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Blessed are the cheesemakers: mozzarella di bufala

Categories: Product stories

Raw buffalo milk mozzarella from Campania, via the Parma Ham and Mozzarella Stand

“This is only a few days old—we’re spoilt,” smiles Andrea Orsini of the Parma Ham and Mozzarella Stand, proffering a morsel of buffalo mozzarella. Tomorrow, they’ll be getting a new delivery. This morsel—meltingly rich, a firm, smooth skin breaking forth into a smooth, milky mouthful of lemons and fresh cream and grassiness—is the last of their current batch. And it is, we can safely say, the best we have had outside of Italy.

There is, it is plain, a tangible, visible and flavourful difference between this and the sort of mozzarella you’d buy from a supermarket—even some independents. “Unless it specifies buffalo mozzarella on the label, then what you are buying is probably cow’s milk. Buffalo milk has a limited production and is a very different thing,” Andrea explains. Its milk is stronger, richer, more resonant in flavour, and makes for a mozzarella which is infinitely superior in texture and taste.

Even within that there are variations. There’s bog standard buffalo mozzarella, manufactured from milk from different sources across Europe; and there’s mozzarella di bufala DOP, in this case made by hand from the whole milk of a small buffalo herd, lovingly tended by two brothers in rural Campania.

A matter of hours—minutes even—lie between milking the buffalo (fed on their pastures and their grain) and that milk meeting the natural whey starter and rennet, separating and coagulating, and its curds being stretched to a point measured not by time, but by experience and an affineur’s innate feel for milk.

Pale, mesmeric mozzarella
“They take care of their quality. There are no preservatives and the milk is unpasteurised”—making it the only raw mozzarella in the Market. As Andrea points out, while their pale, mesmeric mozzarella balls will last for a week to 10 days, the fresher they are, the better the experience of them. “In Campania they would not even put mozzarella in the fridge. You would not put bread in the fridge because it is best on the first day. The same goes for this cheese.”

Upon first trying the mozzarella at the Parma Ham and Mozzarella Stand, some people are surprised. “They expect it to be gummy and firm like supermarket mozzarella, so they’re taken aback by its creaminess and stronger taste.” No oil is needed; no salt neither. “It is naturally salty,” says Andrea—a feature which, along with the delicate, velvety texture, serves to enhance the tang which comes with it being unpasteurised.

If you like your mozzarella served quivering, fresh and at room temperature, brushed with a golden streak of olive oil, dusted with cracked black pepper and piled on top of red, meaty tomatoes, this is your cheese; bland, branded cheese-lovers need not apply.