NYC: Classes and Mozzarella Making at Murray’s Cheese

Yesterday I made pesto “pizza” for lunch with puff pastry I had in the freezer. I make a big batch of puff pastry dough each month and freeze it in 8-ounce potions, each one perfect for a meal or duo of apple turnovers. For the pizza, all I do is roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick and bake for 15-minutes at 375F. Remove from oven and top with a lot of pesto and mozzarella. Back to the oven for 10 minutes at 400F and ta-dah, lunch is served.

Monsieur P is crazy about this pizza, and sometimes we add sausage or pepperoni. Everything is usually store bought, but yesterday was different. Different because…I made the mozzarella!

I’ve always wanted to learn how to make mozzarella, and finally had a chance last week. Murray’s Cheese (my neighborhood cheese shop), hosts cheese classes on subjects ranging from cheese cave tours to mozzarella making, and even a weekend cheese “boot camp.” I’ve written about Murray’s numerous times – it’s not just a cheese shop, but also my grocery store, bakery and dessert shop! And because Monsieur P insists that our fridge be fully stocked with a variety of cheeses at all time (who am I to argue), you bet I pass through Murray’s on a daily basis.

The Mozzarella Making ($100/class) starts with a tasting of five types of fresh cheeses. Clockwise from the top: Lioni Mozzarella Curd, Lioni Lightly Salted Mozzarella, Mozzarella di Bufala, Burrata, and Lioni Smoked Mozzarella. Our instructor, Sascha walked us though each step of how to smell, taste, and feel the cheese, explaining the process of making each cheese and how they were different. My favourite? The burrata…but you already knew that. We had our own tasting plates, and shared communal baskets of Tom Cat baguette slices, and plates of…

…marcona almonds, dried cherries, walnuts, and dried apricots. Oh yes, and generously refilled glasses of prosecco and red wine!

After the fresh cheese tasting we took a short break and came back for the hard stuff. We were walked though the cheese-making process and “studied” molecular diagrams of milk acidification. I had a little too much prosecco to fully digest the diagrams, but that’s why everyone had a copy to take home 😉

Next we were given a big bowl of cheese curds…

…you pour warm water over the curds and let it sit. After a few minutes, break apart the largest curd. You want the temperature of the inside to be the same as the outside. I had to add more hot water to mine before reaching that stage. From there, begin to press the curds together until you form one solid piece. Then flatten and pull so that you get a long rectangle. Roll up like a croissant and fold the two “sides” under the center of the roll.

Next, make an “ok” sign with your hand and push the cheese through the “hole” of the “ok” sign, tucking the ugly end parts underneath and into the center of the ball. I was actually surprised at how easy the whole process was…let’s see how it goes when I try to remake this at home!

We each took home our mozzarella creation and a container of fresh cheese curds to make a second batch. You can’t freeze fresh cheese but you can freeze cheese curds. And that’s just what I did…planning to save it for next weekend when I can do a fresh batch of pesto pizza.

I enjoyed it so much that I came back the following evening for Cheese 101 ($50/class), taught by Liz, the VP of Murray’s Cheese. This class was a bit shorter, clocking in at 1.5-hours as opposed to 2-hours for the mozzarella class. But it’s also half the price. It was an excellent “foundation” class, and even though I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable about cheese, there was still lots to learn. We were equipped with the same arsenal of prosecco, red wine, baguettes and fruits and nuts. Most people at the class were there as couples or groups of friends, but I had plenty fun attending on my own.

Clockwise from top: Petit Billy, Sweet Grass Green Hill, Tomme du Berger, Garrotxa, Adelegger, and Bavarian Blue. The plate goes from soft to firm, light to intense, and we were given the history and background to each cheese. We were also taught how each cheese is grouped into a “family.” The Petit Billy goes in the Fresh family, Sweet Grass Green Hill in the Bloomy family, Tomme du Berger in Washed Rind, Garrotxa (and La Serena) in Pressed, Adelegger in the Cooked-Pressed family, and finally Bavarian Blue in the Blue family.

We also tasted a bonus cheese, La Serena from Spain. It’s a raw sheep milk cheese made using wild thistles to coagulate the curd. We passed around a big disc of La Serena and literally spooned the cheese onto our plates. It has this supple, lovely pudding-like texture, and the most intense vegetal taste, reminiscent of bitter greens. We had it with bread, but was told that it’s pretty amazing when paired with chorizo. Oh how I can imagine!! (I had dinner at Hearth the following evening and felt so the expert when I spotted La Serena on the cheese menu, heheh).

They offer a ton of classes, many focused on pairings such as wine and cheese, beer and cheese, and even a jam and cheese class. As for myself? I’ve got eyes on the Mystery of the Caves tour and…hhhh Cheese Boot Camp!

Hope everyone is having a good weekend!

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