The most popular cheese in Switzerland isn’t Emmentaler, Tilsiter or Gruyère. Mozzarella beats them all, particularly in summer when people like to eat Mediterranean-style food. But it is actually an oddity among cheeses.
What do you get if you bathe fresh cheese at too high a temperature? This is a bit of a pointed question, but the answer is clear: mozzarella. At first glance, this a topic that – apart from the heat issue, which we will come back to later – can be covered quickly: Mozzarella is a fresh cheese, has a neutral flavour and is used in particular in tomato salad or on pizza. End of story.
But there’s far more to it than that – starting with the fact that, thanks to its “stringy” structure, mozzarella looks totally different from other cheeses. Its unique consistency is closely linked to the production process, which is fundamentally different from the traditional production of fresh cheese. After coagulating the milk and making the curd, it is blanched in hot water at around 80°C, kneaded and stretched (spun). This makes mozzarella a “pasta filata” cheese. The term comes from the Italian verb “filare” (“to spin”, “to draw out”).
The same for generations
It is then cut into pieces and shaped into balls, pearls or sticks. And now for another little Italian lesson: “mozzare”, the verb that the cheese gets its name from, means “to cut off”. Originally, the cheese was made entirely by hand, begging the question as to how cheesemakers in the past did so at such high temperatures. Hardy fellows indeed! Today, special machines carry out the kneading. But the principle behind the manufacturing process has remained the same for generations.
And why is mozzarella stringy? The combination of protein coagulation in the hot bath, mechanical processing and heat creates this special “cooked chicken-like” structure, which is a distinctive quality feature of a carefully produced mozzarella. Achieving this structure takes a lot of stamina when kneading – whether with muscle power or modern technology.
Freshly and carefully produced
Pasta filata cheese originates from Italy, where mozzarella was traditionally made with buffalo milk. Making a really good mozzarella requires high-quality fresh milk and careful production. The result is a product such as Toni’s Mozzarella, which is made in Dagmersellen – using milk from local cows.