“Mutz” and Farm-to-Table Dinners

Rynn Caputo and I met because she made a provocative comment about mozzarella on Twitter. Fresh mozzarella is the stuff of legends in Hoboken NJ but is something I have only become familiar with recently. Every deli worth its salt has bowls of white, milky “mutz” waiting to be sliced into creamy slabs for giant sandwiches or tomato and basil salads. So when Rynn tweeted in response to Josh Ozersky’s article “Masters of Mutz” about where to get the best mutz in New Jersey by saying basically “too bad none of it is real mozzarella,” I was intrigued.

She explained that almost all commercial American mozzarella curds are formed by adding an acid to milk rather than a more time-consuming rennet set which actually cultures the milk, eats the lactose, and gives the curds a richer and more tangy flavor. (I think she actually said “if you add acid to grape juice, it doesn’t make it wine.”) She and her chef husband Dave had recently started Caputo Brothers Creamery in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania where they make the more traditional Italian fresh cheeses with cultures, and she invited me to a cheese stretching demo that she was holding at The Cheese Store here in town where she would be able to explain the process and differences more thoroughly.

You can’t go to a Rynn Caputo cheese stretching demo without catching some of her infectious enthusiasm for artisan cheeses and Italy, and she supports her enthusiasm with a thorough knowledge of her topic. Since I am fascinated by fermented and cultured foods, I peppered her with questions during her demo. By the end of the afternoon we had decided that two girls who love cheese as much as we do should be friends, and she had invited to me to come out and make cheese with her at the creamery, and to bring Scott out for one of the farm-to-table dinners that she and Dave host in their home.

So a couple of weeks ago, we found ourselves out in the Kodachrome green Pennsylvania countryside at the Caputo’s old stone farmhouse with a dozen or so friends and neighbors eating a mostly locally sourced Spring feast.

Here’s what we had for supper:

Tuscan white bean and wild onion fritters  with house-made sour cream and basil pesto

Freshly stretched Oaxaca cheese with green tomato relish (made by Rynn’s mom) and olive oil

Sunchoke pasta with sauteed sunchokes and dandelion green pesto.

Wild garlic frittata with straight-from-the-garden asparagus

Berries with homemade limoncello and fresh house made ricotta

Everyone brought bottles of wine to share and one guest who owns an olive oil and vinegar shop brought a couple of bottles of olive oil to taste, an Italian and an Argentinian oil. Once we had tasted both and decided which we preferred, we drizzled the oil over our fresh cheese that Rynn stretched and rolled for us.

I’m looking forward to getting back out there soon to actually make cheese, rather than just consume it (although that’s not a bad idea either).  When I do, I’ll fill y’all in on what I learn.