Why Does Mozzarella Smell Like Vinegar? (Revealed!)

  • Mozzarella smelling like vinegar often indicates spoilage, but it’s essential to check ingredients since vinegar can also be used as a preservative.
  • In cheese making, vinegar might be employed as a coagulant to separate milk into curds and whey, a process also achievable with lemon juice or citric acid.
  • Commercially, it’s rare for mozzarella to be preserved with vinegar; however, small-scale producers might use it for its antibacterial properties.
  • If the vinegar smell persists after rinsing, it’s safer to discard the mozzarella to avoid the risk of food poisoning.
  • Despite the potential uses of vinegar in preservation or production, mozzarella typically should have no smell other than a mild saltiness from brine storage.

What Is the Reason for the Vinegar Smell of Mozzarella?

If you are familiar with mozzarella, then you will know it doesn’t have any kind of smell.

Some people might say it doesn’t taste of anything either!  

When you first open the packet of mozzarella, there could be a slight whiff of salt.

This will be because the mozzarella has been stored in brine to keep it fresh.

Depending on the concentration of the brine, it may smell slightly of salt.

So, any other odors are usually a bad sign and an indication that the cheese has gone off.

If you notice a vinegary smell, try draining the liquid from the mozzarella first.

Vinegar has anti-fungal properties and can be used as a preservative.

It is known to kill harmful bacteria and microbes.

Smaller, independent cheesemakers may occasionally preserve mozzarella in a vinegar solution.

If this is the case, you should be able to rinse the mozzarella to remove the vinegar smell.

If there is still a lingering smell of vinegar, it is best to throw the cheese away.

However, it is unusual for commercial manufacturers to use vinegar, and of course, you can always check the list of ingredients.

Vinegar can also be listed as acetic acid.

Is Vinegar Used in Cheesemaking?

However, there is another twist in the story, as vinegar can be used when making cheese, thus potentially accounting for the smell!

As mentioned before, vinegar is an acid and could be used as a coagulant to split the milk, a necessary part of making mozzarella or other cheese.

The milk needs to be separated into curds and whey to form solids, and this is usually achieved by using rennet.

The same result can be seen when using an acidic liquid such as lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar. 

Ideally, the vinegar does need to have an acidity of at least 5% to work effectively. 

Typically, white vinegar will be used for cheesemaking. 

However, once the milk has separated, the curds are usually rinsed to remove the smell of vinegar before being left to drain.

So, in effect, there should be no residual smell of vinegar in the cheese.

And it won’t have been given enough time for the vinegar to penetrate the cheese.

How to Make Mozzarella Cheese Using Vinegar

My Final Thoughts

If mozzarella smells of vinegar or other unexpected sour odors, then it may be an indication that it has gone bad.

Mozzarella should have no smell other than a hint of salt from the brine solution it is stored in.

However, vinegar can also be used to preserve the cheese, so check the list of ingredients first, and note that it can be labeled as acetic acid.

Vinegar may also have been used in the cheesemaking process to separate the milk and could leave a lingering smell.

If in doubt as to the freshness of the cheese, always check the use-by date and don’t risk food poisoning!

It’s also possible that the cheese has a different odor, so take a look at my other article if you think mozzarella smells like fish.

How do you think the balance between maintaining authenticity and ensuring food safety influences the choices of cheesemakers and consumers alike?

Let us know your thoughts below!

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