Cheese

Stretched curd cheese

These cheeses are often referred to as 'spun curd' or 'string cheese' because of the way they are made. 'Pasta filata' is the traditional Italian name for these types of cheese.  To make stretched curd cheeses, the curd is heated in water (70-80°C) until it becomes elastic, then kneaded and pulled into threads.

Each cheese type can be identified by the quantity of moisture in the cheese, its size and shape and the conditions in which it is aged. Some of these cheeses may also fall into the fresh or semi-cooked cheese categories.

Provolone is an example of a stretched curd cheese that is matured. Caciocavallo is a stretched curd cheese that is prepared in the same way as provolone, but it is cured for a short time. The different shapes of the two cheeses are what distinguishes them from each other.

Bocconcini

History
First made in southern Italy in the 6th century AD, these cheeses were originally made from buffalo milk, though today cows' milk is more commonly used. Bocconcini has become a popular cheese in Australia; it is made in most capital cities for distribution to local markets. Because of its relatively short shelf life, bocconcini is best bought locally.

Characteristics
Meaning 'little mouthfuls' in Italian, bocconcini is fresh mozzarella moulded into irregular egg shapes or smaller cherry-sized balls and stored in water or a light brine solution. They have a shiny surface with an interior similar to cooked chicken breast. The body is semi-soft and elastic with a close texture.

Flavour
Bocconcini has a mild, milky and slightly sweet taste.  It should taste like fresh sweet cream!

Selection and storage

  • Choose bocconcini fully immersed in water which is still clear and avoid those in cloudy water. If the water becomes cloudy when storing bocconcini, drain well, clean the container, add fresh water and then replace the bocconcini.

  • Traditionally with a shelf life of 3-4 days, today bocconcini can be enjoyed for up to three weeks after production.

  • Bocconcini should be eaten as close to when it was made as possible, so try to buy locally produced bocconcini with a long use-by date. 

  • Store away from foods with strong odours to avoid flavour contamination.

  • Remove from the refrigerator 15 minutes prior to serving to develop its full flavour.

  • Avoid using if slightly yellow or displaying a floury consistency. With age, the cheese will also sour.

  • Freezing is not recommended.


Serving
  • Its mild flavour is a wonderful complement to stronger flavours such as tomatoes, olives, cured meats and bitter greens.

  • Excellent as a melting cheese as it adds texture to dishes.

  • Serve either whole or sliced Caprese-style with fresh basil, tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil.

  • Include in antipasto, perhaps wrapped in prosciutto.

  • Add to a salad, pasta or pizza topping.

  • Crumb with ground almonds, deep fry and serve as an appetiser.

  • Marinate with lemon infused olive oil and serve with rocket.

  • Toss cherry-sized bocconcini into pesto.

For recipes using bocconcini cheese see The Dairy Kitchen.

Haloumi

History
First made by early nomadic Bedouin tribes, haloumi was created by kneading the curd to release the whey. The elastic fibrous cheese is then rolled out like pastry, cut into small blocks and stored in brine, sometimes containing a sprinkling of dried mint. Australian haloumi is made in a similar way and is available stored in brine and can be pre-packed.

Characteristics
Haloumi is a white cheese with a rubbery, fibrous texture. Its wonderful flavour characteristics are only truly realised when it is heated. Fried or grilled until soft and pliable, it is also one of the few cheeses that holds its shape when cooked.

Flavour
The mild flavour of haloumi is often enhanced with herbs, usually mint. Like Feta, it is a fairly salty cheese as it is stored in brine.

Selection and storage
  • If stored in brine, choose haloumi that is fully immersed in the brine. Use within 2 weeks of purchase.

  • Keep well covered in brine so it won't dry out.

  • Freezing is not recommended.


Serving
  • Haloumi has unique frying qualities. When fried over a high heat the outer skin becomes crisp while the inside melts like mozzarella. This is a Greek-style dish called Saganaki.

  • Serve Saganaki accompanied with pitta bread, slow roasted tomatoes, grilled asparagus, tomato and olive salsa or fresh salad greens.

  • Serve immediately after pan-frying with a squeeze of lemon juice.

  • Grill haloumi on the barbecue and add to salads as an alternative to meat.

For recipes using haloumi cheese see The Dairy Kitchen.

Mozzarella

History

The first stretched curd cheese, mozzarella most likely had its origins with nomadic tribes of the Middle East. This style of cheese gradually spread across Europe to the Mediterranean.

Mozzarella became popular in Australia with the influx of post-Second World War Italian immigrants who used it generously on their famous pizzas and pasta dishes.

Characteristics

Known for its wonderful melting properties, mozzarella has a semi-soft elastic body and a smooth close texture. It is usually produced in a pear, ball or loaf shape. Traditional mozzarella is usually sold as a soft white ball in water, but in Australia we often see a firmer, longer-lasting cheese that has less moisture and a pale yellow colour. It is sometimes known as pizza cheese, and may also be shredded.

Flavour

Mozzarella has a very mild, slightly sweet taste. The loaf variety is usually drier with a mild buttery flavour.

Selection and storage

  • Keep refrigerated and wrapped to prevent drying out.
  • Fresh mozzarella has a relatively short shelf life and will sour if left to age, store submerged in its original water, or replace the water if it becomes cloudy.
  • Aged mozzarella is much drier with a longer life span.
  • Suitable for freezing only if shredded or grated and, when thawed, used in cooking.

Serving

  • A wonderful melting cheese which is perfect as a pizza topping.
  • Melt on potatoes.
  • Add to toasted sandwiches.
  • Combine with cheddar and grate over nachos.
  • Slice and combine into a salad with fresh tomatoes and basil.
  • Try pan-fried mozzarella sandwiches with sun-dried tomatoes.
For recipes using mozzarella cheese see The Dairy Kitchen.

Burrata

History
With Southern Italian origins, burrata is one of the newest styles of stretched-curd cheese to be produced in Australia.

Characteristics
A fresh mozzarella style cheese, burrata comprises of a fine, fresh mozzarella skin, filled with shredded mozzarella curds and fresh cream, then tied off at the top to create a money bag effect. Break open the sack, to reveal a very creamy oozy mozzarella centre.

Flavour
Burrata has a very mild creamy flavour, reminiscent of sweet fresh cream.

Selection and storage

  • Keep refrigerated submerged in its storage liquid to prevent drying out. Once broken, store in an airtight container and consume in 1-2 days.
  • Burrata has a short shelf life and is best consumed as fresh as possible.
  • It is not suitable for freezing.

Serving
  • Fabulous served alongside antipasto.
  • The fresh cream flavour of burrata matches well with grilled stone fruit or strawberries and balsamic.
  • Try spreading over a fresh margherita pizza straight from the oven, with fresh basil.
  • Break over a plate of pasta as a delicious and simple sauce.
For recipes using burrata cheese see The Dairy Kitchen.

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