Making ricotta in our cooking classes takes but a few minutes of labor. As for mozzarella, although not difficult to make, is much more time consuming. Because I can buy freshly made with raw local milk mozzarella directly from the producer minutes from the farm, it is more practical to do so, especially needing large quantities. I regret due to recent restrictions from the European Community concerning visitors at the production plant, it is no longer as convenient as in the past, but I have managed to work my way in with our class attendees on many occasions.
Only by experiencing the freshly made with raw milk mozzarella can one understand why most Italians do not consider commercially available mozzarella in the American supermarkets to be called mozzarella. The product has no similarities to the freshly made, soft, velvety, sweet, savory, chewable but not rubbery, made without preservatives, preferably to be consumed in 24 hours, true mozzarella.
Watching the production in our neighborhood has been a highlight of our cooking weeks, when able to do so. All are amazed seeing the skillful cheese maker turn the morning milking of raw milk into small delicate balls of mozzarella. Knowing the proper temperature for heating the milk, the timing as to when to add the rennet that separates the curd from the whey, the amount of time necessary for the curdling, when to separate curd from the whey, all depends on the skills of the artisan cheese maker. With hands burning from the hot water needed before stretching the mass of gum like curd, he then shapes the cheese in the desired shapes. Our class experienced making individual golf ball size pieces, to tennis ball sizes as well as experiencing braiding the mozzarella as seen in the picture.
After experiencing what we call real mozzarella, class attendees always comment as do the Italians when saying there just is no comparison to that rubbery dry industrial made mozzarella with many unknown additives for shelf life.
A double treat is when the artisan cheese maker gave all our attendees a small spoon to get to taste the warm whey (that was separated from the curd) shortly after being converted into fresh ricotta. Again a new experience to those that have never tasted real ricotta. I do believe as do most Italians that the commercially industrial produced in the market products should be labeled as “an imitation”.