A rose by any other name? Hardly! These quintessential Italian cheeses are loved, sought
after, imitated and generally misunderstood as "just another famous Italian cheese".
Actually, all Italian cheeses have their own region, heritage and history. The fresh, cream products from Southern Italy that we lump together as "mozzarella" are no different. Let me explain each one and hopefully generate a deeper appreciation for these fresh dairy dreams in your cheesy soul. As with any Italian product that respects its history and traditions, the ingredients are of utmost importance.
Here are the differences between mozzarella di bufala, mozzarella and fior di latte:
Mozzarella di Bufala
is made from buffalo milk in the area south and north of Naples (Battipiano and Caserta provinces respectively). Mozzarella has always meant buffalo milk in that area, where the people of Campania have a real affinity and culture for it. For them it goes without saying that it's buffalo milk; if it's made with cows milk, it's known as fior di latte (milk flower).
Once you leave the Naples area, though, even Italians from other regions, who don't have a mozzarella culture and history, call it mozzarella no matter what milk is used. It's still pretty good, but it doesn't beat the fresh mozzarella and fior di latte that is made in small, neighborhood caseificios with local milk in and around Napoli!
Burrata is made in another mozzarella region on the other side of southern Italy, in Puglia. The Apian plains around Bari were especially known for the milk production of the local cows, the mozzarella made here is truly special. Burrata is a sack of mozzarella wrapped
around fresh, buttery curds. Wrapped in local lily leaves (or green plastic today), it is best on the day it's made. Which means that it is sheer heaven!
Want to know how they make all these products in the old country? You won't learn it on a YouTube video that starts with processed curd. But you can learn it by coming on one of our culinary tours to Naples/Campania or Puglia! Here's a quick overview:
Real mozzarella is made by heating the whole milk, adding rennet to separate the curd and whey. The blocks of curd are drained and then shredded and the shreds are added back to
the hot whey. Stirred until they start to melt and look stretchy, the mozzarellas are then formed into braids or balls.
Purchased on a day to day basis, the locals buy what they need, eat it and then go back to the caseificio the next day to get more. If there is any leftover, it's left at room temperature in it's liquid. To put it in the fridge is a sin, as that turns the mozzarella rubbery.
I'm looking forward to eating some fresh burrata and mozzarella when Mary and I are doing research next week in Puglia! Follow our travels on Facebook! I'm sure there will be at least one video showing how they make burrata!