Buffalo mozzarella (Italian: mozzarella di bufala) is a mozzarella cheese made from the milk of the domestic water buffalo rather than from cow's milk.
Apart from Italy, its birthplace, buffalo mozzarella is manufactured in many locations around the world. There are producers in Switzerland, United States, Australia, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Thailand, Egypt, India and South Africa, all using milk from their own herds of water buffaloes. Some scientists believe that Italy and Bulgaria have the best dairy water buffaloes.
In Italy, the cheese is produced in areas ranging from Rome in Lazio to Paestum (near Salerno) in Campania, and there is a production area in near Foggia, Puglia. The Italian city of Aversa, Caserta is recognized as the origin of buffalo mozzarella. The most famous of the families who make buffalo mozzarella in Italy are the Serra and Citarella families. They are known as the founders of the buffalo mozzarella tradition.
Buffalo mozzarella is an important industry in Italy. "Italy… is home to the €300m ($430m) a year industry… Italy produces around 33,000 tonnes of its trademark mozzarella from buffalo milk every year, with 16 per cent sold abroad, mostly in the European Union. France and Germany are the main importers but sales have been expanding in Japan and Russia."
The highest quality buffalo mozzarella bears the "Mozzarella di Bufala Campana" trademark. In 1993, it was granted Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) status, in 1996 the trademark received registry number 1107/96 and in 2008 European Union granted Mozzarella di Bufala Campana Protected Geographical Status and PDO indicator. The Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio di Bufala Campana (in English, "The Consortium for the Protection of the Buffalo Cheese of Campania") is an organization of approximately 200 producers, that, under Italian law, is responsible for the "protection, surveillance, promotion and marketing" of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana cheese.
Among the many other Italian cheeses that have PDO status are Gorgonzola, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Asiago cheese (see also List of Italian PDO cheeses)
The history of water buffalo in Italy is not settled.
One theory is that Asian water buffalo were brought to Italy by Goths during the migrations of the early medieval period. However, according to the Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, the "most likely hypothesis" is that they were introduced by Normans from Sicily in 1000, and that Arabs had introduced them into Sicily. The Consorzio per la Tutela also refers to fossil evidence suggesting that water buffalo may have originated in Italy. A fourth theory is that water buffalo were brought from Mesopotamia into the Near East by Arabs and then introduced into Europe by pilgrims and returning crusaders.
"In ancient times, the buffalo was a familiar sight in the countryside, since it was widely used as a draught animal in plowing compact and watery terrains, both because of its strength and the size of its hooves, which do not sink too deeply into moist soils."
References to cheese products made from water buffalo milk appeared for the first time at the beginning of the twelfth century. Buffalo mozzarella became widespread throughout the south of Italy from the second half of the eighteenth century, before which it had been produced only in small quantities.
"Production in and around Naples was briefly interrupted during World War II, when retreating Nazis slaughtered the area's water buffalo herds, yet commenced a few years after the armistice was signed".
"The richness of buffalo milk makes it highly suitable for processing [and] [t]o produce 1 kg of cheese, a cheese maker requires 8 kg of cow's milk but only 5 kg of buffalo milk. To produce 1 kg of butter requires 14 kg of cow's milk but only 10 kg of buffalo milk. Because of these high yields, processors appreciate the value of buffalo milk.".
The steps required to produce buffalo mozzarella are the following:
- Milk storage (raw buffalo milk stored in big steel containers).
- Milk heating (thermic treatment to the liquid, then poured into a cream separator).
- Curdling (by induction of natural whey).
- Curd maturation (the curd lies in tubs in order to reduce the acidification processes and reach a pH value of about 4.95).
- Spinning (hot water is poured out on the curd in order to soften it, obtaining pasta filata).
- Shaping (with special rotating shaper machines).
- Cooling (by immersion in cold water).
- Pickling (by immersion in pickling tubs containing the original whey).
- Packaging (in special films cut as bags or in small basins and plastic).
The digestive system of water buffaloes permits them to turn low grade vegetation into rich milk which, due to its higher percentage of solids, provides higher levels of protein, fat and minerals than cow's milk.
Generally, buffalo mozzarella is enjoyed with pasta, calzone, vegetables, salads, on pizza (a low moisture content buffalo mozzarella is preferred), on grilled bread, or by itself accompanied by olive oil.