Distinctly Italian, mozzarella cheese is great as an appetizer—simply sliced with tomatoes and fresh basil, used as a pizza topping or cooked in pasta dishes. Eaten fresh or in a cooked dish, there is no denying that fresh mozzarella, made in traditional Italian style, is a delicacy to savor.
Mozzarella can be purchased at general grocery stores, and when there is a discount on this delicious cheese, it is hard to resist stocking up. If you cannot consume the whole lot within a week, freezing cheese is a good way to extend its shelf life.
Depending on the type of mozzarella, it can be frozen to preserve for the long-term. Here is exactly what you need to know when it comes to freezing mozzarella cheese.
Types of Mozzarella
Mozzarella cheese is traditionally a southern Italian cheese made from Italian buffalo’s milk, rolled into mozzarella balls, and soaked in brine or whey. However, nowadays, mozzarella can be bought at general grocery stores made from cow milk, sheep milk, and sometimes goat milk.
Depending on the animal’s diet, the cheese ranges from white to a slightly yellow color. Due to the high moisture content of the fresh cheese, it is best served the day after it was made. To prolong shelf life, it can be kept in brine for up to a week or even longer when vacuum sealed and unopened.
To extend the shelf life even longer, a variety of low-moisture mozzarella was developed which can last for up to a month if stored correctly, however, this type is less creamy.
Mozzarella is available in three popular forms at grocery stores which include fresh mozzarella balls submerged in brine, block mozzarella which is a harder type, and shredded mozzarella. The cheese can be smoked, plaited (called treccia), or be made in smaller size balls referred to as bocconcini or cherry bocconcini.
Can Mozzarella Be Frozen?
Whether or not mozzarella will preserve well in the freezer without textural and flavor changes, will depend largely on the type of mozzarella you want to freeze. Below is a rundown of the three most popular types of mozzarella and the effects of freezing each.
Shredded mozzarella purchased from a grocery store usually contains preservatives that extend its shelf life, allowing it to last somewhat longer than fresh mozzarella. You can freeze shredded mozzarella cheese without much change to the texture or flavor.
Keep in mind that once frozen, the shreds will clump together and you may not be able to break them up into smaller bits. It will be best to use shredded cheese for cooked dishes once frozen and thawed.
Mozzarella blocks freeze well, with the only change being a slightly more crumbly product after thawing. If you are going to use the cheese in slices as opposed to crumbling it into a cooked dish, it is best to slice the cheese before freezing it.
Fresh mozzarella is a smooth and soft cheese due to its high water content. This means that it will significantly change and dry out as the moisture turns to ice crystals on freezing causing the texture to denature.
Although fresh mozzarella will not have the same soft, smooth texture if frozen, you can still use it successfully in recipes like tomato sauce for a pasta dish, melted cheese for pasta bakes, or creamy soups.
How To Freeze Mozzarella
Step 1: Drain
If the mozzarella has been packaged in some kind of brine or liquid, drain the liquid off the cheese and dab the cheese dry with a kitchen towel. Any excess moisture can cause freezer burn and will ultimately cause the cheese texture to denature and flavor to spoil.
Step 2: Slice and Portion
Cut the mozzarella into slices, if preferred. It may be too crumbly to slice if you leave this for after freezing. Slicing the cheese is an easy way to store it as you can either melt it on a sandwich, use it in layers, or crumble it into a cooked dish.
Whether shredded, sliced, or in a block, divide the cheese into portion sizes suitable for how you will use it once thawed.
Step 3: Separate and Pack
You will want to ensure that the mozzarella slices or blocks do not stick together once frozen. There are two ways in which you can do this.
Method 1: Wax Paper
Place a piece of wax or parchment paper between each slice of mozzarella to prevent the slices from sticking together and making it easy to separate them from each other later. Place each portion of sliced or shredded mozzarella into a resealable freezer bag.
Press out all the air and seal. Label the freezer bags with the date and place it in the freezer being careful not to let the cheese get squashed by other items.
Method 2: Single Layers
Lay a freezer bag flat on a baking tray. Pack a single layer of slices inside the bag so that they do not touch each other. Lightly press out the air from the bag and seal. Place it in the freezer until frozen hard.
Once hard, you can remove the baking sheet, leaving only the freer bag with cheese in the freezer to save space. It is always a good idea to label the bag with the date of freezing.
How To Thaw Frozen Mozzarella Cheese
Method 1: Refrigerate
Remove the freezer bag from the freezer and place the frozen mozzarella directly in the fridge to defrost slowly overnight. This is the safest way to thaw the cheese. Only remove the wrapping once thawed and ready to use.
Method 2: Water Bath
Place the freezer bag sealed in a bowl of cold or room temperature water to thaw. Depending on the size of the portion, it could take an hour or two.
Method 3: Use Frozen
There’s no need to defrost mozzarella if you are using it in a cooked dish. This is why it is a great idea to portion and slice the mozzarella before freezing as you can simply remove it from the freezer and add it straight into the pot.
Frozen shredded mozzarella is ideal to use without thawing since it will melt down a little quicker. Remember to add a few minutes to the original cooking time of the dish.
Frozen mozzarella cheese may not be quite the same as its fresh and creamy counterpart, but this does not mean it has to go to waste. Melt it in a panini or grilled cheese sandwich, add it to a soup, use it as a pizza topping or throw it in with scrambled eggs and frittata.
There is so much you can do with frozen cheese that there really is no reason not to enjoy every last delicious crumble.
Up Next: Can You Freeze Ricotta Cheese?
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