Italy is big into protecting their food-and-wine making techniques of the past. They know a good thing when they see it. Fresh buffalo mozzarella is made exclusively from water buffalo milk; cow’s milk mozzarella is also called fior di latte.
Buffalo Mozzarella—specifically Mozzarella di Bufala Campana—is the most notorious of mozzarella cheeses in all of Italy—and really, of all the world. Why wouldn’t you want to put a fence around that? Associations are created to represent a group of producers, monitor production, compliance and marketing—and ultimately protect a brand. In this case, the Protection Association was founded in 1993, when the cheese achieved DOC status—and includes 95 producers from seven provinces in Central-South Italy: Caserta, Salerno, and parts of Benevento, Naples, Frosinone, Latina and Rome. Then in 2008 the European Union granted ‘Mozzarella di Bufala Campana’ the PDO stamp: Protected Geographical Status.
How its made: the milk is curdled, drained to eliminate whey, then this ‘curd’ is cut into small pieces and ground in a mill. The crumbles are put in hot water and stirred. When they achieve the proper PH/look/feel they are kneaded and spun into ropes—then consequently ‘lopped off’ and formed into balls or plaits. The mozzarella balls are put into cold water then soaked in brine. It is about an 8 hour process, start to finish. Many believe this famous fresh mozzarella—with no preservatives—should be consumed within days of production.
Make sure it is fresh: the surface should be tight, smooth and humid but not dry or wet. Slice into it: it should have a grainy surface, appear to be composed of layers and pearls of milky whey should seep out. Taste it: notice the liquid separate from the solid, it should melt in your mouth. It should be soft and delicate, not rubbery. It might have the tang of milk whey, but shouldn’t be distractingly sour.
Use it: traditionally, you will find it in Italy’s caprese salad, with nothing more than tomatoes and basil and a drizzle of olive oil. Another simple way to consume these authentic morsels is to cut it into bite size pieces, drizzle with the best olive oil you can muster and grind on coarse pepper (the cheese is salty enough on its own, thanks to brining). You can transform the first salad by adding some balsamic vinegar and green leaves… and the second by laying it gingerly on some just-grilled and garlic-rubbed crostini. If those simple measures aren’t enough, aim for some more involved recipes:
- for a fun twist on tomatoes-and-mozzarella, sub in roasted beetroot
- I have made rosti before; this recipe calls for individual rosti (for purposes of this recipe, think potato cakes); I can picture this appetizer of Potato and Zucchini rosti with Buffalo Mozzarella—your guests will be impressed
- big bonus: a fantastic pizza dough recipe thrown in! Add to my list of things to try: Pizza Napoletana Margherita (with Mozzarella di Bufala)
- Emeril is always good for a recipe: try his fried fresh mozzarella with mushroom ragu