Going to the Source: Buffalo Mozzarella 101
An INTERVIEW with Luisa di Fumoso Pietro ( owner of Caseificio Aziendale Luisa ) by Patricia Edwards
Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese is one of Italy’s most celebrated culinary masterpieces. For me, it was “love at first taste”.
In finding “All Things Italian” I follow a strict mantra – I must go “directly to the source”!
My interest is in unveiling the process and secrets! As a local, I choose my routes away from a tourist’s”’beaten trail”. I go along the country road, Via Paternocchio, in Montefiascone and I arrive directly at the source! I meet “Luisa”, yes, the “Luisa” di Fumoso Pietro!
Hello Luisa! I’ve come right to “the source”! She greets me with her welcoming smile and says, welcome, come, let’s go! And our “giro” (italian word for tour) begins! We move through a variety of production areas; the mill (il molino), the grain rooms, (il frantonio), the modern olive oil presses rooms, all supported with a backdrop of a lush, pastorial landscape. I hear the quiet; the tranquility.
Luisa’s majestic water buffalo are calmly bathing and reclining in mud baths just a few meters away below the diary in the morning. “This looks like a tranquille ‘spa’! I say with glee. Each other’s company surrounds the relaxed animals, creating a sense of what seems like: bliss.
PE: Tell me about the buffalo, are these animals native to Italy and the region?
Luisa: The buffalo are curious and very intelligent animals, with a completely black coat, large black eyes, with horns up to 60 cm long with furrows and reliefs. They love water and mud. Asia is where they come from, and in Italy (particularly in the southern area of the peninsula), we breed buffalo. Ours are a Mediterranean breed belonging to the River family.
PE: What makes a water buffalo different from normal “dairy cows”?
Luisa: Well, the answer is very simple! They are two different species, one is a cow, the other a buffalo! Accordingly, it’s like talking about a cat and a dog!
PE: “When was Luisa’s farm and shop founded?”
Luisa: “In 1999, with 27 heads of thriving buffalo, gradually increasing over the years until reaching about 350 heads. We decided to turn our animals’ milk into cheeses in 2004 when we opened the dairy.”
Luisa leads us through the prestine milking areas. The dairy farm is a well-planned organization and I observe calmness and peace. The daily routines securely nest within a few meters of each other, under the watchful dome of Santa Margarita of Montifiescone.
Luisa: “Shall we go inside and meet the buffalo?” Explicitly, I embrace her invitation. As we enter, Luisa instructions us to enter quietly and “do not speak”. Her respect for the animals, and her gentle lead, teaches me to follow suit, in a method of silent, gentleness. As we enter their private stable, the animal’s own ease and interest with us reflects her own peacefulness and grace Luisa points out the youngest animals resting on generous beds of straw, only five days old! I am delighted and awed.
PE: Is there a special diet and lifestyle?
Luisa: Basically, the animal’s diet varies according to age, production, and its current physiological state, and it consists solely of plants.
Luisa: “The calf is fed with the mother’s colostrum for the first 4/5 days, twice a day, so that it assumes the necessary immune defenses passively. Then they are fed with artificial milk through a bottle for about 4 months. The average daily quantity of milk is about 2 liters. After about two weeks, hay and weaning feed ad libitum is added to the diet so that the animal gets used to solid food. At 7 months, we replace the weaning feed with the farm feed made up of barley, corn, and field beans.
The hard working staff prepare the pristine milking room for the next session. I learn that “the lactating buffaloes” are fed with 10 kg of clover hay, straw and 2 kg of farm feed, with the addition of calcium and phosphorus in a 3: 1 ratio.
They administer industrial feed to each animal individually during milking, with different quantities based on milk production, around 4 kg per day.The buffaloes that do not produce milk have a daily ration of 2kg of farm feed and straw ad libitum. In addition, to avoid uterine prolapse there is an integration of calcium and phosphorus with a ratio of 1: 3 in the form of mineral salts mixed with the feed.”
Moreover, I learned that milking is twice a day.
Finally, we enter Luisa di Fumoso Pietro’s shop; the large windows welcome us into the production scene like a film scene!
“Buffalo Mozzarella” Production
PE: “The process of making the “buffalo mozzarella” seems a bit mysterious.
Can you guide us through the process, step-by-step?
Luisa: “Well first … the milk/raw material is transported from the milking parlor to the tank and is subsequently stored, filtered to carry out subsequent measurements of the acidity of both the milk and the whey graft. We derive the graft whey from the curd of the previous day. Add the milk, grafted whey, and bring it to a temperature of 36 degrees. Then, add calf rennet. The coagulation phase begins and completes after 1 hour. Later, the dough is broken with the thorn. We remove the whey and obtain the ricotta at a temperature of about 90 degrees.
After a part of the whey is left to maintain the curd and after about 4 hours the cheesemaker does a test which consists in seeing if the curd dough is row and therefore it is ready to be worked. The pasta is taken, it is inserted into the pasta grinder and then it is placed in the vat adding water at 98 degrees, and the spinning begins. The dough can be stretched and collected in a container where it is hand-cut, in water, at room temperature. (artigianale: italian hand crafted, produced) To preserve the food, we place the mozzarella in brine for about an hour with citric acid and salt.
PE: This process is complex and simple, resulting in cheeses that are spectacular!
In your opinion, what distinguishes your cheeses?
Luisa: Thank you for your compliment! Firstly, our cheeses are always fresh! The milking and processing are the same day to guarantee the quality of the product! The attention in our stables from food (using foods that come only from our countryside), to the care of the animals, guarantees us a good final report on the organoleptic characteristics of milk (such as fat and proteins)!
I am impressed as Luisa tells us that “the dairy boasts the experience of master cheesemakers, the efficiency of modern equipment and health checks, thus ensuring a healthy cheese!”
PE: There are many types of cheeses. Can you list what is available to us?
Luisa: Undoubtedly, Mozzarella reigns supreme in the wide choice!
But we can also find treccia, burrata, ricotta, yogurt, primo sale, smoked products and aged cheeses such as scamorze and caciotte.
For example, today I tried burrata; my new favorite! With a slightly firm outer edge, the inside holds a tangy consistency that is full-bodied and delicious!
PE: Food, from “farm to table”, seems to be within walking distance in most of Italy. It is all here – – and your new tasting room and restaurant is adjacent to the shop … can you tell us about it?
Luisa: The tasting room was born with the idea of making people savor after a visit to the farm, meeting the buffaloes up close, seeing them on their journey from small to adulthood, to make it clear where those products come from. We find ourselves tasting a dish and not knowing where it comes from … Accompanied by excellent cheeses and a good glass of wine, you must experience the tasting, the final part of the visit, with relaxation. For those who simply want a good meal, without immersing themselves in walks that could be tiring, they can simply sit outside on beautiful summer days or simply inside our cozy restaurant. We cook all dishes, from appetizers to desserts with our farm products, from cheeses to meat using the flours of our mill and the oil of our mill!
PE: For me, personally, I find that Italy shows evidence of both the “ancient” and “contemporary”. I see this juxtaposition so often.
Do you agree that your products draw from both the past and today?
Luisa: I come from generations of farmers, I grew up listening to stories, of how things were done by hand, of the effort and commitment that went into first getting what was needed for the house and then selling it. I grew up where there was decent land ownership, fields to cultivate and a sheep farm. I saw these animals being sold, moving to buffaloes, increasing the land, building stables with large outdoor fences and puddles of water to cool off, modern means to ensure that the effort was different and more manageable, and the commitment became the desire and passion, not a “job”.
All this to be the reality of today. If there had not been certain teachings from the older generations, if the ancient wisdom had not been the strength, I believe that my parents would not have had the potential to understand what agriculture was, today they have found their way to make it modern, stay in step with the times and love it.
PE: Thank you for our amazing tour today. The website well explains the process and provides more information and a visual overview for those interested, but I caution readers that it is mouth-watering!
Luisa: I welcome your readers, and I hope it was all interesting. For those unfamiliar with the environment, I hope I have created an interest, a stimulus!
PE: Thank you, Luisa!
Luisa: I appreciate the time that you have dedicated to me! If you pass by these parts, come and see me!
“If there had not been certain teachings from the older generations, if the ancient wisdom had not been the strength, I believe that my parents would not have had the potential to understand what agriculture was; today they have found their way to make it modern, stay in step with the times and love it.” – Luisa
PE: In conclusion, for more information, please click on the website link.
Article by Patricia Edwards
Read more about Water Buffalo Mozzarella