Historical sources suggest that water buffalos arrived in Italy by the 7th Century. Highly valued for their significant strength and ability to cross-marshy land without sinking, they fulfilled an important role pulling the farmers plough. By the 12th Century onwards, they served a new purpose as their milk was used to create buffalo cheese.
One of these cheeses, Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, originated as a local speciality on the marshy plains of South-Central Italy. Its unique flavour is influenced by the buffalo’s diet. All the fodder that the animals eat is drawn from the local area, which, with its unique environment of small streams crisscrossing the volcanic plains, imparts a particular set of flavours on authentic Mozzarella di Bufala Campana. The connection with its environment, combined with the artisanal skill of its producers is a key component of why this local cheese is now a worldwide phenomenon.
When producing Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO, farmers have only 60 hours between the milking of the water buffalo and the beginning of the cheese making process. After arrival at the dairy, the milk is acidified by adding whey rennet. This rennet must come from water buffalo raised on the same farm as those who produced the milk or from those in its direct neighbourhood. After being heated to between 33 and 39 degrees centigrade, calf rennet is added to coagulate the milk.
The resulting curds are then mixed with boiling water, melt and are bonded together, giving them a stretchy quality. The cheesemaker then carefully shapes and cuts the mozzarella before placing it in cold water. This hardens the cheese and gives the mozzarella the familiar thin crust around its soft core. The cheese can then be placed in brine and salted before being packaged. This must happen immediately at the place of production.
The familiar liquid that surrounds Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO provides a protective layer around the cheese. The liquid uses a mix of salty brine and acid, protecting the taste and texture of the cheese and contributing to the flavour. The cheese may also be smoked, but this can only be done in the traditional way using natural methods. If it is smoked, it will always be announced on its label.