* But Were Afraid to Ask (Well maybe not everything, but most people will know a lot more.)
Until recently, most people's idea of mozzarella was that rectangle bought in the grocery store. They also had some vague idea it was Italiano in origin, & mostly used for pizza.
While to some extent that is true, that is only a small part of the mozzarella story.
Over the past few years fresh mozzarella has been showing up in the cheese isle. While it is closer to the original, it still is only a small part of the story.
The old standard is actually a low moisture verson, often made from skim milk.
The type we now often see in the form of balls, packed either in brine or vacuum packs is also made in Italia. It is called mozzarella fior di latte (flower of the milk).
But the original & the one that produced in Italia is Mozzarella di bufala campana DOP. It is a type of mozzarella made from the milk of the Italian water buffalo (Bufala mediterranea italiana) that are raised in designated areas of Campania, Lazio, Apulia, Molise in Italy. The DOP at the end of the name signifies that it was only made in the designated areas.
There is a 4th type called mozzarella affumicata (smoked mozzarella).
Regardless of the type they are all made the same basic way, with the addition of smoking for the last type.
It is from this process, pasta filata, that mozzarella gets its name. The name is derived from the Italiano verb, mozzare, meaning "to cut". You will see why as I describe the process.
But before I get to that I have to explain the origin of the pictures I will be using. The Hy-Vee store on Dodge Street in Dubuque recently added a huge cheese section with a wide variety of domestc & imported cheeses. No, they don't have the Mozzarella di bufala yet, but the person that runs it has ordered it.
As a part of the expansion, they have begun making their own fresh mozzarella every Friday. Actually the 2nd half of the process as they get the curd, made from whole milk, elsewhere.
To the milk is added a whey starter that contains thermophilic bacteria. The milk is left to ripen so that the bacteria can multiply. When it is ripe, rennet is added so the milk can coagulate. This curd is then cut & allowed to "heal" (firm up). It is then cut again, heated & the whey is seperated from the curd. The curd is then put into hoops so it can form a solid mass with a pH of 5.2-5.
It then looks like this:
It is now ready for the pasta filata process.
The curd is now cut up into cubes.
Meanwhile water is being heated up to pour on the curd.
At this point the kneeding process begins.
As the kneeding continues the curds melt together.
When it reaches the point where it can be easily stretched & not fall apart, it is ready for the final shaping. It must be pliable, but definitely not rubbery.
To shape it an end is grabbed & stretched out.
The piece is folded over & over on itself.
Finally it is ready to be shaped. In this case into a ball. Sometimes three stands are woven together. Or it is shaped into blocks. The blocks is partially dried to become the low moisture version.
It is then put into water to cool. Then it is put into containers with some of the brine.
This is the 2nd week they made their own mozzarella at the store. I didn't have my camera to take pictures to show you the learning process. It takes practice to get the skill down. Last week there was a definite progression from the poorly done 1st batch to the good third batch. This week was even better.
While the low moisture mozzarella is OK, the fresh is so much better. Hopefully they will soon be able to get some of the imported buffalo mozzarella so I can finally taste it the way my maternal grandparents did in the Old Country.
My thanks to Kathy for allowing me to photograph her efforts.