Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Fat Guy

The farce of "fresh" mozzarella

Recommended Posts

With so many gourmet stores, delis and pizzerias these days claiming to make their own fresh mozzarella cheese, I think the claim bears closer examination.

I would define homemade or housemade cheese as the end result of a cheesemaking process that begins with milk. I am not aware of any gourmet store, deli or pizzeria that does this. In every instance where I have inquired about the process, it turns out the establishment in question is using purchased cheese curds -- usually from Polly-O -- and forming them into mozzarella cheese balls.

I'm not sure it matters in terms of end result, but I do think it's worth recognizing that the whole thing is a farce.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Isn't the handling of the curds--stretching them in hot water to form the ball of mozzarella itself--critical to the quality of the finished product? Maybe they don't have control over the process (and ingredients) in full, but I don't think it's a complete "farce" either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sure, but I think it's tantamount to buying your bread dough versus making it from flour, water, salt and yeast. There's still plenty to be done in terms of shaping and baking the loaves, but you didn't actually make the bread.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It would be worth checking the places in Italian neighborhoods and seeing what they are doing. In Maspeth, Queens, where I live now, it's Iavarone's. In Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, there used to be a few places--Caputo's, Mastellone's, and Esposito's Pork Store claiming to make fresh mozzarella several times a day.

Tedone's in Williamsburg is closed, but here's a great story that appeared on the NYT website a year or two ago--

http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/nyregion/1-in-8-million/index.html#/georgiana_depalma_tedone

--I get the impression from the story that she made it from milk.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

it's been explained to me by several cheesemakers, that sometimes the curd is better quality milk than that available commercially. that makes some sense to me, especially where i live, where raw milk is considered poisonous or worse. if you can buy curds (as i can and do) that are produced from better milk than you can otherwise obtain, i don't see it as a total sell-out. i've taught a mozzarella class at my cooking school. i source good (very expensive) milk, and demo how to form the curds. then students pull curds, but they pull purchased curds. if i had to make curds for them all to pull, that class would be a LOT more costly, and the result maybe not as good.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well at least in New York, this place is incredible:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/casa-della-mozzarella-italian-deli-bronx

As good as what I've had in the south of Italy, a few yards from where the buffalo were roaming. I have no idea whether they are using fresh milk or Polly-O cheese curds, and I don't care.

In a pinch, Joe's Dairy in the Village.

All this said, it would be interesting to learn whether either of these two places uses milk or cheese curds :cool:


Edited by patrickamory (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you been to Liuzzi Cheese in North Haven, Connecticut? Incredibly delicious mozzarella and ricotta, no matter how they are making it--but I would bet it's not from curds. A wonderful deli all around.


Edited by Catherine Iino (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sure, but I think it's tantamount to buying your bread dough versus making it from flour, water, salt and yeast. There's still plenty to be done in terms of shaping and baking the loaves, but you didn't actually make the bread.

Not to bring you down even further, but there is a distinct possibility that the former is what a lot of pizza places actually do; in fact, a friend of mine had a connection who assured him that a single syndicate had the nearly the entire pizza-dough distribution in the Metro area sewn up, and that many of their buyers even denied buying, rather than making their dough (nope, never looked into it, under the circumstances, it sounded as though that might be... unwise).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting. I might visit Di Palo in Little Italy to find out. They are supposedly making their own.

I'll tell you this much, going down to Puglia and eating fresh Mozzarella there and eating Fresh Mozzarella in Toscana, where I live, are two ENTIRELY different experiences.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My experience is in Hoboken, NJ, across the river from NYC, which in the 90s had at least 5 salumerias making mozzarella every day, all from the Polly-O cheese curds. Each places' muzz tasted very different, but all were delicious. Vito's Deli (always my favorite) let me watch them make the muzz one day, starting with the packaged curds, and I have to tell you the taste of the new born muzz right out of the warm water was sublime. But Vito's never sold muzz that was more than a few hours old, because the whole point was the warm, juicy creaminess. Once past that tender moment, it's just string cheese, and not worth much except for pizza topping.

So maybe stuff made from fresh milk right next to the farm would be more sublime than fresh Vito's polly-o muzz. But for those of us living in the city far from a dependable fresh dairy, thank you Vito's! And thank you polly-o.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

its interesting you bring up pre-made dough as an example.

some time ago LaBrea bread in LA made its own bread locally. Ive had some. its beyond excellent.

then the bread baked in the same wrappers appeared in high end stores baked there. what seems to have happened is the 'franchise' was sold, the bread pre-formed and shipped to local high end supermarkets and fresh baked there.

the bread is better than any other you can usually get 'main stream'

how ever, its understandting the final baking that makes all the difference: most stores underbake the bread.

those that do this last part well have an outstand loaf.

BTW one of the reason the bread tastes so good is it has a little more salt in it than 'usual'

my point is maybe those final steps make all the difference.

cant say if the ingredient in the "pre" mozza are top rate thought.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The question, I suppose, is in how much difference the creation of the curds makes to the finished product. When it's a fresh, non-aged pasta filata cheese that is ideally consumed with in hours of being spun, it's unclear that there is much to be gained from curdling your own milk. Rather, if most everyone is using curds from the same producers, it's quite clear that technique, temperature and age make all the difference in the world.

I wouldn't say that starting mozzarella from curds instead of milk is in any way analogous to starting bread from pre-mixed dough. I'd say it's more like starting with pre-milled flour, which is what everyone does. It seems likely that starting with milk (or even starting with cows) instead of curds could result in even better mozzarella if all other things were maintained at the highest levels. But it seems likely that growing/milling your own grain into flour might result in similar potential improvements in bread.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

you can taste the difference in bread made from fresh milled grain perhaps its less oxidized

some home baking fanatics have electric mill-specific grinders for grain.

my point was only that on the long road to the final product, stuff near the end of the road can make a very big difference in the final product.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've got mixed feelings on this. As someone who has made fresh mozzarella from raw milk from my own cows and goats, I do see it as sort of false advertising. Maybe calling it freshly pulled mozzarella would be less of a misnomer. That said, I have no animals in milk at the moment, and my local grocery that buys pre-made curds and pulls them there is a very good substitute. As good? Not quite as good as what I get when I use really fresh (still warm from the cow) milk, but pretty darn good. The goat mozz has a different flavor, which I prefer, so not a fair comparison there.

By the way, lovely eggs, chezcherie, do you have Araucanas or Ameraucanas? We have some Ameraucanas for blue/green eggs and some Marans for dark brown ones. Love my hens!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think terms like homemade/housemade imply the entire process is done in-house, from raw (or reasonably close to raw) materials. Fresh, on the other hand, just implies the product was prepared recently enough to be at its peak quality.

Sure, one can putatively buy mixes or partially-processed ingredients and end up with a superior product, for example when top-quality raw ingredients are simply unavailable. But that's not really homemade, I think.

In the case of this cheese made from purchased curd, I'd be okay with "fresh," but not with "homemade."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How does this house "made" mozzarella compare with other fresh mozzarellas? What are the cost differentials among these? The provenance is unimportant to me if the product is correct and if the price is within the range of its competition.

I've bought many "fresh" mozzerellas that tasted over-the-hill to me. If the house-finished polly-o product offers the clean, fresh cream taste of good fresh mozzerella, what they call it is not an issue with me. I will pay a premium if it is actually superior in taste.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Would be interesting to discuss other examples of similar farces. I knew about the mozzarella. I know from baker friends of mine in France that many croissants (even at otherwise artisanal boulangers) now are (high quality) frozen croissants thawed and proofed in the morning. I can't think of anything else right now, but suspect there are many more things people think are hand made or fresh but in fact are not (maybe handmade tortillas in Texas et al? Probably the masa is all supplied by one giant factory).


Edited by WK2 (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think terms like homemade/housemade imply the entire process is done in-house, from raw (or reasonably close to raw) materials. Fresh, on the other hand, just implies the product was prepared recently enough to be at its peak quality.

I think it depends on what the usual practices and standards are for the product. What makes "house made" beer? Do you have to malt the grains yourself? Do you have to grow them yourself? Most of us would agree that this level of processing (i.e., having someone else malt the grains) passes the test. So there is some question as to what is appropriate for each product.

How does this house "made" mozzarella compare with other fresh mozzarellas? What are the cost differentials among these? The provenance is unimportant to me if the product is correct and if the price is within the range of its competition.

I've bought many "fresh" mozzerellas that tasted over-the-hill to me. If the house-finished polly-o product offers the clean, fresh cream taste of good fresh mozzerella, what they call it is not an issue with me. I will pay a premium if it is actually superior in taste.

This seems to be the rub, as far as I am concerned. If it's true that Casa Della Mozzarella is using the same prepared curd to make their mozzarella as Fairway is using to make theirs, then the importance of curdling your own milk approaches nil. The difference in quality between CDM and Fairway is so wide and striking that it would be impossible, I believe, for a NYC maker curdling its own milk to similarly differentiate itself as being that much better than CDM. Quite the opposite has been my reaction, as there are a variety of locally-produced mozzarella cheeses one can purchase (e.g., at the greenmarket or at Whole Foods) that clearly come from the makers' own milk supply and they can't hold a candle to the mozzarella from Casa Della Mozzarella. Now, on the other hand, if it turns out that one of CDM's secrets is that they make their own curds from milk, then I believe we have our answer. So it all depends on whether the best mozzarella makers in the area really are using purchased curds.

As for "fresh" mozzarella, this is really more a style over here than it is a designation of whether the mozzarella was made from end-to-end by the same maker, or even whether the cheese is all that fresh.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Would be interesting to discuss other examples of similar farces. I knew about the mozzarella. I know from baker friends of mine in France that many croissants (even at otherwise artisanal boulangers) now are (high quality) frozen croissants thawed and proofed in the morning. I can't think of anything else right now, but suspect there are many more things people think are hand made or fresh but in fact are not (maybe handmade tortillas in Texas et al? Probably the masa is all supplied by one giant factory).

House-made lemonade is quite commonly made from jugs of pasteurized lemon juice (e.g. Odwalla) as opposed to juice squeezed from lemons on site. Maybe not quite as egregious as the mozzarella case, but probably not what most consumers think they are getting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would be absolutely amazed to learn that both CDM and Fairway use the same curds, though if I did learn that it would prove that the available variation when starting with the same curds is amazingly huge -- much huger than I'd have imagined. I have to guess that CDM is using a better brand of curds but would love to know the facts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My guess is that it would be next to impossible to get them to tell. But if it's true that most everyone is using Polly-o curds (which are apparently quite high in quality and a preferred brand), then this shows a lot. Frankly, I can't say that it would surprise me to find out that they use the same curds.

CDM is an artisinal operation (whether they use curds or not) where it's members of the family or closely supervised employees making the cheese in small batches -- often times to-order (there have been any number of times I've been there when I had to wait for my bocconccini to finish being made). When you get the cheese it's literally still warm, and it's only subjected to as much aging and refrigeration as you care to give it. The quality definitely declines with refrigeration, although I find that some can be brought back if you gently microwave the cheese the next day. With every passing day in the refrigerator, the CDM cheese came more and more to resemble pedestrian Fairway-level fresh mozzarella.

Fairway, on the other hand, probably makes (or has made) their fresh mozzarella in gigantic batches by who-knows-who, but I'm guessing not people whose professional pride rests on making the best mozzarella in one of the most competitive markets in the country, and it spends days and days under refrigeration. In fact, even if it's possible that Fairway's mozzarella is just as good as CDM's mozzarella when it first comes out of the waterbath, it's impossible to get any of it until it's had any chance at being special refrigerated and aged out of it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That introduces a few possibilities, and of course we're now pretty far off into the realm of pure speculation but... One possibility is that CDM and Fairway start with the exact same curds but through artisanal family handiwork the CDM people transform the curds into superior cheese. A second possibility is that the freshness and non-refrigeration are the critical factors. It could be a combination of 1 and 2. Or they could be starting with a different ingredient. I notice that on the Polly-O website there are three variants of curds -- I wonder if there's a material difference:

CURD

7104001002 POLLY-O Whole Milk Split Curd 2 21 lb bags

7104001000 POLLY-O Whole Mik Curd 1 43 lb bags

7104001010 POLLY-O Curd 2 10 lb bags

http://polly-ofoodservice.com/PollyO-SKU.asp

I'm also wondering about salt's contribution to all this. I assume salt is added to the curds by the "cheesemaker" so that could be a variable.

Is it curds or curd?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Who knew?

This is totally new news to me, I had no idea that some pizza shops make fresh mozz from Polly-O curds.

The Polly-O plant is basically right here in my neighborhood, much of the milk from local dairies goes to Polly-O and Leprino.

I've always made fresh mozz from good raw Jersey milk.

:huh:


Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
One possibility is that CDM and Fairway start with the exact same curds but through artisanal family handiwork the CDM people transform the curds into superior cheese.

"Artisanal family handiwork"? It's mozzarella. My 11 year old makes a great mozzarella. I learned how to make it in about an hour. I would not call my excellent mozzarella "artisanal" and I make my own curds from milk I hand milked from my own animals. Homemade? Sure, but mozzarella requires no skill to make. I love a good, fresh mozzarella, but I think this is gross overuse of the word "artisanal". For the record, I think that this word, mostly due to marketing, is among the most overused words in the foodie world today. Stepping off soapbox, back to the topic at hand...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I assume salt is added to the curds by the "cheesemaker" so that could be a variable.

correct

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×