Mozzarella can be found in almost every supermarket and deli, but as a result there are many different varieties and price points covered, so how do you tell if it’s a good one?
Cow vs buffalo
The main two types of mozzarella you’ll find are made from either buffalo or cow’s milk. Sheep and goat’s milk varieties exist as well, but are much rarer.
Buffalo and cow’s milk mozzarella’s differ in two main ways: flavour and price. Buffalo milk has a higher level of acidity than cow’s milk, which results in the mozzarella being tangier and more flavoursome. It has more fat too that adds to its richness. By comparison, cow’s milk mozzarella or mozzarella fior di latte is milder, but still milky and rich, and great for cooking with.
While Italian Water Buffalo can be found throughout Italy, cows are still more common, and so unsurprisingly, you’ll pay more for mozz made with buffalo milk due to its relative rarity.
You may also notice that some are labelled as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP, which means that they were produced with buffalo milk in specific areas of Italy.
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How mozzarella is made
All mozz is made in the same way by separating the curds and whey using enzymes before shaping the curds. The term mozzarella comes from the mozzare method, which is the process of separating the curd into small balls. It means “cutting by hand”. The cheese is then shaped using a method called pasta filata. Pasta filata includes lots of stretching and pulling, which creates the layers you can see when you pull apart a ball of mozz and leaves it with the stretchy texture we all know and love.
Unlike many cheeses, mozzarella isn’t aged and is instead eaten pretty much immediately after being made, which is why it’s stored in water or whey to keep its moisture and freshness.
What to look for
- Regardless of which animal’s milk the cheese is made from, mozzarella should be made from only 4 ingredients: milk, enzymes, rennet and salt.
- It shouldn’t be bright white in colour, but a more natural tone. Huffpost described it as ‘pearlescent’, which is too poetic not to mention.
- The texture should be soft and stretchy not tough and rubbery.
- It shouldn’t be dry. When pressed the ball should give out a few drops of whey.
- Don’t even bother with that grated stuff.
A note on burrata
Burrata has become super popular in recent years, but is a different beast to your everyday mozz. They’re siblings, or maybe cousins instead. It starts the same way with an outer casing made from mozzarella, however, this mozz has been stretched around a filling of cream and unprocessed curds. This makes it a richer, softer cheese that almost bursts when you cut into it. It’s delicious and best served as the centrepiece of a salad or just drizzled liberally with really good olive oil. It would be a waste to cook with it.