If you haven’t experienced fresh mozzarella made with pure buffalo milk, aged for only a few hours, you haven’t really tasted true Italian-style mozzarella.
According to Elena Swegen, co-owner of Burraduc Farm in Bungwahl NSW, buffalo mozzarella tastes best when it’s so fresh your senses trick you into believing that Italian water buffalo are nearby.
“Once, a buffalo farmer and cheese maker in Italy said to me: ‘You need to understand that the mozzarella has to be so fresh, you should feel the buffalo breath in the cheese as you eat it,” explains Swegen, recalling a cheese tasting experience in southern Italy during a research trip in 2014.
“His advice hit me so strongly, I have stuck to it ever since. That’s why I’m never going to use preservatives or any chemicals to enhance the shelf life of my mozzarella. That’s out of pride and respect for what I was taught by the Italians.”
“The very first thing to say is that 'real' buffalo mozzarella is made from buffalo milk only. What you usually find in supermarkets is cow’s milk mozzarella, which is not ‘real’ mozzarella."
Swegen and her husband, Andrei - co-owners of Burraduc Buffalo Dairy and Artisan Cheese - have been producing buffalo mozzarella for over 13 years now. The couple were also the first in the state to run an A-grade food safety licenced buffalo dairy and on-farm cheese-making facility.
Over the years, the Russian-born buffalo farmer has noticed that more home cooks have learned what real buffalo mozzarella is and what it’s not.
“The very first thing to say is that 'real' buffalo mozzarella is made from buffalo milk only,” Swegen tells SBS. “What you usually find in supermarkets is cow’s milk mozzarella, which is not ‘real’ mozzarella."
Swegen's reference to the 'real' mozzarella cheese comes from a passion for her trade and expert knowledge of artisan cheesemaking practices. “The cheese made from buffalo milk is amazing. When you taste it, you get obsessed."
This is probably why some people regard buffalo milk as ‘white gold’. “The buffalo is a superior animal in so many respects: not to be rude to the cows but I can make twice more cheese from buffalo milk than I could make from cow's milk because it's so dense.
“Buffalo milk is also nutritionally very dense. It has twice more proteins than cow’s milk. It has a lot of minerals and a lot more fat with less cholesterol.”
Highly prized buffalo milk makes quality mozzarella
Swegen explains that buffalo milk and mozzarella are quite precious for another reason – buffaloes don’t produce as much milk as cows do.
“Buffaloes are not very easy to milk because if they uncomfortable or if they are upset about something – maybe the buffalo was in a fight with a more senior animal or she was worried about her calf – they will withdraw their milk.”
They’re also highly sensitive animals that require a lot of love and tenderness from their human owners to produce good milk and therefore quality mozzarella cheese.
“The Italian buffalo farmers I met taught me that the taste of the cheese starts with the way you treat the buffalo: the way you feed them and if they feel comfortable with you.
“So our buffaloes own the pasture. We don't feed them any concentrate. We don't separate the calves from their mothers. We treat the animals with respect and they have a really good life in the paddocks with their extended family. They go swimming and really live the wildest lifestyle they can. That makes them produce superb quality milk.
“When you get good milk, you can make mozzarella that’s so good, you can still feel the buffalo breath as you eat it.”
How best to use buffalo mozzarella
Buffalo milk production is quite intense. So much so, that when it comes to making mozzarella with ‘white gold’, simplicity is preferred.
“As cheesemakers, we just have to be careful not to over-process the milk and allow it to shine through the product. So basically, our skill as cheesemakers is to not ruin what the buffaloes give us.”
Burraduc Farm’s mozzarella takes half a day to produce after the milk is sourced. “When they are done, the balls of mozzarella go into a special brine. Then, the sooner you eat them, the better.”
“Fresh buffalo mozzarella doesn’t need anything added to it, so it’s best just to eat it like an apple."
The shelf-life of Burraduc mozzarella is two weeks. Although that may not seem like long, Swegen says Italian varieties usually only last four days.
“Fresh buffalo mozzarella doesn’t need anything added to it, so it’s best just to eat it like an apple. The second best thing to do is use it in a Caprese salad.
But if the cheese is a few days old, you can use it on pizza. It also goes really well with baked eggplant, zucchini and with pasta.”
The only thing Swegen advises against doing with buffalo mozzarella is melting it to the point of liquidity. “Lightly heat it if you are baking with it. But don’t overcook it.
“The major quality about our product is its freshness. So you don’t really want to do a lot with it. Don’t play with it too much. Just eat it fresh and enjoy it.”
Burraduc Farm is part of the Your Food Collective: NSW-based organisation connecting online shoppers with fresh, sustainable, and ethically sourced home-delivered produce - most grown within a 250km radius. The aim is to provide home-cooks with quality ingredients, sourced straight from the farm, and allow producers to get a fair price and broad community access to sell their produce. For more information, visit Your Food Collective online.
Originating in the Middle East, this popular brunch dish combines perfectly cooked eggs nested into an aromatically spiced stew of tomatoes and capsicum. For an extra-special spin, this version includes slices of oozing mozzarella.
A new season Coratina olive oil is my choice for this dish as it's light and buttery and possesses a slight nasturtium-like flavour and pepperiness. This is a great dish to share with friends who aren’t scared of embracing oily messiness.
This simple pizza works to showcase the humble potato, combined with creamy buffalo mozzarella and salty Parmesan. This recipe is great as a starter dish, or for a simple Sunday night meal.