First of all, they’re not actually making cheese. According to Jonathan White, cheese maker and owner of Bobolink Dairy (whose aged, raw milk cheeses you’ll find at the Pleasantville farmer’s market and www.cowsoutside.com), local gourmet stores and delis are getting a big hand up with industrial mozzarella curds from large companies—primarily Polly-o. Cheesemakers who work with live cultures must hold government-issued licenses before they can legally sell their goods, whereas any professional kitchen can process manufactured curds.
Fresh mozzarella is made with the pasta filata process, where curds are dropped into hot water and then stretched and kneaded to reach the desired consistency. While not technically making cheese, the mozzarella maker shows his skill in the melting and stretching of the curds. If poorly handled, the cheese will be dry and tough. Salt is also tricky—too little will leave the cheese bland while too much will mask the subtle, fresh flavor of milk. “Ideally,” says White, ”you want a delicate texture and a classic cream taste. It should be really moist and ooze a little milk when you cut it.” We’re huge fans of Casa Della Mozzarella 604 East 187 St., Bronx, NY (718) 364-386—this is cheese so fragile, it weeps milk when you cut it
But here’s one of those common health code violations. It really is absolutely verboten to store those unwrapped, unrefrigerated orbs in the big tub of water on the counter. Of course, when the cheeses are wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, those tender, oozing globed become as tough and rubbery as a Spauldeen. Heartbreak. We’ll take our chances with the tub of water.