Testing the Urban Cheesecraft DIY Cheese Kit

Reader Contribution by Kyra Haas
article image

The Urban Cheesecraft DIY Cheese Kit for Mozzarella and Ricotta cheese comes with cheese salt, citric acid, a cheese thermometer, fine cheese cloth, two rennet tablets, and step-by-step instructions.
Photo by Kyra Haas

My one-hour cheese-making journey began with apprehension. While I’ve consumed a ridiculous amount of cheese in my life, I’ve never dared to play god and attempt to make my own. I was certain the expertise required to craft something so delicious was far beyond me.

Fortunately for my taste buds — and unfortunately for my waistline — making mozzarella with the Urban Cheesecraft DIY Cheese Kit was simple and the result was quite tasty. My younger brother said the final product tasted “like a really good cheese stick.” As a novice cheesemaker, I took this as a glowing compliment.

To get started, I let my water sit out and dechlorinate for 24 hours, grabbed a gallon of unpasteurized whole milk from the store, and read the recipe through twice, paying special attention to the temperature specifications. Temperature-sensitive recipes always make me nervous because if the instructions say “Don’t exceed 115 degrees [Fahrenheit]” and you exceed 115 degrees, then there’s no going back.

One gallon of unpasteurized whole milk and diluted citric acid are first in the pot for the DIY mozzarella.
Photo by Kyra Haas

I had no problem prepping the 1/4 of a rennet tablet and citric acid, and after dissolving the specified amounts into separate small bowls of water, I poured my milk and diluted citric acid into a big pan and got ready to coagulate.

After adding the rennet tablet at 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the milk mixture continues to heat to no more than 115 degrees as it begins to coagulate.
Photo by Kyra Haas

As I watched the heat steadily rise on my cheese thermometer, I carefully added the rennet mixture at the indicated heat. The milk was starting to thicken, and my heart was starting to race. The recipe said the upcoming step was “very important” — a make or break moment in my cheese-making career.

But then, I had a cuteness emergency. Across the room, my cat jumped on a ledge and posed adorably, so I went over and snapped a few photos before returning to my pot. Despite my momentary lapse of attention, I was still able to avoid going over 115 degrees. I turned the heat as low as it would go and marveled at the coagulated blobby mess of curds and whey in front of me.

When the heat is turned to low, the curds continue to cook, separating from the whey and becoming the consistency of scrambled eggs.
Photo by Kyra Haas

I cut the bigger curds into smaller bits while they cooked and the consistency changed from yogurt to scrambled eggs. The next step of taking the lumpy curds out of the whey and putting them in a bowl was oddly enjoyable; I liked fishing around for more chunks.

Curds that have been removed from the whey and drained.
Photo by Kyra Haas

When I got the curds out and drained, the next step offered a choice between using a microwave or a whey bath to get the cheese texture. I opted for the microwave because the whey bath seemed more complicated, and I felt like my chances of not screwing up the final cheese were better with the simpler microwaving instructions. On the next go-around in the future, now that I’m more comfortable, I’ll try the other method.

After the cheese is heated, stretched, and folded, it is shaped into a ball that is dunked in cool water for 10 minutes to help maintain its shape.
Photo by Kyra Haas

I alternated between microwaving and stretching the cheese (Yay, I could finally call it cheese!) until I thought it seemed mozzarella-like. On the second round of stretching and folding, I added in cheese salt. I got a little frustrated trying to stretch my cheese with large spoons, so I used my hands. The instructions urge you to use rubber gloves, and I encourage that also because the cheese was super, super hot and I’m surprised I didn’t burn myself.

Once the cheese reached what I deemed an optimal consistency, I molded it into a ball and dunked it in cold water for 10 minutes to help it retain its shape.

The finished mozzarella cheese weighs between 1- and 1 ½ pounds.
Photo by Kyra Haas

The original plan was to take my cheese ball and some crackers to the office the next day, but when I opened the fridge the next morning, my family had managed to consume nearly half of the 1-pound block. Luckily, with 1-3/4 rennet tablets in the freezer, leftover citric acid and cheese salt, and a whole hour of cheese-making experience, I can always just make another batch.

You can purchase this cheese kit on the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Urban Cheesecraft DIY Cheese Kit.

Kyra Haas worked as a summer 2017 editorial intern for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. She is a student at The University of Missouri-Columbia, majoring in convergence journalism and political science. Follow her on Twitter.