Mozzarella di Bufala Campana

Yesterday we traveled to a farm in Campania to see how  buffalo mozzarella is made and to see the water buffalos up close.

Buffalo mozzarella from Campania is considered the best mozzarella in Italy. It bears the “Mozzarella di Bufala Campana” trademark and has Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) status.02

Italians are very proud of their cheese.  The Consortium for the Protection of the Buffalo Cheese of Campania is an organization charged with protecting, surveying, promoting and marketing Mozzarella di Bufala Campana.  Other Italian cheeses with protected status include Gorgonzola, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Asiago.

Buffalo Mozzarella is a $430m/yr industry in Italy, which produces around 33,000 tons every year, with 16 percent sold abroad (mostly in the European Union and mainly to France and Germany.)

In the U.S. domestic mozzarella is mostly from cow’s milk and imported mozzarella is sometimes cut with cow’s milk or frozen. Unlike in Italy, where water buffalo have long been bred to maximize milk production, most of the 8,000 or so water buffalo in the U.S. trace to ancestors imported in the 1970s for a different trait: their appetite for aquatic weeds. They aren’t native to the U.S. or related to the American Buffalo, which, technically, isn’t a buffalo but a bison.

Read more in the WSJ about a former software consultant in northern California who has set out to raise buffalo and make mozzarella cheese from what he calls “psychologically complex creatures.”

At the farm we visited the female buffalos spend most of the day inside this “spa” area where they can shower to stay cool, nap on special bedding and get back rubs on the yellow brushes that turn on automatically when the buffalos approach.  Mozart is streamed in for 2 hours each morning for their enjoyment.

IMG_7682All of the milking is automated and the buffalos control when they are milked by walking into the milking machine room, without prodding by the farmers.

The cheese at the farm is made from raw milk, meaning it is never pasteurized.  The milk is heated, curdled, spun, shaped by hand into balls, cooled and pickled by immersion in the original whey.

A quick history: references to cheese from water buffalo milk appeared for the first time at the beginning of the twelfth century and buffalo mozzarella became widespread throughout the south of Italy in the second half of the 18th century.  Production was briefly interrupted during World War II, when retreating German troops slaughtered the area’s water buffalo herds, but began again a few years after the armistice was signed.

After our tour we sampled the mozzarella and pronounced it delicious!

Buffalo milk is very rich so it only takes 5 kg of buffalo milk  to produce 1 kg of cheese, whereas it takes 8 kg of cow milk to make 1kg of cheese.  IMG_7669

Our day of buffalo mozzarella continued with a lunch of  Caprese salad and a Margerita pizza. So so good.

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