Mangia! Mangia! – Mozzarella di Bufala, Part 2

Down a tight road, through a narrow gate, no people, no cars, seemingly abandoned farm buildings, an old red tractor, no animals in sight, but the smell of hay and dung hung in the warm early evening air near Spezzano Albanese, in the arch of the Italian boot. Not a promising start after assurances that we would find the best mozzarella di bufala in the world or, at least, in Italy or, for sure, in Calabria.

Unlikely spots yield wonderful buffalo mozzarella
Unlikely spots yield wonderful buffalo mozzarella

But on the wall of the smallest ancient building is a beautiful ceramic sign that assures us that we are at Caseificio Torre Mordillo. (The Mordillo Tower, pictured on the sign, is nearby. The tower and the surrounding ruins date from the Iron Age and were expanded by the Greeks.)

Caseificio Torre Mordillo
Caseificio Torre Mordillo

We enter into a tiny space, the store, empty of any products. A man looks up from the adjoining larger room where he is washing down the white-tiled walls and cream-tiled floor with a hose. His name is Mariano. If we can wait, he will have the mozzarella made fresh in twenty minutes. Why don’t we visit the water buffalos?

Water buffalos at dinner
Water buffalos at dinner

Across the cracked pavement of the empty parking lot and around the corner of of the huge abandoned building we find about twenty water buffalos munching on their supper of hay. Communing with buffalos is only interesting for five minutes or so and we couldn’t discern where the milking shed might be and we weren’t as happy as the buffalos with the swampy mud. So we headed back to the caseificio to watch the mozzarella being made.

Loaves of cheese from which mozzarella is made
Loaves of cheese curd from which mozzarella is made

Maddalena and Florina had joined Mariano. A round stainless steel vat of water was heating on one side of the room. On a stainless steel table were loaves of porous cheese curd made from milk obtained from the water buffalos during their morning milking.

Crumbled cheese before hot water is added
Crumbled cheese before hot water is added

Mariano carved off a large piece of the curd, placed it in a large round metal pan and crumbled it into small pieces. He added scoops of hot water and  stirred the melting crumbs with a wooden stick into a smooth mass. This is called “stringing the curd.” After the desired elasticity was achieved, Mariano scooped off the excess water.

After "stringing" pieces of mozzarella are carved off to form balls
After "stringing" pieces of mozzarella are carved off to form balls

From the large mass of mozzarella, they used the plastic scoop and the wooden stick to cut off baseball-sized pieces and dumped them into a rectangular bath of warm water where Maddalena and Florina formed them into balls of mozzarella di bufula. Each loaf of cheese made about twenty balls, which then went in to a salted bath to cool.

Balls of mozzarella being formed in a warm water bath
Balls of mozzarella being formed in a warm water bath

We asked for a large braid (treccia) of mozzarella and Mariano carved off a huge hunk of the smooth elastic mass. He warmed it by dipping it into the hot water bath. Then he held it high and let it stretch.

Stretching the mozzarella
Stretching the mozzarella

He dipped the long piece into the warm water again and then let it stretch even more. Folding it over at the center he began to twine the treccia into its classic form.

Mariano creates the rope of mozzarella for the braid
Mariano creates the rope of mozzarella for the braid
Braiding the treccia
Braiding the treccia

Usually fresh mozzarella spends a few hours in a bath of cold salt water. We took our order (2 kilos (about 4.5 pounds)) with us, each ball or braid bouncing around in salted water inside tied-off plastic sacks.

The perfect braid of mozzarella di bufala
The perfect braid of mozzarella di bufala

Before we left we each got a taste of warm unsalted mozzarella – an intense milky flavor with essence of the air around the Caseificio Torre Mordillo.

4 thoughts on “Mangia! Mangia! – Mozzarella di Bufala, Part 2

  1. Just left a comment in Part 1 that I was gobsmacked the first time I ate real Mozzarella di Bufala DOP. What I had was imported. Tasting it fresh will be sure to bring tears to my eyes…

    Amusing quip on another foodie forum. Someone was wondering if it was worth paying a premium for Mozzarella di Bufala ($11.50 for 8 oz). One reply said, “I would suggest you don’t try it. I’m surprised Bush has not banned it? It’s addictive, habit forming and very expensive.”

    ^-^ I agree
    Falling in love with DOP food of Italia, Spain and other part of Europe has been a very expensive experience, especially in today’s economic context…

  2. I would request that someone tell me where is this farm exactly as I am going to Italy Florence and Pisa in October 2014 and I am very interested to visit this farm. Please provide the name of the place and how to reach them.
    Thanks for reading my comment.

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