Buffalo Mozzarella and the Water Buffalo in Italy
By Rodolfo Morais
Getting to Know Buffalo Mozzarella
Buffalo Mozzarella is a traditionally southern Italian mozzarella cheese produced exclusively from fresh buffalo milk, rennet (a natural milk coagulant), salt and milk enzymes. After drawing and moulding it may also be smoked, but only using natural, traditional procedures.
The cheese is soft with a rubbery texture, has mild flavor and is known to be rich in proteins, calcium, mineral salts, iron and vitamins. The cheese is liked by chefs for its versatility in the kitchen and for its special characteristics that make it a perfect ingredient for Mediterranean dishes like pizza, pasta and the Caprese salad.
Mozzarella is the diminutive form of the verb ‘mozzare’, which means ‘to cut off’ derived from the Neapolitan dialect spoken in Campania in southern Italy. It refers to the process of making mozzarella, as the large mass of curd is cut up by hand, into smaller sizes.
The buffalo mozzarella from Italy sold as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is protected under the European Union Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status and may only be produced in select locations in the regions of Campania, Lazio, Apulia and Molise.
The origin of the buffalo mozzarella is said to be the Campania region where it has been produced in the provinces of Caserta and Salerno for many centuries.
The history of the buffalo mozzarella in Campania dates back to the 13th century when the dairy farmers in the region are said to have started making the mozzarella cheese from buffalo milk, mainly for local consumption, which at that time was regarded as a cheaper alternative to cow or goat’s milk cheese.
Water Buffalo in Italy
The history of the water buffalo in Italy is important to consider as it is closely tied to the buffalo mozzarella cheese.
The water buffalo originated in Asia and is known to have been domesticated in the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia civilizations between 2000 BC and 3000 BC.
According to the Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, it was the Arabs who introduced the water buffalo to Sicily, during their conquest of Sicily which began in 827. The Normans later introduced the water buffalo to Campania and other parts of southern Italy.
The water buffalo herds were destroyed by the Nazis during the World War II, which briefly shifted the production of mozzarella to cow’s milk. After the World War II, water buffalo from India were brought to Italy to replenish the original herds and resume the production of buffalo mozzarella.
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