Matt: We are all familiar with the two major forms of mozzarella cheese, the larger amorphous blob we grate and use on pizza and the finger-sized string cheese portions we play with as we eat them. Although both are mozzarella cheese, only the string-cheese version has the “semi-fibrous form” that allows us to tear off long, thin strings as we eat it. What is the difference in the processing that creates this stringiness?
— Larry E. Gundersen, via email
Well, if you want to make string cheese, you need several ingredients. Mainly salt and a water buffalo. Preferably a water buffalo from Italy. The most authentic mozzarella cheese is made from water-buffalo milk. But never mind. You can use regular cow milk. Or goat milk or sheep milk. You heat it up, put in rennet to make the milk glob up in the pan, and then some salt and other stuff. Once it starts looking nasty and lumpy, you strain off the watery part and save the gobs of white stuff. Then you knead it like you were making bread. If you want ordinary mozzarella, you just knead it in a random way. If you want string cheese, you stretch it out to make it long, then fold it back on itself and repeat. This keeps the cheesy molecules all running in the same direction. When you’re done, that makes the strings — the cheese all going up and down. And that’s that.