Friday, July 6, 2007

Subtle, distinguished, creamy, sweet and inviting

Mozzarella di Bufala Campana!

Fresh Mozzarella is one of my first culinary infatuations. I remember my parents bringing it from Brooklyn to Pennsylvania when I went to camp when other kids requested candy and soda. They would carefully wrap it to not lose the juices (milky water which accompanies it and keeps it fresh) and bring little baggies of Basil and Tomato to accentuate all its goodness. When I started to cook in High School, I soon realized if all else fails, add Mozzarella. And I am damn fortunate to have had surprisingly fresh Mozzarella less than one block away from the house I grew up in at The A&S Pork Store (274 5th Ave Park Slope, Brooklyn). Although it has since changed management, their Mozzarella remains scandalously impressive. For Cow's Milk, that is ;)

But, alas I am not in Brooklyn. I am in Southern Italy, Peastum to be exact, living and working on a Buffalo farm. I am in even closer proximity to not only to the finished product, but the entire process. From the farm to the table! Considered by (er) everyone as the best in the world, what distinguishes this cheese from others is the fresh unpasteurized Buffalo Milk (also used to make Ricotta and Butter). This makes for a more “earthy” flavor; the cheeses’ lineage has not been tampered; the soil, grass, buffalo and water are intrinsic in every bite of perfection. What’s more, as I will explain, the process has a much larger circle of influence on all local crops and farm raised animals, making my experience with my favorite cheese even more complex.

When the Buffalo milk arrive to the factory each morning it is combined with Rennet, a curd made from the stomachs of young calves, and brought to a 95 degree temperature. The mixture is drained and you are left with mass chunks which become the Mozzarella. The “whey” is used for the Butter and Ricotta and interestingly enough is also used to feed other farm raised animals (full circle).

Here is where the action begins. Once added back to water, the taffy like mixture is stirred and with a vocational rhythm the Mozzarella dances from one hand to another (in a vat of salted water) as it is formed into one of its many shapes and sizes.

Braided (trecce), bite sized balls (bocconcini), smoked (affumicata). With Tomatoes and Basil, in a Pasta al forno, on Pizza, on its own, with a friend or by your lonesome…

Subtle, distinguished, creamy, sweet and inviting indeed.


Gary said...

damn i didnt even know what mozzarella was until i moved to new york. Now not knowing what it was until i was 18 i never really developed a taste for it-also largely due to me being lactose intolorent. With that being said the moza pics are absolutely beautiful and the work that is put into making them are fascinating and fun to learn about- go mikey!

Suri said...

cow vs. buffalo? the idea of character, what is character & why is it so important?
did you go to the club yet?--
FOOD: the traditional /or classic when it becomes reappropriated, informed by displacement, travel, contemporary social surrondings, urban aesthetics, class, love, binary constructs, etc..., to then be redefined as something unique unto itself--Brooklyn vs Italy (w/ &w/o bias).
that was a great, & so us, conversation we had, (pastry/pomelo debate, i mean, really)
go for it babe...
wish it could
have ended with a big hug---uh, i love you...

Ann said...

Wow, i had no idea thats how its done. As Gary and I share the same problem (Lactose intolerance)....thats the only kind of cheese i don't mind eating. Can you find out the main differences between Cows milk and Buffalo? I'd be interested to know why its not as bad for me.
I'm officially addicted to this blog!!