but fun nonetheless and in 4 days I'll be serving up some pretty tasty cheese!

                                  1. Ok, so lets look at the history practically. If you are a farmer looking to make mozzarella every day possible in the year. just how many claves do you have to kill to keep the process going for as long as your goats, sheep, cows or buffalo are giving milk? Also, just where do you get citric acid say, in the 18th century in rural Campagna?
                                    Lemon juice and thistle or fig rennet. Available anytime, and in any quantity in that area of the world.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: anerio

                                      "Animal rennet will last up to one year, vegetable rennet will last 4-6 months, organic vegetable rennet will last 3-4 months. After the suggest shelf life the strength will gradually drop."


                                      1. re: seamunky

                                        and that's commercial rennet. strips of the calves stomach were dried and used for long periods, reconstituted in water. i've seen this done in modern days---it's just that the strength is variable, and commercial rennet is standardized strength, so you get the same result every time.

                                        1. re: chez cherie

                                          True - one dried calf stomach will make a LOT of rennet.

                                    2. I have not tried making mozzarella but make ricotta using either lemon juice (if I'm making it for a dessert) or red wine vinegar to get the curds to form. It works beautifully every time. I am also interested in making a mozzarella without rennet and have done a some research. There is little information but it does seem that with a long cooking and stirring process and proper stretching techniques it can be done. I plan to test this and see what I come up with. Happy experimenting.