What Is Mozzarella Curd?

Mark Wollacott

Mozzarella is a cheese from southern Italy that has become a common cheese across the world. The cheese often comes in a small packet containing a lump of cheese soaked in a liquid. Mozzarella curd is the solid and the liquid is either whey, brine or water. This curd is produced by a process of curdling the milk and is used in a variety of Italian and international dishes from Neapolitan pizza to Caesar salads. The word mozzarella comes from the Italian word mozzare meaning ‘to cut.’

Traditional mozzarella is centered on the Battipugli and Caserta areas of southern Naples, but can be found all over the greater region of Campania.
Traditional mozzarella is centered on the Battipugli and Caserta areas of southern Naples, but can be found all over the greater region of Campania.

Local legend has it that mozzarella curd was first produced by accident. In the legend, some cheese curds fell into a bucket of warm water in a Neapolitan cheese factory. There is no proof of this part being true, but one thing that is true is that mozzarella hails from Naples. Traditional mozzarella is centered on the Battipugli and Caserta areas of southern Naples, but can be found all over the greater region of Campania. To qualify as traditional mozzarella curd, it must also be made from water buffalo milk, which led to the cheese being called mozzarella di bufala Campania in Italian.

Many authentic Neapolitan pizzas are topped with mozzarella made from buffalo milk.
Many authentic Neapolitan pizzas are topped with mozzarella made from buffalo milk.

Traditional mozzarella curd is made from cold milk. First, the rennet, an enzyme found in the stomachs of mammals, or an edible acid such as citric acid or vinegar is added to the milk. This mixture is stirred and slowly heated in a pan or vat. As the heat spreads through the milk, it slowly coagulates and curdles into lumps of solid cheese. Once solid, the mozzarella is separated from the liquid whey and kneaded into shape like bread dough.

Mozzarella curd is typically made using cold milk.
Mozzarella curd is typically made using cold milk.

Fresh mozzarella curd is edible as soon as it has been made. When mozzarella was first invented, it would be eaten on the day of making. It could be kept for up to a week if it was preserved in brine, but it was not until the 20th century that it could be kept for longer. The invention of vacuum-sealed plastic bags meant the mozzarella curd could be kept in a water solution. This meant it could be exported across the world.

Trecchia is a type of braided mozzarella.
Trecchia is a type of braided mozzarella.

There are a number of mozzarella curd variants. Bocconccini and treccia are different forms of the traditional mozzarella with the former being small balls and the latter a braided mozzarella. Mozzarella affumicata on the other hand is smoked mozzarella and Manteca is a mozzarella with a lump of butter in the middle. Mozzarella curds can also be stuffed with foods such as olives, tomatoes, prosciutto and ham. The cheese is often served as part of salads, as a pizza topping, in pastas or in simple meals alongside tomatoes or salmon and drenched in olive oil and served with basil.

A bowl of bocconcini, small balls of fresh mozzarella curd.
A bowl of bocconcini, small balls of fresh mozzarella curd.

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Discussion Comments

ZipLine

I use mozzarella curd to make fresh mozzarella. I don't make the curd myself because I don't have access to the type of milk. But I buy a large bag of mozzarella curd from the Italian grocery and make my own mozzarella balls which is actually easy. I add boiled water to the curd to melt it and reshape it. I get a lot of fresh mozzarella that way and it's very tasty.

stoneMason

@literally45-- Well I think what makes mozzarella curd unique is the type of milk that is used, which is buffalo milk. I believe other types of curd, such as Indian curd, use cow's milk.

Buffalo milk is creamier so mozzarella curd is also a creamy type of cheese and has a distinct flavor in comparison to cow's milk curd. This is why it works so well for Italian dishes like pizza and pasta. If one were to replace mozzarella curd with a different curd in these recipes, the end result would not be the same. Curd made from cow's milk tends to be drier.

literally45

This recipe is the basic recipe for making curd all over the world. The Indian paneer and the Turkish lor are made the same exact way. So what makes mozzarella curd "mozzarella" exactly?

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