Some quotes come up in the food -writing business all the time. Like,
“I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.” W.C. Fields
“Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” Mark Twain
“Cheese is milk's leap toward immortality.” Clifton Fadiman
I think of the Fadiman phrase every time I eat fresh mozzarella, because I think of this cheese as a failed leap toward immortality. Mozzarella is barely a step, hardly a leap, away from milk, and it's highly perishable, hardly immortal.
The mozzarella made south of Naples from water buffalo milk is probably the best in the world. But since freshness is key, the mozzarella you just pulled from its water bath might be the best available. My friend Paula Lambert has been making fresh mozzarella at her Mozzarella Company in Texas since 1982—she uses mostly cow's milk—that kind of mozzarella is called fior de latte. (Sometimes you can get Paula's cheeses at Liberty Heights Fresh. More and more delis, groceries and specialty food shops here make their own mozzarella, though they start with provided curd, a significant shortcut.
I went out to Harmons on 7th yesterday to learn how to make mozzarella from curd. If you want to learn how to make it at home, keep an eye on Harmons' stores' cooking class schedule—mozzarella-making shows up from time to time.
A mozzarella recipe doesn't call for many ingredients: just curds (you can buy yours from Harmons), sea salt, water and ice.
The necessary equipment is equally simple: a couple of stockpots, three utility tubs, a knife, a thermal dispenses, paper towels, a meat thermometer, heat-protective and waterproof gloves and a perforated baking sheet or rack.
Heat one gallon of water to 100 degrees. Heat 3 gallons of water and a cup of salt to 180 degrees.
Prep: Cut curds into 1/2-inch cubes and place in a tub. Pour 100-degree water over the curds, and stir gently with gloved hand. Fill the other tub halfway with ice and fill with water. Pour the hot brine into the thermal dispenser.
To make cheese, put warmed curds into the hot brine.
Pull the chunks toward you through the water with a rolling motion,
gathering them into a rough log shape. Push them away from you with the same motion. Repeat a few times until the curds knit together loosely. Don't overdo, or you'll have tough cheese.
Hold the glop of cheese over the water and let it hang and stretch. Gather it up and repeat several times until the cheese looks shiny with no lumps.
Pinch off a lump and hand-knead it to form a ball with a nice taut skin, then plop it into the ice bath to cool for about 30 minutes. Drain balls on rack over paper towels. Chill mozzarella down to 40 degrees within four hours.