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Mozzarella is a fresh cheese, originally from southern Italy, traditionally made from Italian buffalo and later cow’s milk by the pasta filata method.

The term is used for several kinds of Italian cheeses that are made using spinning and then cutting (hence the name, as the Italian verb mozzare means “to cut”):

  • Mozzarella di Bufala (buffalo mozzarella) – Made from domesticated Italian buffalo’s milk in Italy and from other types of buffalo’s milk in many nations: in almost all cases Italian breeders or entrepreneurs started production in other nations
  • Mozzarella fior di latte – Made from fresh pasteurized or unpasteurized cow’s milk
  • Low-moisture mozzarella – Made from whole or part skimmed milk, and widely used in the food-service industry
  • Mozzarella affumicata – (smoked mozzarella)

Fresh mozzarella is generally white, but may vary seasonally to slightly yellow depending on the animal’s diet. It is a semi-soft cheese. Due to its high moisture content, it is traditionally served the day after it is made, but can be kept in brine for up to a week, or longer when sold in vacuum-sealed packages. Low-moisture mozzarella can be kept refrigerated for up to a month, though some shredded low-moisture mozzarella is sold with a shelf life of up to six months. Mozzarella of several kinds is also used for most types of pizza and several pasta dishes, or served with sliced tomatoes and basil in insalata caprese.

Mozzarella Cheese Storage and Tips

  • If a recipe specifies fresh mozzarella, use the real thing or risk an unsatisfactory result.
  • Fresh mozzarella is best at room temperature. Remove it from the refrigerator two hours before you plan to serve it.
  • Processed mozzarella can be frozen up to six months, but it will become crumbly and lose moisture when thawed. Thaw slowly in the refrigerator and hold it at least a week to let the liquid re-absorb before using.
  • Thawed mozzarella is best used only in melted applications.
  • Freezing cheese tends to separate fat globules, which will may cause “oil slicks” in your dishes when melted.
  • All types of mozzarella should be constantly refrigerated until consumed.
  • Lower-fat mozzarella cheese generally contains more water, so keep this in mind when using it in melted dishes.

Mozzarella (Australian)

Mozzarella, a cheese of Italian origin became famous in Australia at the turn of post-Second World War when Italian immigrants made the continent their home. By using it as a regular part of their cuisine, Mozzarella became an everyday part of Australian life.

This cheese, which belongs to the pasta filata family, is known for its superb melting, stretching, browning properties and elastic consistency. Usually bought in a pear or loaf shape and purchased fresh or aged, Mozzarella has become a favourite in snack foods, anti-pasta dishes, salads, pizza’s, calzone’s, foccacia’s and various side dishes.

Mozzarella has a mild, slightly sweet taste and generally is moist due to the brine solution. The loaf, aged and commercial variety however are drier and have a milder flavour. Its good melting properties blend well with baked dishes, sandwiches and pastas.

High moisture mozzarella is often packaged in tubs or bags filled with water–this keeps it soft but leeches out some of the flavour. Look for mozzarella di bufalo = buffalo milk mozzarella, which is more interesting than cow’s milk mozzarella = fior di latte. Bocconcini (Pronunciation: BOK-kuhn-CHEE-nee) are small balls of high moisture mozzarella. High moisture mozzarellas are much more perishable than their low-moisture counterparts, so use them within a few days of purchase.

Substitutes for Mozzarella

  • Scarmorza
  • Cacciocavallo
  • String Cheese (very similar, but extruded rather than molded)
  • Queso Blanco
  • Provolone
  • Kashkaval
  • Kasseri
  • Emmenthal (another good melting cheese)
  • Bel Paese
  • “Tofu Rella” Italian White (a soy-based cheese substitute; use in melted cheese dishes)
  • Fontina (good on pizzas)
  • Cheddar (different flavour, doesn’t melt as well as mozzarella)
  • Smoked Tofu

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