Saturday, January 1, 2011


Mozzarella is a soft, creamy stretch-curd cheese that tastes like pure heaven. I have childhood memories of my Uncle Andy coming back from one of his shopping excursions moments before the antipasto was served and pulling a container out of a paper bag filled with a huge oval of white mozzarella in salted water, and cutting a taste off for himself and I before turning it over to my Aunt Agnes.

The Mozzarella I grew up with in the 1960's in NY was probably often made from cow's milk, what Calabrians would have called "Fioradilatte" (flower of milk) rather than "mozzarella di bufala" (buffalo mozzarella) but if I know my Uncle Andy, he probably found and purchased the buffalo milk mozzarella whenever possible. My uncle had a love of entertaining his family and friends that I must have inherited, and often when I am shopping for good food I think of him.

Mozzarella-making begins the same way as many cheeses, a small bit of started cheese is added to milk (in this case from cows or water buffalo) which is warmed and curdled and allowed to set for an hour. The curds are then cut into small pieces and allowed to rest for several hours and the whey is discarded.

I mentioned earlier that Mozzarella is a pulled-curd cheese, the process is called Pasta Filata in Italian, and involves placing the curds in a hot water bath for another several hours at about ninety-five degrees centigrade. When the curds are ready they will begin to float. Most of the liquid is poured off and the curds are mixed and kneaded until it achieves a stringy texture. At this point a thick strand may be pulled out, and small loaves cut off, or small strands may be pulled out and braided together.

Now the Mozzarella is ready to be served. Ideally mozzarella should be consumed within a few days, though it can be preserved in salt water for about a week-and-a-half, smoking will preserve it longer.

A six ounce ball of mozzarella, it's about $4-$8, Rich, creamy, fresh taste: it's priceless, but the memories of a happy childhood: well, it's Italian.

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