Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP is creamy, soft and moist, with a delicately stringy texture, and a milky, slightly tangy flavour. Bufala means ‘buffalo’. The flavours and high quality derive from water buffalos’ milk, which is richer in fat and protein than cow’s milk. The water buffalo was introduced to the region in the Middle Ages and today, their population in Italy exceeds 100,000.
The ‘Mozzarella di Bufala Campana’ is protected by the trademark granted by the ‘Consortium for the protection of the buffalo cheese of Campania’, which operates under Italian law.
Mozzarella is formed by curdling the milk with natural lactic acid bacteria already present, and the addition of natural rennet, an enzyme that is found in the stomachs of bovines (animals with four digestive stomachs). Once the whey and curd are separated, the curd is immersed in heated water, where it falls to the bottom in a mass and is gathered, stretched and kneaded with a paddle. This process creates a stretched cheese, called pasta filata. At this point, mozzarella-making becomes an art: the cheese maker must not stretch it too much, or it will lose butterfat, flavour and texture. Too little, and it will be crumbly.
Finally, the mozzarella is packed in brine, water or whey in a vacuum-sealed container. Because it is a fresh cheese, it should be eaten within a few days and ideally not refrigerated.
Mozzarella di Bufala is traditional and of highest quality, but there are many other delicious versions. These include boconccini, small balls marinated in olive oil and herbs; mozzarella affumicata, smoked mozzarella; manteca, mozzarella moulded around butter; mozzarella burrata, a creamy cluster of shreds of mozzarella soaked with panna (heavy cream) and encased in a knot of mozzarella; fior di latte, mozzarella made with cow’s milk; and treccie, a rare form of mozzarella from Caserta that looks hard, but is full of cream.