Mozzarella di Latte di Bufala Azienda Agricolo Caseificio
Now there’s a mouthful! A mouthful of the most delicious, delectable, buffalo mozzarella you will probably ever taste!!!
Approximately one hour from Salerno and a stone’s throw from the ancient Greek ruins of Paestum, you will find the home of a local specialty, mozzarella di latte di bufala …mozzarella made from the milk of buffaloes!
Yes, mozzarella made from the milk of buffaloes. No, no, not the buffalo roaming the American plains (can you even imagine trying to milk one???). These are water buffalo. No again, not the water buffalo you see patiently plowing the rice paddies of Asia…
These are Mediterranean Water Buffalo and no one is quite sure of their origin. One theory is that the Romans brought them here, although some say it was the Goths or maybe the Normans or the Arabs? There’s even fossil evidence that they originated here in southern Italy. Whatever their origin, the first mention of cheese products being made from water buffalo milk appeared around the 12th century and by the end of the 18th century, buffalo mozzarella was popular throughout southern Italy.
“Queen of the Mediterranean Cuisine”
The term mozzarella comes from the process called mozzatura which means “cutting by hand”. and the buffalo mozzarella from Campania, often referred to as the “queen of the Mediterranean cuisine” and “white gold”, bears the “Mozzarella di Bufala Campana” trademark. In 1993 it was given the prestigious status of DOC (Denominazione di origine controllata, i.e, “controlled designation of origin”) which translates into adhering to strict production standards and regulations.
Oh, Give Me a Home….
At Barlotti Caseificio, the buffalo have a pretty cushy life – plenty of space and definitely plenty of healthy food. Gentle and unfazed by our presence, they graze contentedly until the next milking.
Males are selected for reproduction. However, the males and females are not “mated”, breeding is natural selection. Females have their first calf at three years old and since the gestation period is 10 months, they are almost four years old when their first calf is born. They can continue to have babies up until they’re 15 years old. Approximately 200 new babies are born every year; 60% female and 40% male.
The buffalo are milked twice a day at 3 am and 3 pm and since it’s a biological need for the buffalo, when it’s time they head single file to the milking station. Here, eight at a time, they enter mechanical milking stalls where heir teats are washed in natural cold water in order not to affect the milk. Milking lasts about 10 minutes after which the buffalo go out on their own. Yep, back to the feeding trough!
Milk to Cheese
Buffalo milk is 7% fat while cow milk is 3% fat, thus making the buffalo milk products particularly rich and creamy. One kilo (2.2 pounds) of mozzarella requires about 4 liters (over a gallon) of milk. The entire production process from milking to ready-to-eat takes only 12 hours! Now, that is fresh!!
The production facility is absolutely spotless and the entire process is a model of efficiency! The buffalo milk is filtered but it isn’t pasteurized, then stored at 4 degrees centigrade. When it’s ready to become cheese, it is heated at 138 degrees centigrade and warmed with steam. Then the rennet/enzyme is added (this is what will make it “curdle”). The fat, i.e. curd, separates from liquid, i.e.,whey. Then, ecco, we have:
Curd -> fat -> mozzarella
Whey -> cooked at 80 degrees -> ricotta (which means recooked)
Since the fat is smaller it is put in hot water to “stretch it out”. This is expertly done by hand. The salt in the brine is all that is needed. The familiar little balls are formed mechanically and drop into the water, then quickly bagged and sealed along with the salty water for immediate distribution.
Cheese to Plate
Barlotti’s has a wonderful little restaurant where you can (and should!) enjoy a delicious (and very reasonably priced) lunch. Fresh focaccia, antipasti, pasta and other delectable selections are available – all served, naturally, with their mozzarella or ricotta cheese. And I can vouch for the fact it is unbelievable! Oh, and there’s also gelato and yogurt made from buffalo milk, too…(incredible!).
There’s a small shop where locals can pick up fresh mozzarella and ricotta as well as a wide selection of goodies including smoked and ripened cheeses, yogurt, and buffalo meat products. Oh, don’t we wish we lived nearby??
Grazie, Barlotti Caseificio
A special thanks to our guide, Sandro, and to the dedicated employees of Barlotti: Carmino, Salvatore, Vincenzo, Michele, Anna, Ada and Rosa.