August 18

Mozzarella Cheese – Everything You Need to Know

Written by: Caitlin Clark

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You’ve had it on pizza, on pasta, and in casseroles. You love it with tomato and basil! Any time cheese stretches perilously thin between the fork and your teeth, you have found Mozzarella. But what makes it so stretchy anyway? It is the most consumed type of cheese on the market, and for good reason. Read on to find out more about this fresh Italian favorite. 

What is Mozzarella Cheese?


Originally made from Mediterranean buffalo’s milk, this fresh pasta filata cheese is characterized by its ability to form long strings. A fresh cheese that melts effortlessly, it also stretches like elastic when warm. When cold, the strings show how Mozzarella tears or “shreds” along cleavage planes; this is best illustrated in string cheese, an American variant of Mozzarella made specifically to take advantage of this characteristic.

How is Mozzarella Cheese Made?


There are two popular methods for making Mozzarella, depending on how the cheesemaker introduces acid to the milk.

In traditional Mozzarella-making, lactic acid bacteria ferment the milk, producing acid, which drops the pH over several hours to create a subtle and complex flavor profile. 

In direct-acidified Mozzarella, acid (usually white vinegar) mixes with the milk, lowering the pH immediately without bacteria. Cheesemakers add rennet to strengthen the curd, which is cut and drained after it has solidified.

Next, in the step that defines Mozzarella, the curds are re-suspended in hot, salty brine or whey. There, they are repeatedly stretched and folded either by hand or by machine. 

This stretching process releases some moisture, incorporates salt into the curd, and aligns the protein network so that strings form. Continued stretching elongates the protein chain so that at the right temperature and pH, Mozzarella can achieve extremely long strings that stretch without breaking.

Different Kinds of Mozzarella Cheese


High Moisture (Fresh) Mozzarella 

You’ll find this style of Mozzarella sold in smooth balls suspended in brine or whey. Its milky taste and smooth texture make it a favorite in Caprese salads, Margherita pizzas, and on roasted vegetables. Italian Mozzarellas may still be derived from the milk of the Mediterranean buffalo.

Low Moisture Mozzarella

This drier, more solid version is sold in bricks or as shredded pieces. More often made by American brands and usually from cow’s milk, it's ubiquitous on American pizza and stretches satisfyingly when melted. This category also includes the peel-able string cheese treat that we all know and love. 

Mozzarella Cheese Substitutes


  • If you don’t have access to Mozzarella, you are almost certainly going to be looking for another champion melting cheese. Provolone, Jack, and Havarti are all excellent melters with a mild flavor, although they don’t offer the same stringy quality as Mozzarella. White Cheddar, Gouda, and Swiss also have excellent melting characteristics, but they do boast a stronger flavor.
  • If it's the stringy quality you desire, look for Queso Oaxaca, also called quesillo de hebra or Mexican string cheese. Its production method is quite similar to Mozzarella’s, and it peels into strings much like the string-cheese variety of Mozzarella. Though saltier than Mozzarella, you will find that it also melts well! It is readily available in some parts of the United States.

What does Mozzarella Cheese Taste Like?


Mozzarella’s fresh and buttery notes are apparent, despite a gentle tang and a light saltiness. Good Mozzarella should be soft and moist throughout, and boast mild flavors of sweet milk or cream. 

Mozzarella Cheese Pairings


Tomatoes and fresh basil are a well-known classic pairing to Mozzarella (also know as a Caprese Salad), but this mild cheese is a delightful accompaniment to other Mediterranean vegetables as well as most fresh fruits! 

You can add Mozzarella balls or slices to your cheese plate, along with peaches, melon, pears, berries, and olives.

Try mixing up your classic dishes like risotto, enchiladas, or your favorite breakfast frittata with a nice helping of Mozzarella. 

Best Mozzarella Cheese Brands


For Pizza:

For pizza, choose a low-moisture Mozzarella that shreds easily. Brands like Galbani or Whole 365 come recommended by chefs.  


For Sandwiches and Salads:

In these applications, a high-moisture, fresh Mozzarella will probably suit your needs better. Try Belgioioso Fresh Mozzarella in thin slices.  

Where to Buy Mozzarella Cheese


Shredded (low-moisture) Mozzarella is available in every supermarket cheese aisle; most stores occasionally also stock fresh Mozzarella packaged in brine or whey. Some high-end supermarkets, like Lucky’s, make their own fresh Mozzarella. Both low-moisture and high-moisture (fresh) versions are available through online retailers like www.amazon.com, www.igourmet.com, www.murrayscheese.com

How Long Does Mozzarella Cheese Last?


Fresh, high-moisture Mozzarella lasts about five days once you open the package, as long as you keep it suspended in whey or brine. The lower-moisture Mozzarella purchased in a block or shredded pieces has a shelf-life closer to three weeks.

Many homesteads make fresh Mozzarella as a tasty and quick way of using their goats’ milk. Fresh goat Mozzarella will last about three days in brine or whey. Low-moisture Mozzarella is rarely made from goat milk, but its shelf life would be around fifteen days. 

How to Make Mozzarella Cheese (with or without Rennet)


The New England Cheesemaking Supply Company offers a reliable and quick recipe for homemade Mozzarella. Their instructions indicate a rennet addition, but many “no rennet” recipes are also available online.  

Be aware, you must use rennet if you wish to make “real” Mozzarella! The rennet makes the curd elastic. Without rennet, the curd will snap and break, releasing fat and losing the stretchy quality characteristic of the style.

Speaking of stretching Mozzarella, we recommend watching some tutorials online before you try it at home. This one from Tulip Tree Creamery shows the technique nicely.

Concluding


Now you know that Mozzarella comes in several shapes and forms. Next time you find yourself twisting cheesy ropes around a fork or peeling a tube of string cheese, you can be confident it is a type of beloved Mozzarella. 

We hope you enjoyed this comprehensive article on Mozzarella cheese. Let us know if you have any suggestions, questions or comments.

Cheers!

Caitlin


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About the author

Caitlin is a Ph.D student and chocolate researcher at Colorado State University. Her research in the Food Science program focuses on chocolate fermentation (that’s right, it’s a fermented food!) and small-batch post-harvest processing techniques. When she is not acting in her capacity as resident chocolate guru, she researches other fermented foods and beverages like beer, sausage, and natto. Caitlin was drawn to fermented foods while living in rural Spain for six years, where she was exposed to traditional, time-honored practices of food preservation. At home, she practices Bollywood dance for fun and is followed everywhere by two small pet rabbits.

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