Posted by: lizlitzow | August 15, 2010

Mozzarella di Bufala

Like so many good things that come out of Italy (and other places) the “so called” poor man’s food is gaining in popularity. Food that was produced by artisans, using old fashioned methods because the people who produced it were poor and probably didn’t have access to modern machinery, is now growing into a gourmet phenomenon.  This is certainly the case with hand made buffalo mozzarella. 

buffalo mozzarella

In 1993, mozzarella di bufala campana was given DOP status by the European Union, officially securing its global reputation.

Now for a bit of history. Buffalo have been in Italy for a thousand years, shipped over from Egypt or herded across from India, brought by Arabs or by Goths – it is uncertain just how they got to Italy, but luckily for all of us, they got there. The marshy conditions of inland Campania is just what they like and the cheese became part of the local diet from the 12th century or thereabouts.

Today there are around 600,000 of these beautiful animals in the country and they collectively produce about 35,000 tonnes of cheese. It is made in other parts of the world, but no-one does it quite as well as those cheesemakers from the area  where it was first produced.

To make mozzarella, fresh buffalo milk is soured then mixed with calf’s rennet. Ripened in warm whey for a few hours, the curd becomes stretchy, and at this point the cheesemaker steps in, stirring and folding continuously with a wooden paddle. When the moment is right the hot bendy cheese is cut into large balls, into bite sized dollops or woven into loaf like plaits.

When it comes to eating mozzarella, the fresher the better. It is best eaten by itself, or served simply with a good olive oil and black pepper. The classic dish is of course, Insalata Caprese – cheese on a bed of fresh, very ripe tomatoes and basil, drizzled with olive oil of the best quality and black pepper, preferable eaten for lunch on a beautiful warm summer day.

It is possible to make mozzarella from the more readily available cows milk, but this will be called fior di latte.  It is made in the same way, but the flavour is nowhere near as interesting and the texture is quite different. To make a kilogram of cheese might require 8 kg of cow’s milk but only 5 kg of the milk from the buffalo. The digestive system of water buffaloes enables them to turn low-grade grass into super rich milk with a much higher percentage of protein and fat than cow’s milk.

Today Debra and I visited the Powerhouse Farmers’ Markets and bought some mozzarella di bufala made by The Cedar Street Cheeserie, which together with some stunning heritage tomatoes and fresh herbs, teamed with crusty bread will make for a handsome lunch on a perfect August day in Brisbane.

lunch


Responses

  1. Wow, Liz! Interesting to read the history of how the buffalo cheese is made. Makes one savour the food rather than gobble it down, because of the loving, intensive labour into making it happen. Good to know the reasons why that type of cheese is produced.
    I find buffalo cheese an acquired taste, so, knowing the history of making it gives some meaning to why the flavour is that way. Your photos make the cheese look delectable!
    Perhaps, you might like to give us to other histories of food?
    I reckon those small family gourmet businesses deserve some recognition, so, it’s great to know where we can find them.

  2. I absolutely love that cheese but always assumed it was imported so my Gobble-up Goblin and I immediately looked up the Cedar Street Cheeserie on the Net and discovered that the cheesemaker is also a jazz musician and trumpeter! That lends a whole new meaning to another string to one’s bow doesn’t it. Their website is interesting. I agree with Sandra’s comment about giving recognition to local artisans, the more we seek them out and pass on the information the better. Thank you for your gustatory research Liz.

  3. Debra, Mozzarella di bufalao is my most favorite food in Italy. I got a nice sealed container in Rome during my last visit to take home to the US. Sad to say, it never got home.
    I ate it all on the plane!

  4. My favourite mozzarella type cheese has to be Burrata. Oh my, that is gorgeous!

    • Burrata is certainly the rolls royce of mozzarella, but it is made slightly differently and the inside contains cream of buffalo milk with the cheese stretched on the outside, but I agree, it is very goodly.

  5. What a wonderful history lesson, I had no idea why I love Burrata mozzarella the best, but now I do. Your lunch looks superb too BTW.

  6. Reblogged this on How 2 Be Green and commented:
    Fabulous post. Thank you for sharing!


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