Dairy King: Cheesemaker Fons Smits
Though he happens to be a native Dutchman, Zionsville-based cheesemaker Fons Smits definitely knows what he’s doing when it comes to fresh Italian mozzarella.
An international dairy consultant with past full-time positions at Traders Point Creamery and Ludwig Farmstead Creamery on his resume, Smits opened his own Tulip Tree Creamery in Indianapolis earlier this year. Here, he produces around 100 pounds of fresh mozzarella each week as part of a product lineup that includes cultured butter; fromage frais, or fresh cheese; Trillium, a triple-cream mold-ripened cheese; Foxglove, a double-cream washed-rind cheese; and Nettle, an herb-coated fresh cheese similar to chèvre.
“For us, the mozzarella is mainly a farmers’ market product, but we are getting it to some retailers and hope to get some chefs to work with it as well,” Smits says.
The mozzarella production process follows the same steps as other types of cheese, right up until the final stage, which requires stretching the curds to create a pliable texture.
“Mozzarella is a very simple cheese, but its success depends on one point in the process — the pH [acidity] of the curd,” Smits explains. “If the pH is too low, the curd won’t stretch; it falls apart or becomes almost liquid. When the pH is too high, the curd is too tough. When you hit it right and the stretch is perfect, it feels like a victory.”
How to best enjoy the finished product is a matter of personal taste, but Smits prefers fresh mozzarella in simple preparations that let the flavor of the cheese shine.
“A great mozzarella doesn’t need a lot—a pizza with a great sauce, or a tomato with a few herbs makes a great snack,” he says. “My daughter, Dana, puts mozzarella on almost everything; it’s ideal to mix into any pasta dish. And she loves to cut it into small cubes to melt into tomato basil soup.”
Tulip Tree Creamery’s fresh brine-packed mozzarella is available at local farmers’ markets and through specialty gourmet retailers like Goose the Market, Artisano’s and Rail Epicurean; units typically sell for $5 to $8, depending on size.
Tulip Tree is available at:
Goose the Market
2503 N. Delaware St.
Pogue’s Run Grocer
2828 E. 10th St.
211 Park St.