Blessed are the cheesemakers: British fior di latte

Categories: Product stories

A mozzarella-like cow’s milk cheese made on site at Bath Soft Cheese

When it comes to mesmerising, multi-sensory experiences, there aren’t many places to rival Borough Market. Who hasn’t stood glued to the window of Padella watching fresh pasta spool through the rollers, or drooled over the smell of Bread Ahead bakery and the sight of bakers kneading pillows of dough? And it seems impossible to imagine a more sensuous experience than watching the dark, voluptuous ripples and heady aromas of Rabot 1745’s chocolate conch.

Impossible, that is, until you wander along to Bath Soft Cheese and find Tomasso twisting, stretching and tying pale, pliable cheese curds into mozzarella-style balls known as fior di latte and scamorza, which is fior di latte plunged into a brine solution and dried at room temperature. “The true test of mozzarella is tasting it when it’s fresh—when you eat it between nine and 24 hours of it being made,” says Tomasso, an Italian cheesemaker who has “travelled the world setting up dairies and making cheese”.

“In Italy we would never eat mozzarella the next day. We would buy it fresh each morning and eat it for lunch or dinner.” To eat mozzarella like we do here, with almost a week between it leaving the producer and landing on our plate, would be anathema to any Italian with a tongue in his head—“like buying fresh, warm bread and eating it five days later,” he says disparagingly.

Fresh as it comes
Buy fior di latte from Bath Soft Cheese however, and you can enjoy it as fresh as it comes—warm, even, if you tuck into it at the Market with a spoon, or a French stick from Olivier’s Bakery. “People here try the fior di latte and say it is different in texture. It’s elastic rather than soft and spreadable, like the one they get from the shops.” This floppy texture is what develops over the course of the next few days.

Tomasso starts with organic milk, sourced from the cows at Park Farm in Somerset: the same small, pasture-fed herd as Bath Soft Cheese, in whose name Tomasso works, source their milk from. “It’s rich, fatty milk—perfect for mozzarella-style cheese,” he notes approvingly. “I’ve tried making this style cheese with many milks in the UK, but this is the best by far.”

The starter culture and vegetal rennet are added at the farm’s dairy. The curds and whey are separated there too, for practical and hygiene reasons. “The starter is bacterial, so the milk is naturally fermented, as it should be. Once separated, the still-fermenting curds are transported to the Market and Tomasso’s waiting hands.

Flower of the milk
“Although mozzarella basically means cutting, we do not follow the strict guidelines that define the production of this cheese under the European Protected Food Name Scheme," he explains, "which is why we call our cheese fior di latte, which means ‘flower of the milk’ in Italian.”

As for serving, it can be used in precisely the same way as buffalo mozzarella can: think pizza, bruschetta or, one of Tomasso’s more intriguing suggestions, a dish Italians call ‘riso al telefono’: “Grate fresh mozzarella or scamorza into cooked rice. Leave it for half a minute, stir it in well and then serve. When you pull a fork to your mouth, the cheese will stretch like the wires of the