James Whelan Butchers: Mozzarella Cheese

I’ve recently been enjoying the joys of mozzarella cheese again, as I tend to do every summer.  This light, mild white cheese is a great warm weather staple for the fridge.  A few tomatoes, some mozzarella and a little basil can create the most wonderful salad that goes really well with chicken or steak.  Slice it and melt it on a wonderful homemade pizza, stuff a homemade burger with a lump for a meltingly gorgeous surprise once cooked or chop it into squares and use it as part of an interesting tower of topping with a little chutney, for a chicken breast.    Mozzarella cheese is great hot or cold and there’s always have a ball or two lounging in the fridge at this time of year, ready to whip out the moment the sun shines.

As with all things of Mediterranean origin, I do find that the better quality mozzarella inevitably tastes better.  I would also caution that if you are buying the ‘low fat’ or ‘half fat’ versions you are simply wasting your time.  I know, the calorie conscious among you want to take me out and whip me mercilessly for such blatant blasphemy of the fat fighters’ low fat mantra, but someone has to stand up and say it as it is.   Yes, you are getting all the texture of real mozzarella in these pretenders but, sadly, the flavour and taste, in my humble opinion, is completely lost.  Really, what is the point of eating something that just doesn’t cut it when it comes to taste?  Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to encourage you to save a few calories on the lower fat versions, but from my own experience and in honour of my conscience and taste buds I just can’t.  Now I will add a little caveat in that I have tried ‘many’ but not necessarily ‘all’ the low fat mozzarella cheese varieties on the market, so if you do come across one that has a great taste let me know and I’ll be happy to put it to the taste test.

In the meantime I personally like traditional mozzarella when I can get my hands on it.  Real mozzarella is made from water buffalo milk and is about three times more expensive than cows’ milk.  With a lot of mozzarella now being made with cows’ milk this will account for the wild variance in the price of different brands all of the same size and weight.   Make sure you read the label properly.  I have enjoyed some excellent cows’ milk mozzarellas which are more easily available, but if I can get my hands on the water buffalo variety I would always prefer it.   Water buffalo are only herded in a few countries, mainly Italy and Bulgaria, and that would also account for the high cost as it has to be imported.

Mozzarella cheese is unusual in that it is never aged and, unlike most of its cousins, it is actually at its best when eaten within hours of making it.  It is a malleable curd cheese that has no rind and that’s why it is packed in little sealed bags surrounded by water.  Obviously it is far too soft to grate but you can slice it very thinly should you need to.

As a mozzarella fan I was delighted to read that a recent study in an illustrious medical journal laid out even further evidence that the so called Mediterranean diet cuts the risk of heart disease to an even higher degree than previously believed.   Foods cited were mozzarella cheese, basil, tomatoes, olive oil, walnuts and almonds.  Of course the study was quick to point out that the Mediterranean diet isn’t low fat.  In fact, it’s a moderate to high-fat diet, but the fats involved are healthy natural fats that tend to make us feel fuller for longer.  One doctor pointed out the fact that with ‘low fat’ varieties of foods we tend to eat more of them and often inadvertently over eat.  Without exercise and portion control when it comes to what you eat you won’t necessarily lose weight by eating in a Mediterranean way, but it’s the all round health benefits that we are after.

I’ve recently become quite partial to grilled or fried aubergines.  There was a time when you had to mess around and salt aubergines but for it doesn’t seem to be necessary any more.  Just slice them up, season them, add a little olive oil and lightly grill or fry.  Indeed aubergine and cheese is the basis for the Greek dish, moussaka.  What I’ve been doing recently is adding a little slice of mozzarella, sandwiched between two lightly fried slices of aubergine.  This is an easy, but tasty, rich and luscious side for a number of dishes.  Mozzarella cheese is a great summer ingredient and no fridge should be without a ball this July.

This post was written by me, Pat Whelan, owner of James Whelan Butchers and a passionate advocate of local artisan food. My family have been producing quality Irish Angus beef for generations using a traditional dry aging process. This tradition is one that I continue to practice at our abattoir on our family farm in Garrentemple, Clonmel. These posts aim to impart some of the wisdom to readers and help them get the best out of the meat they eat! Our meat is available online here! I welcome your feedback to Pat@jwb.ie

We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of  James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Handweavers Rathcoole and Kilmacanogue, Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt, Rathmines and Swords in Dublin. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers

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