The next time you are in the grocery store go to the cheese section and pick up a nice block of mozzarella cheese. Read the ingredients on the back. You'll probably see something like: Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Vinegar, Salt, and Enzymes. Ok, sounds good to me.
Now go take a look at the pre-shredded bag cheese section. Take a look at those ingredients. You'll probably see something like: Mozzarella Low Moisture Part-Skim (Milk Pasteurized, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzyme(s)), Potato(es) Starch and Cellulose Powder Added To Prevent Caking, Natamycin Natural Mold Inhibitor. Ok? There seems to be some extra stuff in there. The first thing that jumps out to me as being unpleasant is "potato starch and cellulose powder." This is added to the cheese so it doesn't turn into one big cheese lump during storage and transport to the grocery store. I tend to notice just a little bit of a powdery feel to the pre-shredded cheese and I suspect it has to do with this addition.
Next we have Natamycin, which is stated to be a natural mold inhibitor. I guess this makes sense. Mold loves to grow on cheese so you could easily imagine mold growing wild on cheese that has been transported and stored for some time in your grocery store. The point of this post isn't to discredit the safety of Natamycin. In fact I'm not even going to touch on that. The point is to ask, "why do we want this extra stuff in our pizza cheese?" Who cares if it is safe or not? It isn't needed. All you need to do is shred your own cheese.
My Cuisinart food processor came with a really neat cheese grater attachment which makes grating or shredding cheese really easy. The best part is that each and every part (even the blade) is dishwasher safe. Toss the cheese block in the top and shred away. Easy as that. If you don't have a fancy food processor it is still pretty easy to use a hand cheese grater. These can go right in the dishwasher too.
Oh yes, look at all that freshly grated cheese!
Sometimes I'll use a mix of Monterey Jack cheese and Mozzarella cheese. When you kick the boiler on for just a little bit towards the end of the pizza baking you can really get some gorgeous cheese color! This mixture melts so well together.
So when asked why I grate my own cheese I respond that I do it because I don't want any extra unnecessary ingredients added to my pizza. Moreover, it is so easy to grate cheese especially if you use a food processor with a cheese grating attachment. I'm all about minimizing the ingredients in my pizza to keep it as natural as possible so grating my own cheese helps keep the unnecessary additives down.
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