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Mozzarella Madness


It’s March and for many people that means it’s time to tune into the college basketball tournaments, and watch their March Madness brackets. Well, for me, at the cheese counter in a state where we are lucky if March brings even fifty degree weather it means that people are getting antsy for spring, and they are ready to make caprese salads with fresh mozzarella. It makes no difference what Mother Nature decides for Wisconsin, every year for the last ten years, starting in March it becomes almost impossible to keep enough fresh mozzarella in stock for everyone. According to The International Dairy Association, Americans consume 11 pounds of mozzarella per person every year. 

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Sendik’s fresh mozzarella, made in house.

 

Sometimes I swear my customers accomplish this feat all between the months of March and August, when I see a drastic rise in sales for this category. So what is the solution to this Mozzarella Madness this year? Let’s get serious and stretch mozzarella behind the cheese counter every single Saturday! 

What does this adventure all entail? Well, when you read the list of required items it seems simple enough: mozzarella curd, kosher salt, mixing bowls, cutting board, large chef’s knife, large spoon, stock pot, containers for transporting hot water as well as scooping hot water, gloves, strainer, plastic wrap, a scale, a cooler, a thermometer, a kitchen timer, and most importantly you, ready to delve into 180°F water and make some fresh mozzarella! However, it is definitely a bit more technical than the list of items required to make it lets on. 

First of all, you must make sure your water is at exactly 180°F. It is a tough lesson to learn when you have cut up your curd and salted it, and dumped water on that is over this temperature and your mozzarella curd starts to melt, release its cream into the water, and your batch is ruined. The other tough lesson to learn is that if you do not pay attention when straining your curd, and you let some slip out of the bowl, you will end up with an incredibly small batch of mozzarella at the end of all this intense labor (perhaps because you are so excited about the killer cheese board you put together for a friend’s party that you lost track of what you were doing in talking about all the delicious artisan cheeses you picked out… stay tuned as a cheese or two off there may be featured in the next blog). Finally, the third technicality to be wary of is that the fresh mozzarella must be gently handled at all times, and it must sit in a timed ice water bath. There are consequences for icing it too long, and there are consequences for removing it from the bath too quickly. Trial and error are part of the process here.

Now the fun, theatrical part of making fresh mozzarella is the pasta filata which in Italian means ‘spun pasta’ and refers to the stretching method for making mozzarella. The Italians love this method and use it for many of their cheeses including provolone, scamorza, and fresh mozzarella. Basically you plunge your hands into the 180°F water and lift the curd, which is starting to come together at this point, up as high as you can and let it stretch. Gravity will help you here as will height (which I do not have in case you are wondering). This sounds fairly simplistic, it is not. You must work as quickly as you can at this so as to not lose so much heat that the next step is twice as difficult as it needs to be. 

Finally, you will work the curd over itself using your hands. You push the curd through your hand to form a ball, and squeeze your fingers at the base as if your hand is a scissors. You will then slide the mozzarella into ice water and gently stir it each time you drop a piece of cheese into it. Practice makes perfect for this part. It was my sixth time doing this  and I finally managed to get some decent looking balls to form consistently!

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Making fresh mozzarella is an art.

 

Now after they are wrapped and labelled the fun part begins! It is time to do some product demonstrations. This is where the misshapen balls come in handy as they are perfect for sampling! Hand-made fresh mozzarella is best the day you make it, and so we do some sampling. You can use this cheese on sandwiches, pizza, calzones, pasta dishes and a host of other things, but our favorite way at the cheese counter is still the caprese salad. Just slice it up with ripe tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. The fresh basil smells like summer. It is super easy and always a crowd pleaser. For a fun twist I have already paired fresh mozzarella with fresh melon, and one year when feeling particularly adventuresome I paired it with fresh peach salsa which was a hit at our backyard barbecue gathering.

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Caprese salad is one of the best ways to enjoy fresh mozzarella.

 

Fresh mozzarella making has been an adventure and will continue to be one. I think the most important thing I have taken away from it though is an appreciation for all of the hard work and dedication that goes into cheese making. Seriously, good cheese does not just happen on its own and this process has reaffirmed that for me. It requires minute attention to detail and a certain amount of willingness to continue persevering even when you are completely frustrated and unsure as to why a batch did not turn out.

I am under no illusion that this is as labor intensive as starting with the fluid milk, but just this little taste of part of the process has reminded me why I am passionate about cheese and helping people understand the stories behind each bite of cheese that they love.  So, when you see that price tag on your favorite cheese, and question if you think it is worth the money, just think about all the hard work, dedication, and love, yes it requires a certain amount of love to do a job as labor intensive as cheese making, that went into that cheesy bite of heaven that you know you want to take home and slice open.


Help Crystal earn her CCP at the American Cheese Society conference this summer. Vote for Crystal.

 

Crystal Schroeder

Crystal Schroeder is what her friends and family like to call the “accidental” cheesemonger. She'd really love to say that her Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology helps every day within her chosen career, but psychology has become her hobby and cheese has become her passion. For the last ten years at Sendik's Market in Wisconsin Crystal has loved being able to share the stories behind different types of cheese. Crystal loves how when you cut open a cheese and taste it you're transported to a different place, you taste the terroir, imagine pairing possibilities, and turn them into reality. Follow her @WICheese_Diva

50 thoughts on “Mozzarella Madness”

  1. Avatar peter says:

    awesome blog I need to catch up on my 11 lbs.!!!!

  2. Avatar Yasmine says:

    I am so hungry for mozzarella. I will head to Sendiksand pick some up.

  3. Avatar jen wright says:

    Thanks crystal for the info!

  4. Avatar Dave says:

    http://www.gothamist.com talks about “Mozzarella Bombs” that are injected with Pesto Sauces before serving them.

  5. Avatar Jojo says:

    What types of cheeses would you recommend putting together for the best grilled cheese sandwich ever?

  6. Avatar Natalie says:

    What’s the difference between Mozzarella balls and string cheese?

  7. Avatar Barb says:

    I love caprese salad. You reminded me of a few years ago when my Grandsons put little mozzarella balls on chop sticks and ‘roasted’ ‘marshmallows’ over my electric fireplace!

  8. Avatar james says:

    Fresh mozz from Crystal is always the best!

  9. Avatar Jenny says:

    I love, love, loved your article Crystal!! I think you found your calling as a blogger. I can’t wait to read more about cheese, the process, and the products.

  10. Avatar Howard says:

    What is your favorite type of cheese, Crystal, and why?

  11. Avatar Wendy says:

    The process of making mozzarella reminds me of the process of making candy during Christmas time. My mom and grandma taught me how to stretch the candy over and over until it was time to roll in out and cut it. Your hands and arms get so sore, but it is so worth it in the end!

  12. Avatar Bruce says:

    I grew up on a farm, milking cows until I was ready to go off to college. The milk and cheese industry is so vital to the families that live in this area. This article was very informative. Great job!

  13. Avatar Patrick says:

    I always ask my cousin, Jolynn, to have a bag of cheese curds at her house when I come to visit her. I live in Indiana and there’s no state that can compete with Wisconsin when it come to cheese curds!

  14. Avatar Simon says:

    It’s really great that we live in Wisconsin and the cheese really is its own basic food group! Happy cows do make happy cheese.

  15. Avatar Kenn says:

    I heard that goat’s cheese is very healthy. Do you have any knowledge on this topic, Crystal?

  16. Avatar Dusty says:

    I really enjoyed reading this blog, Crystal! When will you be writing another one? I would really enjoy learning about another type of cheese or the process of making goat’s cheese.

  17. Avatar Natalie says:

    Making cheese pizza is my favorite way to use mozzarella cheese. What is your favorite way to use mozzarella cheese? What type or types of wine pair well with this cheese?

  18. Avatar Dave says:

    I would really like to see some more recipes for mozzarella cheese. It is one of my favorite cheeses!

  19. Avatar Marianne says:

    Crystal, your blog is awesome. I will be there on Saturday morning to see the event unfold. You always have such good recommendations and I appreciate your knowledgeable advice.

  20. Avatar Dan says:

    We made Caprese salad with your cheese and it was awesome.

  21. Avatar Ashley Paulson says:

    I want to make mozzarella with u! 😉 ur passion for cheese is contagious! I am excited to learn and hear more from u.

  22. Avatar Judith says:

    Very informative and easy to read article! Bought the tomatoes and fresh basil today but yipes!! have to go back to get our FRESH MOZZARELLA!

  23. Avatar Mary D says:

    Makes you wonder how making mozzarelline is even worth it! So tasty though! Didn’t realize it was such a hands-on process!

  24. Avatar Barb says:

    Mmmmm! So delicious, making me think of summer!

  25. Avatar Bob says:

    Sounds like it would be good for grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches or sliced on pizza!

  26. Avatar Renee TeLindert says:

    I had the opportunity to sample this while shopping that day and it was delicious! It’s so fresh, and it’s great that it is not overly salty tasting because this is one of those cheeses that is meant to be eaten with something like tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic, etc. I look forward to the next batch!

  27. Avatar Jolynn says:

    11 pounds of mozz a year??!! We need more cows!

  28. Avatar Ben says:

    Great blog. I did not know how demanding it is to make the MOTZ.

  29. Avatar Katie says:

    Great post Crystal ! Very interesting.

  30. Avatar Brian says:

    It is great to learn the process of making cheese. So many times we take for granted the products that we buy, not knowing the detailed process behind it.

  31. Avatar Jan Schneider says:

    I loved your blog Crystal. Keep up the good work. Proud of you.

  32. Avatar THE Juan says:

    This is one of the best blog spots we have read on here -very rad of you to talk about cheese rather than about yourself.

  33. Avatar Carrie says:

    I love fresh moz! But I think I’ll leave the making to you. Your enthusiasm for cheese flows through this article.

  34. Avatar Susan says:

    That was an awesome article. I could hear your excitement in it while reading what you did!! Great job, Crystal!

  35. Avatar Ashley says:

    I have recently had some of the cheese you made and it was delicious 🙂

  36. Avatar Sarah says:

    So great to read about a cheese making experience. You seem extremely talented!

  37. Avatar The Juan says:

    I think the cheese counter should consider having cheese-making workshops for your interested customers. It sounds like a fun event to have

  38. Avatar Jamie says:

    I wonder if using different salts (ie: sea salt, pink himalayan, or black salt) would change the composition or the flavor of fresh mozz. Great blog post! Look foward to reading more from you.

  39. Avatar Karen says:

    I had the absolutely best caprese salad two summers ago at a Farm to Fork type restaurant, using local heirloom tomatoes, fresh handmade mozzarella, basil, and a balsamic vinaigrette. I still talk about that salad (obviously)!

  40. Avatar Xavier says:

    Fresh mozzarella with some thin cut prosciutto is the greatest dinner anyone could ask for. Except for horse!

  41. Avatar Donelle Dittl says:

    Yummy! It was very interesting to read about how fresh mozzarella is processed, it’s one of my favorite cheeses!

  42. Avatar Brittany says:

    Yum! Caprese salad with handmade mozzarella sounds like a perfect idea on this beautiful evening!!

  43. Avatar Nicole Simonson says:

    I enjoyed the article Crystal. And I have so much fun making the mozzarella with you every Saturday morning.

  44. Avatar Rhonda Klug says:

    Thanks for the awesome ideas!

  45. Avatar erin says:

    Great blog! Makes me want to make fresh mozzarella! 😉 Thanks for sharing the experience Crystal!

  46. Crystal Schroeder Crystal Schroeder says:

    I look forward to seeing you at the cheese counter!

  47. Avatar Darci says:

    I had no idea how intense the process was in making fresh mozzarella. It gives me a new appreciation for those that take on this endeavor. The time and dedication it takes is awe inspiring. I love the caprese salad. Makes me want to go to my local cheese provider and pick some up.

  48. Avatar Nicole says:

    I throughly enjoyed reading this and found it informative. I will be stopping for some fresh mozzarella as now I’m hungry for caprese salad.

    1. Avatar Connie says:

      Great article! I never thought much about the process before. This gives me a new appreciation for cheese!

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