Mozzarella – A Favourite Italian Cheese:
Mozzarella is an Italian cheese that we enjoy very much and as we travel around Italy, lunching on mozzarella and tomato sandwiches, it’s interesting to know more about how this cheese is made.
Types of Mozzarella
Fresh mozzarella is divine, especially if it is Mozzarella di Bufala, made from the milk of domesticated water buffalo. Mozzarella di Bufala is the most expensive of all mozzarella and it is the Mozzarella Fior di Latte, made from fresh pasteurized or unpasteurized cow’s milk, that we frequently have to settle for. Mozzarella Affumicate (smoke mozzarella) is another tasty treat. And then there’s the low-moisture mozzarella cheese that is used in the food industry for cooking in dishes like pizza and lasagna.
“Mozzare” in Italian means “to cut” and the mozzarella cheese is made using spinning and then cutting method of production.
For mozzarella di bufala, a whey starter from the previous batch of mozzarella is added to milk from domesticated water buffalo. The whey contains thermophilic bacteria, and the milk is left to ripen so the bacteria can multiply. Rennet, a complex enzyme is then added to coagulate the milk.
After coagulation, the curd is cut into large, 1″ to 2″ pieces, and left to sit so the curds firm up in a process known as healing. After the curd heals, it is further cut into 3/8″ to 1/2″ large pieces. The curds are stirred and heated to separate the curds from the whey. The whey is then drained from the curds and the curds are placed in a hoop to form a solid mass. The curd mass is left until the pH is at around 5.2–5.5, which is the point when the cheese can be stretched. The cheese is then stretched and kneaded to produce a delicate consistencyv—vthis process is generally known as pasta filata.
According to the Mozzarella di Bufala trade association, “The cheese-maker kneads it with his hands, like a baker making bread, until he obtains a smooth, shiny paste, a strand of which he pulls out and lops off, forming the individual mozzarella.” It is then typically formed into ball shapes or in plait.
In Italy, a mozzarella cheese that is “rubbery” in consistency is generally considered not satisfactory. A good buffalo mozzarella is soft and creamy to taste.