QUESTION FOR KIDS: How does cheese get made?
Cheese might already be in your refrigerator, but how does it go from milk to your plate? With this activity, kids will get hands-on experience making cheese from just a few simple ingredients and a little elbow grease.
Materials for this activity:
- Vegetable Rennet
- Citric Acid, food grade, 8 oz.
- Thermometer, digital
- Sea Salt or non-iodized salt (amount varies by preference)
Follow this easy, step-by-step activity:
In this activity, kids will learn how to make mozzarella cheese by measuring ingredients, following instructions, using a thermometer to measure temperature, and getting hands-on in the kitchen!
- Clean your work area really well. Lingering bacteria or food particles can contaminate the cheese and cause it to not form properly.
- Crush ¼ tablet of rennet and dissolve in ¼ cup of un-chlorinated water. Set aside.
- Add 1 ½ teaspoons of citric acid to 1 cup of water. Pour the citric acid solution into a large pot. Quickly pour 1 gallon of cold milk into the pot to mix with the citric acid solution.
- Heat the milk slowly to 90°F, you will notice it beginning to curdle slightly.
- Slowly add the rennet solution to the milk and stir gently for about 30 seconds. Stop stirring, cover the pot, and let sit for 5 minutes. It should look like custard with a clear liquid.
- Cut the curds in a 1-inch checkerboard pattern and put the pot back on the stove and heat to 105°F while stirring with a ladle. Take the pot off the burner and continue stirring for 2-5 minutes.
- Transfer the curds to a colander and gently press the curds to remove as much whey as possible.
- Transfer the curds to a microwavable bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Drain off all of the whey just like in the previous step. Knead the curds with a spoon until cool enough to handle after draining. Repeat this step two more times, but only microwave for 35 seconds.
- Knead the curds like bread dough and continue to do so until the cheese is smooth and shiny. Add salt near the end of the kneading process. Knead into a ball and cool. Enjoy!
A few tips to help you out:
- Any kind of milk can be used, but whole milk will provide the best result. Also make sure that your milk is not ultra-pasteurized.
- It’s important to thoroughly clean and sanitize your work area.
- If you are having problems with milk forming a curd during the first heating, the temperature may need to be increased to 95°F or even 100°F.
- When adding the rennet, stir in a top to bottom motion for no more than 30 seconds. Just enough to get the rennet evenly distributed.
- Salt used in cheese needs to be non-iodized. Sea salt works best.
- The leftover whey can be used in soups, bread, and even drinks.
Go Beyond the Activity
- Try using different milks to make the mozzarella and observe the differences between the milk fat content.
- Look up recipes for other cheese and see how they differ. Some other beginner level cheeses include ricotta, paneer, and cream cheese.
Download the activity sheet for a formatted and ready-to-print version of this page.