Back in August, Sabra Hummus got together with Bake Space (my virtual home away from home), to sponsor a Mediterranean Recipe Challenge - no word on a winner yet. :(
Aside from the fact that Armenia was, at some point in time, an actual Mediterranean country, a lot of their cuisine is reflected in that of other Mediterranean cultures, so I figured for sure I should be able to come up with some recipes to submit - modifications of family versions of recipes, some originals, etc. I actually have Pam at Cave Cibum to thank for this one though. Until coming across her blog last year, the thought of making my own string cheese never would have entered my mind! The question was, how could I make it my own?
I looked online to see what was out there and apparently, there's not a heck of a lot! Because we like hot stuff, my brain initially went to some sort of a hot pepper version. My next thought was dill. I love dill, and it shows up in a lot of Mediterranean dishes.
Now my problem was finding Mozzarella Curd. I had never seen cheese curds until I moved to NY after Hurricane Katrina. I first saw them at a Farmer's Market, then started seeing them in grocery stores. I went to a store that I knew carried them but noticed that the packages were all marked with flavors - there was no mention of what "type" of cheese it was. Hmmmmm??? That made me nervous, so I decided to hit the cheese shop a few towns over - same thing! I asked the woman who ran the place, and she told me that all the cheese starts from the same curd. It's what you do to it that turns it into something else. That sounded logical to me, and since I was in a cheese shop after all, I took her word on it and bought three bags. Well, when I got home and looked up Mozzarella Curd online, I found out it's NOT the same! You would think a specialty shop would know that! Oh well. I managed to find it at an Italian Importer right down the street, and the guy was totally hot, so that was an added bonus! ;)
Making this is so easy, it's ridiculous. If you like the rubber sticks they call string cheese in the supermarkets, definitely try this - you'll never go back!
1 lb fresh mozzarella curd
2-3 T sea salt
A good palm full of fresh chopped dill
Chop the dill and spread in the center of a plate or cutting board. Coarse chop the Mozzarella curd, then melt the curd and salt over low heat in a nonstick pot (took 15-20"). Pam melts hers in the microwave, but being my first attempt, I was afraid I would ruin it and wanted to go slow.
Pour off the whey (liquid that separates from the curd). As soon as you can hold it, scoop out the curd, press it onto the dill and flip to coat the other side. Knead once or twice to blend in the dill.
Poke a hole in the center like a donut, then take a side in each hand and pull as far as you can without breaking it. Fold it in half and pull again - maintaining a loop at each end. Repeat a few times until it starts to tighten up on you. I didn't find it necessary, but the cute Italian told me you can keep a pot of hot water on the stove, and if the cheese starts to break on you, you can dunk it in the hot water to soften it up again.
Still with a loop at each end, twist into a rope, fold in half, twist again and push one loop through the other to "knot" the end. I couldn't twist and shoot pics at the same time, so if you need a visual, go ahead and refer to Pam's page.
Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate overnight to set. I increased the salt above from what I used when I made it. We all agreed it turned out great in terms of the string factor and dill flavor but were looking for more salt. If you need to adjust the salt more for your own preference, you can soak it in salted water for a while to increase it. If it's too salty for your taste, just run it under the faucet while you're shredding it.