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 Corkscrew  Share this article     Summary of Not Just Wine column  
  Not Just Wine Issue 14, December 2003   
Mozzarella CheeseMozzarella Cheese Wine ParadeWine Parade  Contents 
Issue 13, November 2003 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 15, January 2004

Mozzarella Cheese

A traditional cheese of southern Italy, it is classified as a spun paste cheese having soft consistency. It is one of the most famous cheeses, it is an ingredient of many culinary preparations and in particular pizza

 The term “mozzarella” derives by the Italian verb “mozzare” (literally “to cut off”) and describes the operation, still done today, of cutting with the hands the spun paste with the thumb and the forefinger, called “mozzatura”.

 

History

 Mozzarella has a very ancient history and an uncertain origin. The history of this cheese is directly connected to the introduction of the buffalo in Campania, a region of south Italy, and some believe it was in the sixth century, whereas others say it was introduced in Italy by Hannibal. Talking about evidences of the past, there are some information provided by a historian of the “Chiesa Metropolitana di Capua”, Monsignor Alicandri. In one of his writings it is read that near the Monastery of Saint Lorenzo in Capua - it was twelfth century - monks offered to pilgrims a piece of bread and a mozza or provatura. The writing literally reads: “…one mozza or provatura with a little piece of bread was offered by monks of monastery of Saint Lorenzo in Capua as agnitionem dominii to the metropolitan church to which every year, because of an ancient tradition in occasion of the fourth fair of legations, a procession used to go to that Church…”. The term “mozzarella” is directly connected to the locution “mozza”, a term used to refer to provatura, that is provola, another typical cheese of Campania, as it was clearly written by Monsignor Alicandri.


 

 Investigating on the contract works about the product of “Royal Industry of Pagliara delle bufale”, mozzarella had to stay in the sauce for 24 hours, whereas 48 hours was the time for provola. It is more and more evident that mozzarella was a byproduct of the preparation of provola, of course not a lower quality byproduct, but because of its evident difficulty in keeping freshness during the transportation, an indispensable condition for mozzarella. On the other hand provola was smoked in order to preserve it longer. Therefore mozzarella was a product mainly used in the families of producers or destined to the most refined gourmets.

 The term “mozzarella” is also found in the sixteenth century, precisely in 1570, cited in a cookbook written by Bartolomeo Scappi, cook of the papal court where specialties from every part of Europe were always present. The book reads “…milk cream, fresh butter, ricotta cheese, fresh mozzarella and milk…”. Even though mozzarella and other cheeses were mentioned from 1500 on, it does not seem these products were common, in fact, according to some documents of that time, only smoked and soft provola are mentioned. The spreading of mozzarella was later and as a consequence of a fundamental event. Thanks to a farm where buffaloes were bred and their milk was processed, Tenuta Reale, also known as “Reggia di Carditello”, mozzarella cheese began to acquire notoriety and to spread. It started to be present in markets around 1720 and it will become widely known from 1780 on.

 After the Union of Italy, in Aversa, Campania, a market for mozzarella and other cheeses was established in the purpose of regulating the marketing of such products. Mozzarella cheese has always been connected to buffalo, although in the beginning it was used for many works, and it later became precious because of its milk. From 1600 on can be found evidences about “bufalare”: buildings having a round shape where buffalo milk was processed in order to make cheeses such as caciocavallo, butter, ricotta and, of course, mozzarella. In the beginning mozzarella, because of its perishability, was mainly destined to the local consumption.

 

Production of Mozzarella

 Technically speaking the term mozzarella is used to refer to a soft cheese, with soft paste, raw and spun, made of layers and a very thin crust. Today it is produced in many shapes and sizes.

 The first stage of the production of mozzarella concerns milk, filtered in order to eliminate any impurity and pasteurized in order to eliminate any pathogen bacteria, therefore it is coagulated by means of calf's rennet. In the next stage the compound is heated to the optimal temperature of 34-38° C (93-100° F). In past times it was added boiling milk whereas today the milk is heated by using steam. The time required for milk to coagulate is of about thirty minutes and sometimes it can also take one hour. The mass composing the curd is then broken in pretty large pieces and allowed to rest. The next operation consists in breaking the curd by means of a pole to whose end is placed a disc of wood or by using a metallic tool, until obtaining fragments of 3-6 centimeters in size (1-2.5 inches). This operation, apparently simple, is done with extreme care and attention by specialized personnel, even because during the breaking of curd some fat is generally lost (about 1%) in the whey.


Mozzarella: an appreciated cheese of
the Italian cooking
Mozzarella: an appreciated cheese of the Italian cooking

 After the curd has been broken it is allowed to acidify in the whey. This stage of the process is fundamental for the quality of the final product and the duration of acidification represents a factor extremely important for the characteristics of mozzarella. At this point, the curd is laid on a table to drain and to age for about 20-30 minutes. In south Italy mozzarella is usually preferred with a more evident acidulous taste, more suited for winter time. The right level of aging of mozzarella is determined as follows: 100 grams of aged paste is being melted in hot water and then by means of a stick it is tested its capacity to spin. In case the paste can stretch in strings of about one meter and without breaking, the mozzarella is considered to be “ready”. This operation, apparently simple, requires the experience and skill of a competent dairyman in order to successfully pass this critical stage of production. An underripe or overripe curd will produce a mozzarella with low consistency and a lowering of the production yields. The remaining whey from the production, rich in proteins, will be used for the production of ricotta cheese.

 The next stage is called “spinning” and it is the stage which greatly affects the consistency of mozzarella. In the traditional production this operation is still done by hand and consists in cutting the curd in thin slices, put in a wooden tank and, by adding hot water at 80° C (176° F), it is melted. By using traditional tools, a bowl and a pole, the curd is mixed and kneaded until obtaining a homogeneous paste with a lucid aspect, while allowing the draining of the exceeding whey. Because of this kind of process mozzarella cheese is classified as a “spun” paste cheese. Then it follows the procedure of “shaping”, that is the operation that will determine the portions of the paste. Two people are needed in order to manipulate, with mastery and expert movements, as well as for “mozzare” (cutting off) the paste by squeezing it between the thumb and the forefinger, in order to make pieces of the desired size that are subsequently submerged in cold water. In this phase are also produced the many mozzarella shapes, including the characteristic plait shaped, produced by plaiting three segments of paste. In artisan dairies this phase is still done by hand, in industrial dairies the operation is done by machineries.

 The last stage of the production consists in salting the mozzarella by submerging it in a salted solution of 10-18%. The duration of the operation varies from dairy to dairy and depends on the concentration of salt in the solution as well as the size. Salting can also be done during the process of spinning. During this stage, salt penetrates in the surface of mozzarella and therefore it spread on the inside during the stay of mozzarella in its preserving liquid. This liquid is used to preserve mozzarella until consumption and it is traditionally made of water used for spinning, salt and diluted whey, however it can also be replaced by salted water and citric or lactic acid. The latter liquid is believed to be better because allows mozzarella to be preserved for a longer time.

 

Preservation

 The period of preservation of mozzarella depends on the quality of the ingredients and of the production. It is generally kept submerged in the preserving liquid for 3 or 4 days at a temperature of about 10-15° C (50-60° F) without losing its characteristics. After this period the product begins losing consistency, the external part begins to deteriorate, loses its characteristic structure and its consistency becomes more “buttery”. in this case it is preferred to consume it cooked. In case it is kept in the refrigerator, in order to best appreciate its characteristics it is advised to keep it at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, then it should be submerged for five minutes in warm water at a temperature of 35-40° C (95-105° F), anyway, being a fresh product it is always best to use it the least possible time. On the other hand, in case it is used for cooking, it is a good practice to remove it from its preserving liquid and to keep it in the refrigerator for some hours in order to allow the exceeding liquid to drain and to increase consistency.

 

Types of Mozzarella

 The main differences depend on the milk used for the production of mozzarella. The main difference between buffalo milk and cow milk is about the contents in fats and proteins, fundamental characteristics for the dairy industry. Usually buffalo milk contains a higher concentration of some lacto-bacteria, responsible for the differences in taste and aroma and, it seems, they also influence the acidification of curd. “Fior di latte” (literally “flower of milk”) is a modern term, in the Neapolitan language does not exist the distinction “mozzarella fior di latte” but only the generic term mozzarella, without any distinction. The term “fior di latte” seems to have originated in Tuscany. According to laws for the safeguarding of this cheese, mozzarella is classified as follows:

 

  • Mozzarella di bufala Campana (Campania's mozzarella of buffalo) - The European commission created a logo which allows the identification of food products safeguarded by specific laws, also known as DOP, that is Denominazione di Origine Protetta (Appellation of Protected Origin). This ensures the characteristics of the products to be strictly bound to the geographic environment in which it comes from. Mozzarella di bufala Campana obtained the DOP mark with the CEE regulation n. 1107 of 12 June 1996. For geographic environment it is intended not only the geographic area, but also climate, soil, human factors and local traditions. Mozzarella di bufala Campana DOP is a cheese produced with whole buffalo milk and regulated by a disciplinary emanated by DPR 28 September 1979. In order to safeguarding mozzarella all over the world it was established “Consorzio per la tutela del formaggio mozzarella di bufala Campana” (Consortium for safeguarding of Campania's buffalo mozzarella cheese). The consortium duties are to promote, valuing, help producers, safeguarding typicality and peculiar characteristics, as well as controlling the production and trading in order to ensure laws to be obeyed. Mozzarella di bufala Campana must be exclusively produced with buffalo milk, from animals bred in allowed areas of Campania and lower Latium, and must be produced in the same areas. It is the only mozzarella that can make use of the yellow/blue logo with a buffalo head depicted.
  • Mozzarella di latte di bufala (Mozzarella of buffalo milk) - It is a mozzarella produced with buffalo milk not coming from Campania or lower Latium, or however according to a process not allowed by the disciplinary
  • Mozzarella con latte di bufala (Mozzarella with buffalo milk) - It is a pretty rare appellation, however possible, allowed by the laws. In this case it should be reported the percentage of buffalo milk used for production, on the contrary it is intended buffalo milk is the main ingredient
  • Mozzarella tradizionale (Traditional Mozzarella) - It is produced with cow milk. This appellation ensures the production process obeys norms of the European Union. The package must report the indication “Guaranteed traditional specialty”
  • Mozzarella o fior di latte - Product obtained with the same procedures allowed for the preceding types with cow milk only. There are two variants of this product: “magra” (lean), with a quantity of fats lower than 20%, and “leggera” (light), with a quantity of fats of 20-35%

 






 Corkscrew  Share this article     Summary of Not Just Wine column  
  Not Just Wine Issue 14, December 2003   
Mozzarella CheeseMozzarella Cheese Wine ParadeWine Parade  Contents 
Issue 13, November 2003 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 15, January 2004

Wine Parade


 

The best 15 wines according to DiWineTaste's readers. To express your best three wines send us an E-mail or fill in the form available at our WEB site.


Rank Wine, Producer
1 Franciacorta Cuvée Annamaria Clementi 1996, Ca' del Bosco (Italy)
2 Colli Bolognesi Pignoletto Superiore “Prova d'Autore” 2001, Bonfiglio (Italy)
3 Fumé Blanc Napa Valley 2001, Grgich Hills (USA)
4 Masseto 1998, Tenuta dell'Ornellaia (Italy)
5 Alto Adige Gewürztraminer Kolbenhof 2002, Hofstätter (Italy)
6 Château Laroque Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classè 1998 (France)
7 Teroldego Rotaliano Granato 1998, Foradori (Italy)
8 Capo di Stato 1998, Conte Loredan Gasparin (Italy)
9 Margaux 2000, Ségla (France)
10 Sauvignon Blanc 2000, Cakebread (USA)
11 Barolo Brunate 1999, Enzo Boglietti (Italy)
12 Shiraz 2000, Plantaganet (Australia)
13 Turriga 1998, Argiolas (Italy)
14 Syrah Winemaker's Lot Vic 3, Concha y Toro (Chile)
15 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve Marlborough 2002, Kaituna Hills (New Zealand)

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  Not Just Wine Issue 14, December 2003   
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