the birth of mozzarella

My cheesemonger destiny was calling me (I mean, imagine having your name followed by ‘cheesemonger’ on your business card. Amazing.) We took quick trip to a family-owned cheese factory near Sorrento two weeks ago. I like cheese, a lot. But the rennet in raw milk combo, plus sloshing through cheese water, may have halted my destiny instantaneously. Whatever, because it was wicked fun. I’ve got to show you. Promise, it will be quick.

1. We were ‘required’ to wear paper aprons, hats, and booties over our shoes to walk through the factory. Strangely, no hair ties were required, and we were allowed to touch the cheese. But, the floor was completely flooded with cheesy water, and my boots thanked me for their little raincoats. Walker admitted this was a bit out of his comfort zone.

2. The cheese-making steps involve numerous heatings and pullings and adding enzymes from animals’ stomachs. I won’t go any further.

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The simple story is the milk coagulates (grossest word in the English language) from the enzymes. The curds are drained, and that water turns into ricotta. Howdy-do-dee, lasagna!
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What remains on the table is the silky, soft starter,
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That and it’s soaked and stretched and turned into mozzarella. Fresh, pure, and whole.

So, that’s that.

3. The epic moment of my cheesemonger career was when I stepped up to the counter to braid the cheese; the strand felt like one of those freebie stress balls from the bank. If you were in Sorrento last week and had a cheese braid appetizer that looked a little off, I may be the culprit. That said, the father of the family, who gave us the demo did catch my eye and tell me I had done a ‘very nice’ braid. Peacock puff. My father-in-law was asked to do two braids, so he up and out-did mine.

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The work of the maestro:
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Mozzarella wasn’t the only game in town. Local specialties also included some aged cheeses: provolone and the pear-shaped caciocavallo (whose name I still have to google.) Blurry photo alert, but it’s all I’ve got of the caciocavallo.
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4. The bomb diggity of the adventure was the cheese tasting. The best cheese I have ever tasted in my life. Delicate, tangy, and made only hours before.
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Next time you’re in Sorrento, I totally recommend the cheese factory tour. Booties. Braids. Bliss.

Oh, and I do have one more thing that just won’t go away. Whose idea was it to make this substance, anyway? Strange. Delicious and strange, and I hope I stop craving ravioli before bed.