Q: Dear Chef, I’d like to do something different for our next get-together. When we invite friends over, we have drinks and do the usual snacks like cheese boards and dried meats. I am tired of the same old thing. Is there something fun out there that will really pick up my next party?
A: Do I have something new for you! I am going to try it at home myself with some friends. What do you think about an interactive Mozzarella Party? You and your friends can infuse fresh mozzarella curd with great flavors like the ones below.
Vanilla Port (aka Italian Marble Brine)
8 cups tawny port
½ vanilla bean, split
1 cinnamon stick
4 T kosher salt
This brine will give the cheese a rich, wine-colored skin; and as you fold and press the curd, you will create a marble-like texture to the center of the cheese that reminds me of Italian marble.
Ginger Beer Brine
8 cups 1904 red ale
Ginger root, about 5-inches long, split with skin on
Half an orange
4 T kosher salt
This brine will give the cheese an orange and tan color.
Black Pepper Garlic Brine
8 cups water
12 roasted garlic cloves
4 T cracked black pepper
4 T kosher salt 4
Make sure to fold pieces of the cracked pepper and whole roasted garlic gloves into the curd as you fold and form the cheese.
You will also need:
5 lbs. mozzarella curd
I use BelGioioso curd. Or, you can check with your local dairy or grocery.
You can do one or all three flavors. You can do this on your stove in pots, but I recommend using a Crock-Pot for each of the brines. The Crock-Pot will hold a consistent temperature.
Select the brine you want to use. Combine all the ingredients in the Crock-Pot and heat to 175 degrees. Let simmer for about 30 minutes while you cut your curd into 1-inch squares. Taste your brine. You should be able to taste the flavors developing, and the salt content should be that of seawater. Adjust as needed. Reduce to about 140 degrees.
Set the station with a bowl of cubed curd, the Crock-Pot with the brine in the middle, and a bowl of ice water next to it. This is a three-step process.
Using the latex gloves, take three pieces of the curd and place them in the brine until they warm and become soft all the way through. This should take a few minutes. You can either reach in and use your hands or use a slotted spoon to pick up the curd and test.
When the three pieces are soft, pick them up in your hands, stacking them on top of each other and press them together using the palms of your hands. Next, fold the curd in half and press again, repeat the process two more times. Now, begin forming a smooth ball. Tuck the outside edge of the curd under and into the center until you have formed a ball, pinching the bottom together. Make sure you do this quickly so the curd does not have time to cool. When the ball is formed, place into bowl of ice water until it is chilled through. Congratulations! You now have taken the curd and made it into cheese. Remove and place on cutting board until it comes back to room temperature.
There are two ways to eat mozzarella: Either cut it like most people, and see the rich, creamy soft center. Or, you can eat it the way I like to, by pulling it apart and seeing the long strands of the cheese. Watch and follow the natural grain of the cheese. You can set up two or three cheese-making spots and let everyone make and taste the great mozzarella you are making.
If you have any questions or need a little help, let me know. I’d love to get together and show you. Email me at John.Johnson@rivercity.com.