As you might recall, the purpose of my trip to Italy was not only to eat delicious pizza, but also to learn about the pizza making process. We followed our fascinating visit to the Caputo flour mill and headquarters during our second day in Naples, with a trip out to the Italian countryside to learn about how buffalo mozzarella cheese is made.
In recent years, especially in New York City, there has been a lot of emphasis placed on the “farm-to-table” food movement which promotes locally grown or raised animals, vegetables, herbs, and fruit. In other words, the movement focuses on the consumption of food so fresh that it comes directly from where it was produced. On our third day in Naples, we were able to experience this firsthand.
We hooked up with A.B.C Cooperative (Allevatori Bufalini Casertani) which produces fresh mozzarella from buffalo in Italy´s Campania region. We took a train out to Capua which is a town in the province of Caserta. It’s 16 miles north of Naples and takes approximately one hour via train. A representative from the company picked us up at the station and we made our way to the day’s first stop: a buffalo farm.
As you might imagine, this is the first step in the cheese production process. Every morning before the sun even rises, buffalo from 15 different farms are milked. The particular farm we visited was home to more than 1,000 buffalo, some just a few days old. We learned about the life cycle of each buffalo — with an emphasis on the post-insemination (a.k.a. milk producing) years. Their daily routine, when they’re not being milked, consists mostly of playing the mud and eating.
As the milking is completed at each of the 15 farms, trucks arrive to transport all of the fresh milk to the A.B.C. cheese production facility. It is there where the milk is made into fresh mozzarella, packaged, and sent around the world.
I won’t go into detail about the the cheese making process, as it’s quite complicated (in other words, even after spending a few hours learning about it, I’m not sure I completely understand what goes on). I do know, however, that he raw milk is pasteurized and then coagulated to form curds. Once the curds reach a certain pH level they are cut into small pieces and mixed with hot water in order to form the cheese. Got it?
The highlight of the day (or maybe even my culinary life!) was sitting down to a delicious lunch featuring cheese that had just been made a few minutes ago. There were two sizes of mozzarella balls, ricotta cheese, and even fresh butter for bread. The mozzarella, especially the larger balls, were so juicy that when I bit into them, liquid seeped out into my mouth. I will occasionally use the term “mouth-watering” to describe great food — but this took the phrase to a whole new level. It’s one of those meals I’ll remember for the rest of my life. No cheese I’ve ever eaten has tasted so incredible.
The above piece is the 7th article in a 13-part series about my pizza adventures in Italy (January 2011 – February 2011). You can access the other parts of the series here:
Introduction (Part 1)
Da Michele – Naples (Part 2)
Pizzeria Brandi- Naples (Part 3)
Caputo Flour Mill- Naples – (Part 4)
Salvo- Naples (Part 5)
Pizzeria Starita – Naples (Part 6)
Buffalo Mozzarella Tour – Caserta (Part 7)
Di Matteo – Naples (Part 8)
Sorbillo – Naples (Part 9)
Dar Poeta – Rome (Part 10)
Forno Marco Roscioli - Rome (Part 11)
00100 Pizza – Rome (Part 12)
Pizzeria Pellone – Naples (Part 13)