The art of making mozzarella
We learn about the craft of creating cheese with two artisan cheesemakers who specialise in mozzarella and bocconcini.
According to one artisan cheesemaker who specialises in making mozzarella, the key to creating cheese is love. “This is true for everything you do, not just for cheesemaking,” says Giorgio Linguanti, founder of Melbourne artisan cheese company, That’s Amore Cheese. “If you do everything with love, the results will be obvious — they have to be good! This is why my company’s name, That’s Amore, means That’s Love.”
As well as being a nutrient-rich and delicious source of nourishment for the body, mozzarella pays homage to traditional, sustainable and artisanal methods of cooking.
Mozzarella versus bocconcini
“Mozzarella and bocconcini are the same mozzarella product but shaped differently,” reveals Giorgio. “Mozzarella is about the size of a small orange, while bocconcini is slightly smaller.” It’s approximately the size of a small egg and likened to “bite-sized fresh mozzarella”. “We produce cow’s milk mozzarella and bocconcini and also buffalo’s milk mozzarella and bocconcini,” adds Giorgio.
“Mozzarella and bocconcini are both from the pasta filata family,” says Marisa Salandra. Her parents are the founders of La Casa Del Formaggio, a family-run cheese business in Adelaide that has been making mozzarella for 30 years. “La Casa Del Formaggio’s mozzarella follows the same manufacturing process as the bocconcini products, only it is cooked a little longer in its own whey to expel more moisture, making it one of the purest mozzarellas on the market,” explains Marisa. “Bocconcini, which is commonly referred to as ‘fresh mozzarella’, is higher in moisture and is fresh and delicate. It is stored in brine to help naturally preserve the cheese.”
Benefits of eating mozzarella
In addition to being lower in sodium and calories compared to other cheeses, mozzarella is also a source of probiotics. “Mozzarella contains bacteria that act as probiotics, including strains of Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus fermentum, which help to improve your immune system,” says Giorgio. Cheese is also a great source of calcium, which is an essential mineral for healthy bones and teeth.
Mozzarella is also naturally lower in fat compared to other cheeses such as cream cheese and cheddar, and is a great source of protein.
Making mozzarella by hand
Giorgio arrived in Melbourne in 2004 and even though he didn’t speak English at the time, he started working in a cheese factory. “It looked challenging, but this is where my interest and passion for making cheese were ignited,” he reveals. Just four years later, he founded That’s Amore Cheese.
“The process of making mozzarella is called pasta filata and it can be quite challenging,” shares Giorgio. All dairy products are based on curd, which is made by heating milk and adding rennet and citric acid. “After the curd sets, it is cut into cubes, releasing a liquid called whey, which is rich in proteins. The curd is then stretched with boiling water and salt and worked into different shapes (trecce, fior di latte, bocconcini etc),” says Giorgio.
His secret tip for making high-quality mozzarella is to use locally sourced farm-fresh milk and to follow traditional Italian recipes. “In Australia we are very lucky to have some of the best-quality milk for cheesemaking,” says Giorgio. “Because the cows are happy and free-ranging in the paddocks, the milk is always different depending on the season and what type of grass the cows eat, and that is the beauty of artisan cheesemaking. We adjust our recipe every day according to the milk we receive. We run a test batch each morning before we start our food production to keep the product consistent and to a high standard.”
Mozzarella from That’s Amore Cheese is made using the best of two worlds: Australian produce and Italian techniques. “Our cheese is an artisan product, handmade with farm-fresh milk locally sourced in Victoria without using any artificial colours or preservatives,” continues Giorgio. “We still use Italian recipes and traditional cheesemaking techniques to get a real and traditional final product, while using local Australian produce. When I started making mozzarella in Australia, the only mozzarella known here was the dry vacuum-packed version. I am very proud to be the first to have introduced some traditional Italian dairy products to the Australian market, with burrata being one of them.”
When reflecting on the story behind La Casa Del Formaggio, Marisa says her parents’ mission was to recreate the flavours and foods of home. “They began selling imports from their continental deli in Hectorville in Adelaide, but could not find a good enough mozzarella. The idea was sparked to create their own mozzarella. With generations of cheesemaking behind them, it was a natural fit.
“We draw on our Italian heritage to use traditional techniques and recipes to make our curd cheeses,” continues Marisa. “La Casa Del Formaggio is one of the few pasta filata cheesemakers in Australia to use starter cultures instead of citric acid in bocconcini. Starter cultures are widely regarded in Italy as a premium ingredient that gives the cheese more depth of flavour. Using starter cultures adds complexity to our cheesemaking process, but the resulting benefits for the taste and texture of our cheeses is what we are really passionate about. Plus, our company has always taken the stance of not using artificial preservatives in our products, so our ingredients are as natural as possible.”
Marisa says there are five steps to making mozzarella at La Casa Del Formaggio:
- Fresh, 100 per cent Australian full-cream milk is pasteurised (swiftly heated to a high temperature and then swiftly cooled to a low temperature) onsite.
- Non-animal rennet (a milk-clotting enzyme) and starter cultures are added to set the cheese.
- After the cheese has set, it is carefully cut by hand in large stainless-steel vats. This is to separate the curd and the whey.
- “Prior to moulding, to ensure the cheese is ready, La Casa Del Formaggio still uses the traditional stretching method,” reveals Marisa. “A small portion of the cheese is taken out and heated using very hot water. By hand, the cheesemaker tests the ease of stretching.”
- If the texture and stretch are perfect, then, and only then, is the cheese moulded into pear-shaped balls and packaged for the consumer.
From recycling water for daily cleaning practices in the factory to using solar power to reduce CO² emissions and using the whey (waste product from cheesemaking) to produce ricotta, sustainability is vital to That’s Amore Cheese’s production. “We proudly source all our milk from local farms in Victoria, supporting the farmers and minimising the transport,” says Giorgio, adding that they have also just started producing a fully certified organic range. “We have upgraded packaging machines to minimise packaging waste and upgraded our manufacturing machinery to reduce water consumption,” he continues. “At our retail store we offer a milk refill service, where customers can bring their own clean glass bottle, and we also welcome and encourage BYO containers for customers to use when shopping. The store has also eliminated single-use plastic bags and only uses compostable take-away packaging.”
An environmentally friendly approach is also at the forefront of La Casa Del Formaggio’s cheesemaking. “We recently upgraded our factory by building a purpose-built milk receival plant,” says Marisa. “This has enabled us to reuse waste whey to pre-heat our raw milk, minimise power, boiler and gas usage, and to greatly reduce the temperature of our waste, which benefits the environment. We also try as hard as we can to find purpose-built and recyclable packaging.” Marisa adds that they are currently in the process of changing the plastic of their mozzarella packaging so it can be recycled under the REDcycle program.
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