Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Portrait of a Mozzarella Maker

Keith Mazzarella

Keith Mazzarella makes Mozzarella for a living.  Really.  He thinks maybe his name led him to answer an ad for the job at Antonio Mozzarella Factory in Springfield, NJ.  He got the job and he loves it:

Right now we are making fresh handmade Mozzarella for various large supermarkets such as Shop-rite. I set up usually right near the deli or cheese department and make the fresh Mozzarella right in front of the customers. Most people have no idea how Mozzarella is made and the majority have never had the opportunity to taste it fresh.  

On average I make over 200 lbs. per day and most of the time it goes as fast as I can make it. Once I give them a taste of the fresh and still warm cheese they are hooked for life! 

We asked Keith to give us an idea of what he actually does at the store.  He used his cell phone to take the following great pictures, showing us exactly how he does it:

A block of curd ready to be sliced into small pieces using a curd cutter (also know as a mandolin or guitar because of the guitar type strings).

Hot tap water is added to warm the cool pieces of curd. We then drain the water and add very hot water usually between 170F - 180F. To prevent the loss of too much butterfat, we do not pour the water directly on the curd.

The pieces are starting to stick together because of this cooking process but they are not ready yet so we have to add another pot of the very hot water.

When the curd is finally cooked throughout all the little pieces just seem to come together and the Mozzarella has it's nice shiny appearance.

Now for the fun part. We stretch the Mozzarella to produce a creamy texture and to remove any rough spots. We do not knead the cheese like it is pizza dough because too much handling will result in a harder texture.

Now we are ready to form our Mozzarella balls. Mozzarella comes from the Italian word mozzare (meaning to cut or break off).

Looks like about a pound!

To give the Mozzarella a lightly salted taste we put the balls into our saturated brine.

Each box of curd weighs between 40 - 45 lbs.  It comes in two big blocks.  I make a block at a time (about 21 - 24 lbs).  Depending on a store's needs, sometimes I do 5 boxes of curd in one day which is about 225 lbs.  Each ball I make weighs about 1 to 1 1/4 pounds each.   Now, that's a lot of cheese!

If you live close enough to go to the store, Keith would love to see you!  (Tell him we said "Hi!")
Directions are on the website.


Cacio said...

Where can we buy that curd cutter?

Jeri said...

It is cool, isn't it? All I can suggest is that you contact the store at the phone number at the end of the article.