Thursday, March 26, 2009

Say Cheese!!!!! - Mozzarella Mania part 1

Fresh Mozzarella Part 1
Let’s start with a little background on mozzarella. Mozzarella, or more properly Mozzarella di Bufala, is a fresh brine cheese from the Campania region of Italy, although it is also manufactured in Lazio and Puglia as well. What makes this Mozzarella so special is the milk that is used to produce it. While the famous Parmigiano-Reggiano of Emilia-Romagna is made from grass fed Cow milk, real Mozzarella is made from an adorable member of the bovine family known as the Water Buffalo. This is not to be confused with the great North American “Buffalo” which is really a bison and not a buffalo at all.

This is a Water Buffalo……

Ain't she cute?
The qualities of the Water Buffalo milk are what make Mozzarella so incredible. It has a lower water content and is higher in saturated and mono-unsaturated fat than cow, goat or sheep milk. However, regardless of the higher fat content, it has half the cholesterol of cow milk and almost as much protein as sheep milk. All these factors give the milk some unique properties (it’s spin-abilities) as well as flavors to the final cheese (That tang is hard to reproduce). If you have never had the real thing, please, give it a try. It is divine; absolutely delicious sliced thin and sprinkled with a little olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Heaven!

What passes for mozzarella in the US is a pale shadow of the glory that is Mozzarella. Made of skim cow milk, bereft of all its moisture, compressed into a block, dragged across a grater only to be suffocated in a resealable bag for your pizza spreading pleasure…. or worse… Squeezed through a tiny hole and mummified in a cryo-pack then unceremoniously tossed in a lunch box.
Although there is hope for this seemingly abused cheese; several artisan cheese manufacturers in the US have begun producing real Mozzarella di Bufala. I am speaking of the states of Vermont (Bufala di Vermont) and California (Bubalus Bubalis) in particular.

I will not pretend that this is REAL Mozzarella.  It is merely an attempt, with the ingredients I have available, to replicate, at least in part, the deliciousness that is Mozzarella di Bufala. Most recipes for homemade mozzarella suggest doing this with lemon juice (citric acid) of vinegar (acetic acid) however, not all acids are created equal. I will be attempting to “culture” the milk with live lactobacillus and streptococcus bacteria. It is essential that the cheese curd be acidified.  But I have chosen a lacto-fermenting form of acidification. These little beasties produce lactic acid while gobbling up the lactose sugar present in the milk.

Not only will this create the acid level I need to 'spin' the curd, (it needs to reach a 4.98 – 5 acid level before the cheese will ‘spin’ or stretch properly) it will hopefully give me the required tang in the end product as well as protect the curd from invaders, like the really bad beaties. This will turn the curd into what sourdough is to yeast, the yeast in a sourdough starter create such an acidic environment that nasty bugs cannot survive. Lactobacillus and the RIGHT kind of Streptococcus (s. pyogenes causes strep throat) do the same thing for Cheese, Yogurt, Crème Fraîche, Buttermilk, and Sour Cream. (Keifer is a little different)

Tune in Tomorrow for Part 2 - Whey to Go, Curds!!!


Spryte said...

She is!

Aline said...

It's really ALL about the cheese!! lol

And yes, she's cute! Look at that smile!

Bob said...

Excitement! Looking forward to seeing you do this. Mozzarella is my favorite cheese.

DDpie said...

I have a feeling this is going to be my most favorite series! You totally rock dude, I mean seriously, you're making CHEESE!

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Cynthe B. said...

Hi! I came across your blog looking for an Indian/Pakistani water buffalo photo to use on a food memories article I'm writing with a proper credit to you & your blog?

Do let me know as this image is the most like the animals I remember fondly from my childhood in West Pakistan.