Located in Dallas, Texas, the Mozzarella Company was founded by Paula Lambert in 1982. Paula’s passion for all things Italian was the inspiration for the Company’s creation, although when the company started in the early 80’s, it was somewhat ahead of its time in terms of being able to find a ready market for fresh Italian style mozzarella. However, persistence together with great products really paid off and The Mozzarella Company has grown steadily and expanded over the intervening decades. Today, still under the guidance of Paula, they produce a range of fresh and young, Italian type cheeses, one of which is Hoja Santa. Paula’s inspiration for the creation of her Hoja Santa cheese came from Patricia Quintana, a chef in Mexico City (Izote). Patricia uses hoja santa leaves, which are native to Veracruz and Oaxaca, for wrapping fish and chicken, which are then steamed over a smoldering fire pit, dug in the ground. After tasting this dish, Paula was captivated by the idea and, having seen French cheesemakers using a similar technique with chestnut leaves, decided to try adopting the concept with hoja santa leaves. Milk for cheesemaking is sourced directly from a number of goat dairies located across the state border in Oklahoma. The goats are Saanen and a La Mancha mix – both breeds well known for their excellent milk production. Upon arrival at the creamery, the milk is pasteurized and starter cultures and microbial rennet are added to the milk and stirred in. The milk is left to coagulate slowly overnight, and the following day the curd is carefully hand-ladled into small, perforated molds. The gentle handling of the curd greatly helps to preserve moisture and its delicate structure, which in turn contributes to the texture of the finished cheese. The curd is left to drain in the molds for 24 hours before being turned out onto cheese mats where they are dry salted and left to drain further. The cheeses are turned and salted daily to encourage even drainage of the whey and, when they’re ready, wrapped in the fragrant hoja santa leaves and tied with raffia to resemble small, green parcels. The leaves from the hoja santa plant, also sometimes known as Mexican pepperleaf, are sourced from local organic growers and harvested until the first frost in November. The leaves are large and aromatic with the result that the flavors subtly permeate the cheese while they mature. Cheeses are aged for between one and six months and are therefore available all year. When young, the texture tends to be slightly chalky and crumbly. With time, the texture breaks down, becoming creamier and smoother. The flavors of Hoja Santa are fresh, milky and tangy with distinct vegetal notes and interesting flavors of mint and pepper from the sassafras leaf. The flavors intensify with age but never become overwhelming. Aside from serving the Hoja Santa on a cheese plate, Paula also recommends gently heating a whole cheese so that when the leaf is cut the warm cheese flows out onto the plate.