Discovering Italy’s secret ingredient : Mozzarella di Bufala
Mozzarella di bufala is a type of cheese made from Italian water buffalo milk and is part of the pasta filata family. It is high in butterfat content as well as calcium, vitamins and protein and is the original mozzarella made by Italian monks.
It is made mostly in the South of Italy where it is a part of daily meals. Also known as ‘white gold’ or ‘the pearl of the table’, this high quality cheese is world renowned. Two of the best mozzarella bufala brands are Garofolo and Delizie.
The Italian buffalo can be found mostly in the marshy areas around Campania as they like to keep their feet wet. They were originally used for plowing wet terrains and can survive harsh conditions. There is a mystery surrounding how water buffalo arrived in Italy with some claiming they were sent by Anthony and Cleopatra while others give credit to Hannibal.Whatever the source, they became the reason mozzarella was 1st made in Italy.
It has become popular in North America especially as a pizza topping due to its unique tangy taste. It is best eaten with fresh vegetables and tomatoes or in a light salad.
The cheese is made using the ancient Italian method which includes heating the milk and then adding whey to make it congeal. Once congealed, the curd is allowed to settle. This allows it to turn acidic. It is then washed in hot water making it coagulate. It is shaped into hazelnut sized balls and allowed to sit in the whey. The curd becomes one lump and is then shaped usually by hand into small round balls and cooled. The last step is to soak it in brine.
The cheese should have a soft, slightly elastic texture and must spring back if poked. It comes in various shapes and sizes such as small bites known as bocconcini, plump circles or braids.To make sure the cheese is fresh, one should see pearls of milky whey when it is cut into and should essentially melt in your mouth. Interestingly, pregnant women are actually encouraged to eat buffalo mozzarella due to its high calcium quantities although it should be pasteurized.
As a highly adaptable cheese, it can be used in many meals including antipasti dishes pasta, cal zones, lasagna and salads. The most common however is as a pizza topping for a light meal.It melts very easily so does not need much heat It can also be paired with Sauvignon Blanc and white wines.
The specific type of mozzarella made in Campania has been granted the status of Controlled Designation of Origin meaning it is only produced in specific locations in Campania using the traditional recipe. Other countries have also started producing their own mozzarella di bufala including the UK, Germany and South Africa although the quality cannot be compared to that of Italy’s
The profit margin after selling this cheese is roughly 25% making it one of the most lucrative business ventures. There are around 200 producers of mozzarella di bufala in Campania who in total produce over $500 million in sales. Only 10% of all mozzarella produced is exported showing the Italian’s appetite for it.
When compared to cheese from cow’s milk, one can instantly see and taste the difference. Cow’s cheese is slightly yellow while buffalo cheese is porcelain white and stretchy in texture. The tastes are also vastly different with buffalo cheese being tangy and salty. It is also spongy and moist releasing a pearly white liquid when cut. Cow’s cheese is sweeter and milder in flavor compared to mozzarella di bufala.
Mozzarella di bufala was not always the delicacy it is now. It was the staple food for the poor who used to milk the buffaloes which roamed nearby swamps.It is usually packaged in plastic containers containing whey to keep it moist. When storing, it is important to keep it in this liquid.Also make sure t eat it as soon as possible as it is not as durable as other cheeses due to its lack of rind.
Seeing as pizza is the most common dish to include this cheese, many restaurants include it in their menus including here at Pizza 90 in Riverside, CA. They have a delicious light pizza made from the freshest buffalo milk cheese named the “Bufalina”. Topped off with cherry tomatoes and basil, it is sure to wet your taste buds.