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Mozzarella is an Italian Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) food product. The term is used for several kinds of Italian cheeses that are made using spinning and then cutting (hence the name, as the Italian verb mozzare means "to cut"):
- Mozzarella di Bufala (buffalo mozzarella), made from domesticated water buffalo milk
- mozzarella fior di latte, made from fresh pasteurized or unpasteurized cow's milk
- low-moisture mozzarella, which is made from whole or part skimmed milk, and widely used in the foodservice industry
- Smoked mozzarella
Fresh mozzarella is generally white, but may vary seasonally to slightly yellow depending on the animal's diet. It is a semi-soft cheese. Due to its high moisture content, it is traditionally served the day it is made, but can be kept in brine for up to a week, or longer when sold in vacuum-sealed packages. Low-moisture mozzarella can keep refrigerated for up to a month, though some pre-shredded low-moisture mozzarella is sold with a shelf life of up to 6 months. Mozzarella of several kinds are also used for most types of pizza and several pasta dishes, such as lasagna, or served with sliced tomatoes and basil in Insalata caprese. Mozzerella is also the most commonly used type of string cheese.
Mozzarella di bufala campana is a type of mozzarella made from the milk of water buffalo raised in designated areas of Lazio and Campania, Italy. Some consider it the best for flavor and quality. Unlike other mozzarellas – 50% of whose production derives from non-Italian and often semi-coagulated milk – it holds the status of a protected designation of origin (PDO 1996) under the European Union.
Fior di latte (written also as one word) designates mozzarella made from cow (and not water buffalo) milk, which greatly lowers its cost. Outside Italy "mozzarella" not clearly labeled as deriving from water buffalo can be presumed to derive from cow milk.
Mozzarella is available fresh or partly dried. Fresh it is usually rolled into a ball of 80—100 g (3—4 oz) [6 cm (2.4 in) diameter], sometimes up to 1 kg (2.2 lb) [about 12 cm (4.7 in) diameter], and soaked in salt water (brine) or whey, sometimes with citric acid added. Partly dried (desiccated) its structure is more compact, and in this form it is better used to prepare dishes cooked in the oven, such as lasagna and pizza.
When twisted to form a plait mozzarella is called treccia. Mozzarella is also available in smoked (affumicata) and reduced-moisture packaged varieties. "Stuffed mozzarella", a new trend, may feature olives or cooked or raw ham, or small tomatoes (pomodorini).
Mozzarella di bufala is traditionally produced solely from the milk of the domestic water buffalo. A whey starter is added from the previous batch that contains thermophilic bacteria, and the milk is left to ripen so the bacteria can multiply. Then, rennet is added to coagulate the milk. After coagulation, the curd is cut into large, 1"–2" pieces, and left to sit so the curds firm up in a process known as healing. After the curd heals, it is further cut into 3/8"–1/2" large pieces. The curds are stirred and heated to separate the curds from the whey. The whey is then drained from the curds and the curds are placed in a hoop to form a solid mass. The curd mass is left until the pH is at around 5.2-5.5, which is the point when the cheese can be stretched. The cheese is then stretched and kneaded to produce a delicate consistency – this process is generally known as pasta filata. According to the Mozzarella di Bufala trade association, "The cheese-maker kneads it with his hands, like a baker making bread, until he obtains a smooth, shiny paste, a strand of which he pulls out and lops off, forming the individual mozzarella."  It is then typically formed into ball shapes or in plait. In Italy, a "rubbery" consistency is generally considered not satisfactory; the cheese is expected to be softer.
Mozzarella – which is derived from the Neapolitan dialect spoken in Campania – is the diminutive form of mozza (cut), or mozzare (to cut off) derived from the method of working. Scamorza cheese is a close relative, which probably derives from "scamozzata" ("without a shirt"), with allusion to the fact that these cheeses have no hard surface covering typical of a dry cured cheese.The term mozzarella is first found definitively mentioned in 1570, cited in a cookbook by Bartolomeo Scappi, reading "milk cream, fresh butter, ricotta cheese, fresh mozzarella and milk".