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May 13, 2021

GOT CHEESE?

Take a quart of whole milk, bring it to a boil and drop the juice from a fresh lemon into it. The milk will curdle and the cheese will separate from the water. Scoop out the top, strain it through a cheese cloth and allow the excess water to drip. You now have fresh cheese. In other words the curdled milk separates into cheese curds and the liquid into whey. It is not aged, not salted and made to eat within a day.

Cheese is classified according to the type of milk, the method of processing (the water content) and the fat content. Buffalo, goat, ewe, and cows are the various sources for milk.

Salted, aged, the amount of water, the fat content and various ripening stages will determine the type and quality of cheese that results from the curds.

Wisconsin and Vermont are known for producing Cheddar, Swiss, and Munster and Vermont’s Cabot Creamery, for example, produces cottage cheese, farmer’s cheese and cream cheese as well.

Italian cheeses, which may not necessarily be imported from Italy, amass as I found when shopping at M&S Italian Food Specialists at 34-23 Francis Lewis Blvd. I chose five Bel Gioioso cheeses for a taste test, to be paired with a slice of apple, on a piece of Italian bread and in some recipes.

Pepato: A hard grating table cheese will whole black peppercorns. It’s part skim milk and aged for five months. It’s an excellent cheese for a salad.

Fontina: A semi-soft cheese made from part skim milk and aged over 60 days. It develops a fresh, mild, yet slightly sweet and earthly taste. This one is perfect for making sauces. Pour it over pasta or vegetables or use it with a fondue.

Parmesan: A hard table and grating cheese made from part skim milk and aged for over 10 months. Here’s a recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo. Bring 1 cup of heavy cream and 2 Tsp. of sweet butter to a boil in a sauté skillet. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 seconds. Add ½ cup of Parmesan and whisk smooth. Remove from heat. Cook the fettuccine and add to the cream. Add ¼ cup of Parmesan and vigorously toss the noodles.

Romano: A sharp hard grating cheese made from part skim milk, aged for at least 5 months. Great in pasta, soups and salads.

Gorgonzola: A soft cheese using whole cow’s milk, aged 90 days During the ageing process, small holes in the rind allow air to penetrate, facilitating the growth of mold, which is what gives Gorgonzola it’s earthy flavor. It makes an excellent spread by itself or when combined with Mascarpone and as a salad dressing mixed with mustard and olive oil. I would characterize this one as a soft version of Bleu cheese. I used this cheese while preparing a skirt steak via stove top by letting it melt over the cooked steak and tossing it around.

I also took each of the cheeses and put a slice on a Delicious apple slice and all tasted excellent. Another idea was combining the Pepato, Parmesan and Fontina to make a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.

Mozzarella is no longer fashionable packages in heavy plastic. We’ve come to savor the taste of fresh mozzarella. You can buy it packaged or find that many Italian restaurants or specialty stores offer it as made on the premises. The truth is, unless it’s prepared starting from the milk, and not the milk curds, it is really not considered to be “fresh”.

I have frequented The Pasta Store, located at 101st Avenue in Ozone Park, where I recently found out that their mozzarella begins with fresh milk from a farm in upstate New York. I now purchase the milk curd as it can be frozen in portions for future reconstituting. Preparing it is not as difficult as you may think.

“You need a large bowl, boiling water, as spoon or two and about a pound of curd. If you want your mozzarella salted you must add salt to the boiling water as it takes heavily salted water to mildly salt your mozzarella. Cut the curd in thin slices and put into a bowl...add hot sink water and move the curd around...drain out this water and add more hot sink water and again stir the curd around...repeat this a few times until the curd doesn’t cool off the water and it starts softening and stretching...then remove about half of this water and add a like amount of boiling water...move the curd around with a spoon or if you are able... with your hands...the curd should be getting soft and begin to stretch (if not add some more boiling water)...take out the curd and begin stretching it and then folding it in half and and stretching it...put it back into the hot water...repeat these steps a few times until the curd is smooth and stretches at least a foot without breaking...roll it into a ball and put it into cold water for a few minutes to firm it up...then put it into luke-warm water until use...this process takes only 2-3 minutes therefore you should make it as close to eating time as possible”

If you want to impress your guests, smear pesto sauce before it’s rolled up and serve it sliced on a tomato and drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil. Email me if you want the recipe for pesto sauce.

September 08, 2005 - Queens Times

 


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