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Cheese Aging

Mozzarella cheese, like any cheese, changes as it is aged due to the ingredients that are used to produce it.  The aging or curing process is a vital part of cheese quality and is greatly affected by temperature, moisture, and salt content.  Most mozzarella cheese is shipped out of the manufacturing plant within seven days of production, so the majority of the aging occurs in between the distribution channel an your pizzeria.  Depending on your preference and oven type, most mozzarella for pizza should be aged between two and four weeks if held at an average 36 to 40 degrees F.  Low moisture cheeses and pizza cheeses made with starch will last significantly longer.

Aging affects both the flavor and texture of cheese.  If a cheese is under-aged it is usually a little harder, and has a rubbery and bland taste.  It also doesn’t cook well, meaning it takes longer to melt, browns quickly and doesn’t have good stretch.  A mozzarella that has been aged appropriately generally has a slightly yellow color, a sharper flavor, and it is softer in texture.  It will have a good melt, stretch, and brown better when baked.  Over-aged mozzarella will be too soft, which makes it hard to chop, dice, or shred.  It will have a pasty texture, and look runny and oily after baking.

Although aging cheese between 14 and 28 days is generally thought to be the aging standard, some manufacturers have been producing cheese that has a significantly longer shelf life and will allow strong performance from 7 to 90 days.

In either case, with each new batch of cheese that you receive you should try it at whatever age it arrives to ensure that it is not over-aged and to determine how long it needs before use.  To guarantee your cheese is easy to work with and yields the best results, ensure that your cheese is kept at a consistent temperature (between 36 and 40 degrees).  Try not to unwrap the cheese significantly before use, and keep it in a dry space in your refrigerator.

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