Summertime: Make the Most of Your Mozz!

Sean Kelly is our all-star monger who will be competing at the Cheesemonger Invitational this Saturday! Don’t forget to VOTE FOR HIM on Facebook!

At Murray’s when we think of summer cheese we think FRESH! While we always love our stinky, nutty, firm and aged cheese friends, fresh cheeses go with warm weather picnics and sunlight like an oyster stout pairs with a strong washed rind. (Hint: that is an awesome pairing) But who is the undisputed king of the fresh cheeses? The noble mozzarella, of course.

Mozzarella is a proud member of the pasta filata, or “stretched curd”, family of cheeses, meaning that the curds are kneaded together, stretched, and re-kneaded repeatedly until the desired texture is achieved. It’s this process that is responsible for mozzarella’s stringy consistency and lively, bouncy texture. The stretched curd family of cheeses branches out into several other groups as well, and includes provolone and caciocavallo. But mozzarella will always be the cornerstone of the style, and now that summer is finally here mozzarella season is in full swing.

What better time to better know your mozz? Here are a few of our favorites for the season.

Maple Brook Burrata:

Meaning “buttered” in Italian, burrata is comprised of a thin sheet of mozzarella filled with fresh curds and cream. Burrata originated as a way for cheesemakers to utilize the leftover curds from the cheesemaking process and, like many foods with exceedingly practical origins, it has become one of the best options out there. Maple Brook Farm, who makes rich, fresh and traditional burrata, learned their technique from an Italian cheesemaker from Puglia, in the heart of mozzarella country. If you think the idea of a cream and curd-filled mozzarella pocket bears a striking resemblance to some sort of criminally decadent dessert, you’re not alone. We love serving these bundles of delight with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar for a savory sundae.

Buffalo Mozzaralla:

A far cry from the behemoths you may have seen on the back of a nickel, the Italian water buffalo is a dairy animal known for producing incredibly rich and flavorful milk perfect for cheesemaking. Buffalo milk is the traditional milk used for Italian mozzarella making, and Torre Lupara farm has been doing it since 1946 with a herd of 2,000 buffalo. Buffalo mozzarella provides an extra savory kick, tang and depth of flavor that makes it perfect for adding a layer of richness and moisture to just about anything. We love it in a BLT (a BBLT, if you will) instead of mayo. Or, if you have no sense of shame and love delicious things, just eat it whole, like an apple!

Lioni Mozzarella:

The classic standby for cooking and snacking, cow’s milk mozzarella has a very special place in America’s culinary heart, particularly here in New York City. Made fresh in Brooklyn by Lioni Latticini from whole cows’ milk, this mozzarella embodies traditional Italian flavor while maintaining a commitment to locally sourced ingredients and careful attention to detail. This cheese absolutely begs to be toasted atop a meatball hero or paired with paper thin prosciutto for a smooth and salty snack. If you’re tired of the same old-same old tomato/basil/mozzarella combo, try this fruity variation: mango/mint/mozzarella.

Murray’s Sojourns at Nettle Meadow Farm

by Chloe Zale, Murray’s Summer Intern

Greek yogurt with honey, steaming coffee, and the excited faces of Murrays’ employees Sascha, Louise, Michael, and Jason eased my pain at the Saturday at 7:30 AM meeting time for our trip to Nettle Meadow goat farm. It was early, especially for a college-aged intern on a Saturday, but don’t get me wrong – I had been looking forward to this Whey-cation for weeks. I literally dream about the farm’s famous bloomy-rinded, milky, oozy, sweet and just-tangy-enough goat and Jersey cow milk cheese, Kunik. Well, at least I had the night before the trip.

The forecast was dubious for our final destination of Warrensburg, NY, and sharp streaks of rain decorated our coach bus’s windows as Sylvester, our devoted driver, escorted us up the Hudson River. Jason (Murray’s Director of Wholesale) and I (Summer Intern) concentrated on manifesting good weather for the rest of the day, and before we knew it we were without rain and at our first stop of the day:  New World Home Cooking, in Woodstock, NY, the proud establishment of locavore Chef Ric Orlando and his media-hyped blackened string beans. The café sits on the foundation of an old Olympic-sized swimming pool and features brightly-colored décor and a light-flooded back room that looks out onto Chef Orlando’s two-acre property.

We were immediately greeted with berry bellinis and generous portions of the green beans. The beans. Were. Otherworldly. (I really wish I could upload tastes to this blog). Dipped in a dusky orange paprika-dijon sauce, the spicy, crisp veggies were, as Jason put it so eloquently, “like crack.” Next on the menu were a few different options, including a ripe strawberry and basil crepe, a local egg frittata with seasonal vegetables, and smokehouse ham with grits and a fresh pea salad, which was the most popular dish of the morning. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat any more, we were presented with a parade of delectable mini cheesecakes made with Nettle Meadow’s fromage blanc (unsalted fresh goat cheese) and graham cracker crust, garnished with fresh peach compote. They disappeared. Quickly.

Rapidly descending into food-coma-heaven, we stumbled back to the bus and promptly passed out for the second leg of our journey, the star of the show, Nettle Meadow farm, where happy goats make great cheese. And are those goats happy! We awoke to Sylvester backing our oversized coach into the farm’s dirt driveway (at an impressive 90 degree angle to the road, I might add), and pampered goats, sheep, and even a llama or two perked up their ears in excited anticipation of their new playmates-to-come.

Lorraine and Sheila, who run the farm, showed us around their multiple barns and waited patiently as we cozied up to their prized herd. Some of us got perhaps a little too friendly with our new companions – one unnamed Murray’s employee almost lost her shirt to a curious goat’s overzealous mouth.  But all order was restored when Sheila led us through the farm’s cheesemaking and aging facilities. We were privileged to see almost all the stages of the cheesemaking process at once, from pouring the first fresh curds into their perforated containers to sorting through the crisp, white cheeses as they age. Sheila also reminded us that although cheesemaking as a profession seems like a bucolic paradise, it is, in truth, a job that demands eighteen-hour work days. But when a passion like Sheila and Lorraine’s is the foundation for such a job, the result is truly astounding.

After our cheesemaking lesson, an array of savory and sweet chevre delights brought us to the end of our stay at Nettle Meadow. It seemed that each whey-cationer had his or her own personal favorite, since I overheard accolades of the ginger snap, walnut, and goat cheese cookies and the juicy figs with chevre and pepper, but I and a few others went gaga for the crunchy pancetta/Kunik/sweet pear/fresh thyme concoction that completely redefined my conception of finger food.

Bellies full and legs tired, we mounted the bus once more for an epic four-hour journey back to Murray’s. As the country landscape morphed into urban skyline, we began already to reminisce about our magical day at the farm and to look forward eagerly to our next Whey-cation at the Vermont Cheesemaker’s festival!

The Murray’s Crew at Nettle Meadow