Mozzarella in May

23 05 2009

 Mozzarella cheese. (dy1) There’s nothing like mozzarella cheese, especially when it comes in spring.  Fresh on the heels of calving, mozzarella in May is glorious. 

The Italian buffalo is a huge, red-eyed beast which lumbers across the grassy hillsides and wallows in the cool mud-streams along the valleys.  True mozzarella comes from Italy’s Campania region.  Naples is it’s center.  The mozzarella dairy, or caseificio, La Fenice, near Presenzano, is one of our favorite haunts for fresh cheese.

We drive about an hour south of Rome and in we walk.  The smell of buffalo hangs like overripe raw meat in the yard outsidePaestum buffalo's - and do they make great mozzerella! by rubinsteins_in_spainbut inside the dairy is immaculate.  The centerpiece is a large, shallow vat with a hundred white balls of mozzarella bobbing like tennis balls in the milky water.  The finished product, room-temperature and gooey heaven.

A man in the back room is beginning a new batch.  I watch as buffalo milk is brought in and curdled.  The whey is separated and the curd is ground in a mill, then molded and placed in hot water, stirred and kneaded like bread until it is smooth and shiny.  Then, small pieces are pulled away and formed into balls and brined for a short time.  Mozzarella made in the morning is ready by dinner time.  Warm, soft, rich and fresh.

Sure, it’s good with tomatoes and basil and a drizzle of balsamicMaking pizza by borud; tossed with pasta and tomato sauce; on any thin crust pizzaHomemade Pizza - Making of a Dough God by Bumbling B.

But there is nothing like true, fresh, still-warm mozzarella, hand held by the one you love, melting on your tongue and into your memory as spring fades into summer.

Chow.

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