Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Water Buffalo Mozzarella

Water buffalo mozzarella is mozzarella cheese made from the milk of water buffalo. I recently tried and enjoyed a grilled water buffalo steak and when I spotted some cheese made from water buffalo, I had to try it. 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die (Frances Case, p. 274) lists Mozzarella di Bufala Campana as one of its 1001 items. It is a mozzarella made in Italy from water buffalo milk. Italy is where water buffalo mozzarella was originally developed and there it has DOC status. According to Wikipedia, there are references to buffalo cheese in Italy as far back as the 12th century (I found where one Italian cheesemaker claimed, without any authority, that the water buffaloes were brought into Italy by Hannibal). However, water buffalo cheese is now produced in many other countries including Switzerland, Spain, the U.K., the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Australia, South Africa, Egypt, Israel, India and Thailand. Water buffalo milk is much richer than cow milk, with greater levels of minerals, protein and fat. Because of that, it takes just under one-third less water buffalo milk, as opposed to cow milk, to prepare cheese or butter.  1001 notes that mozzarella gets "its name from the Italian word mozzare, which means 'to cut off.'" The cheese curd is kneaded, like bread dough, until it is smooth and shiny. Then in a process called mozzatura, a strand is pulled out and pinched off (or "cut off") with the finger and thumb to form a ball of cheese. The cheese balls are then put into a brine bath and soaked until they develop a "fibrous and elastic consistency." 1001 describes the taste as "delicate milky" and when cut "it oozes a chalk colored watery fluid with a gentle tang of milk enzymes." Sam Anderson, in an article in the New York Times Magazine, titled "Go Ahead, Milk My Day," went rhapsodic in describing the cheese. It is "almost unrealistically soft - it seems like the reason the word 'mouthfeel' was invented - with a depth of flavor that makes even the freshest hand-pulled artisanal cow-milk mozzarella taste like glorified string cheese...It lives (along with clouds and mercury and lava and photons and quicksand) on the mystical border between solid and liquid." He quotes  cheesemonger Steven Jenkins, "When will weep its own whey with a sweet, beckoning, lactic aroma." It comes in a container (a plastic tub or bag) filled with a watery whey. According to The Walks of Italy Blog, it needs to be kept moist. Once the cheese is exposed to air the taste starts to break down. Therefore, it should be eaten immediately. It should also be eaten on its own, not used in cooking or mixed with other flavors, because the delicate flavors of the mozzarella will be overwhelmed. 

I bought some Annabella buffalo cheese made from water buffalo raised on native grasses in Colombia. Annabella claims to have the only 100% grass-fed water buffaloes in the world. Their water buffaloes are not confined, are never fed grain and are moved from pasture to pasture year round to prevent overgrazing. The Annabella buffalo mozzarella is preserved in a milky white brine and packaged in a vacuum-packed plastic bag. 
The only ingredients are pasteurized buffalo milk, salt, cultures from buffalo milk and enzymes (Michael Pollan would approve). I now know why Sam Anderson went rhapsodic. Regular cows milk mozzarella, compared to the buffalo version, is beef hamburger compared to a bison ribeye. The texture and taste are completely different. Removing the buffalo mozzarella from the brine filled package feels like removing brains from amniotic fluid. It is squishy, delicate, watery. 

When cut it clumps together in oozy, undifferentiated masses. The taste is informed by the slightly salty, milky brine and the cool, soft pudding-like texture with a slight sweetness. As noted above, the best bites were the first slices, just fresh from the bag, alone and with a little bit of olive oil on top. 
I made some massaged kale salad, mixed with Himalayan sea salt and olive oil. I added the water buffalo mozzarella to it and it was tremendous. And as noted above, when I tried some of the left-over kale salad several days later, it had lost its magic. It was still good, but the mozzarella had no juice. 
This is a food item that is very different and that is worth the additional expense for a special occasion. I intend to try it again and I will probably just eat it plain, or perhaps with a little olive oil and some sliced tomatoes. It is as advertised. 


  1. I loved the texture. I found it a bit more salty than the mozzarella I am used to, but that is part of what made it so good in the kale salad.

  2. I just bought some yesterday to try. It is amazing! Nothing like regular fresh cows mozzarella. I looked up recipes, but as mentioned in this blog, it's glory shines when eaten simply, not cooked. Right out of the brine with a spoon was my taste test! Next time...,sliced summer tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil! Sounds like a hot day's lunch to me, right now!

    1. Sounds wonderful. You have me salivating!