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August / September 2018

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{ wheying in } 28 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018 MOZZARELLA DI BUFALA has taught Americans you can indeed milk a buffalo, and now a wave of new water-buffalo cheeses is proving how versatile this un- usual substance can be. Created largely in the last 15 years in Italy, these intriguing formaggi di bufala range from runny Brie- like wheels to pungent blues. Thanks to a handful of innovative creameries, it appears we're in the midst of a buffalo stampede. Mind you, Italy's bufala—formally Bubalus bubalis, a domesticated bovine of Asian origin—is not the same creature that once roamed the American West. After these hulking, horned animals (which, according to historians, have been in the Campania region around Naples for centuries) were decimated by the Nazis during World War II, herds were re-introduced to Campa - nia from India. When two brothers from Lombardy in northern Italy decided to keep bufale on their farm near Bergamo to pro - duce original cheeses, debuting their first creations in 2006, the launch made national news. Even in Italy, nobody had made bufala cheese beyond mozzarella. These cheeses are now distributed in the U.S. under the Quattro Por toni brand while additional creameries in Lombardy, Tuscany, and Campania have jumped on the bufala bandwagon. The animals' output is stingy—6 to 7 quar ts a day versus 9 gallons for a Holstein cow—but the rich milk contains more protein and calcium in addition to more than twice as much fat as cow's milk. Surprisingly, it also has signifi - cantly lower cholesterol. A skilled cheesemaker can adapt water- buffalo milk to almost any recipe, from fresh ricotta to hefty aged wheels firm enough to grate. At least three California enterprises—Ramini Mozzarella, Double 8 Dairy, and Morsey's—are trying to main - tain their own water-buffalo herds in the state, but the going is slow. In the mean- time, you can add novelty and excitement to any cheese board with these bufala selections from Italy: From Quattro Portoni (Lombardy): Casatica, a 2-pound cheese in the shape of a flattened log, has a thin, bloomy rind and a moist and supple interior. Released at three to five weeks, it resembles the cow's- milk Stracchino. It's delicate and milky-sweet with aromas of yeast and mushroom. With its washed rind, squishy texture, and square, pudgy shape, Quadrello is clearly in the Taleggio family. The scent is sublime— damp cave, mushroom, and cultured milk— and the finish is tart and tangy. A tawny port accompanies it beautifully. Blu di Bufala is completely original: a tall 9-pound block with a crusty natural rind and a modest amount of blue veining. The interior is semi-firm and creamy with scents of yeast, mushroom, and roasted nut. Serve with chilled dessert wine. From La Casera (Piedmont): A 9-ounce disk that tends to slump to the point of collapse at room temperature, Camembert di bufala should be served cool (not cold) to delay the meltdown. Its pronounced porcini aroma should make Pinot Noir a good match. Bergamino di bufala is a 4-pound semi- soft square with a bloomy rind, delicately milky flavor, subtle mushroom scent, and bright acidity. It demands a fresh and light white wine such as Gavi or Arneis. From La Maremmana (Tuscany): A three-month-old farmstead wheel weighing 12–14 pounds, Grossetano is firm—even brittle—with a gamy lamb-chop aroma and tart, lemony flavor. Reserve this intriguing, highly savory cheese for sophisticated palates. Serve in chunks like Parmigiano-Reggiano. Milking It EXPLORING THE INTRIGUING QUIRKS OF MOZZARELLA DI BUFALA by Janet Fletcher PHOTO: WHITE78 VIA ADOBE STOCK

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