The Mozzarella Company is based in Deep Ellum, Dallas and has been in business since 1982. Paula Lambert, the founder, had gone to Italy to learn Italian and when she got back to Dallas she wanted to create a business that would allow her maintain her ties with Italy. She was missing the Mozzarella that she had in Italy, so she started making it in Dallas, TX. Keep in mind this was well before artisanal cheese became popular in the US. This lady is a true trendsetter and an icon. Over the years her cheeses have won many awards and she supplies to many well known restaurants all over the US. You can read more about her here.
I was fortunate enough to be sitting next to her at a cooking class I attended at Central Market recently. I was very impressed with her knowledge of food and ingredients and so when she invited me to come and visit her at work, I couldn’t turn it down.
Despite being a passionate consumer of cheese, I had little to no idea of what actually goes into making it. While I make Paneer on a regular basis, it really isn’t cheese, or is it? Paula set me straight. There are essentially two kinds of cheeses – ones that are made using acids to get the curds out (like Paneer ) and just about every other kind of cheese that we eat e.g. Cheddar, Gorgonzola etc. In the case of the latter, the process followed is roughly the following
1. Milk is warmed
2. A coagulation agent like rennet or vegetarian rennet added. This has the effect of turning milk into the consistency of jello. This is very different from the process in Paneer where curds and whey very clearly separate. In this case the whey needed to be pressed out of this jello-like substance.
3. The jello is cut into small pieces (using a frame with a mesh in it) and pressed. The whey comes out and what you are left with is curds.
4. These curds are flavored and pressed some more to get the consistency you want. This is cheese.
5. At this point, the paths diverge depending on the type of cheese being made. Blue cheese is covered with Penicillium Roqueforti to have it develop the characteristic blue veins, Mozzarella is stretched and rolled into balls, Cheddar (and other hard cheeses) are dipped in wax and stored for aging. You get the idea.
The Mozzarella Company makes many wonderful cheeses. I really enjoyed the Queso Oaxaca (a Mexican Mozzarella with lime and salt), the Mozzarella, some wonderful flavored goat cheese and a hard cheese with a ancho-chile rind. But there was one cheese in particular that stuck in my mind. It was a Queso Fresco with green chiles and epazote herbs. As Dora would say Delicioso!
Paula is a very busy person but she took the time to show me around and let me taste many of her wonderful cheeses. She was a very gracious host and I truly appreciate it. Thank you Paula!
NOTE: Some of the Mozzarella Company’s cheeses are available at Whole Foods and Central Market. Do try them if you get a chance.