History of Mozzerella cheese

water buffalo

Water Buffalo milk was the original milk for making mozzarella

Mozzarella is most commonly made with cows milk here in the US. It can also made with goats milk as well. But it didn’t start out with either of those. In Italy it is made with milk from a water buffalo which is the richest creamiest flavor of all because it has the highest butterfat in it.  You can NOT buy water buffalo milk here in the states (how the hell do you milk a water buffalo anyways, even if it is domestic?!!) Mozzarella made with water buffalo milk is called buffala mozzarella. Buffala means female water buffalo. I learned how to make mozzarella with cow’s milk and goats milk because I want it for my Caprese salad with my homegrown tomatoes that I’m growing.

The history of mozzarella starts with the water buffalo and how it came to Italy. How and when the animals arrived in Italy is the source of some debate. Some say it was introduced by Arab invasions, others say it was introduced by the Normans from Sicily and still others say that India was the source. What we do know is that they began to be raised in the 12th century, at a time when many peasants, fleeing war and invasions, abandoned their land. That land turned marshy, which is exactly what water buffalo like. “In ancient times, the buffalo was a familiar sight in the countryside, since it was widely used in ploughing compact and watery terrains, both because of its strength and the size of its hooves, which did not sink too deeply into moist soils” (wikipedia). 

References to cheese products made from water buffalo milk appeared for the first time at the beginning of the twelfth century. Buffalo mozzarella became widespread throughout the south of Italy from the second half of the eighteenth century on.

mozzarelaSeveral centuries later, northern Italy became concerned about cleaning up the marshlands, and in 1930, the south began a massive agrarian reform. The herds of water buffalo dwindled. Cow’s milk began to replace bufala milk in the recipe. Then, in 1940 the Nazis destroyed the remaining herds.

After the war, water buffalo imported from India were reintroduced to Italy, but the cheese introduced to North America by Italian immigrants in New York at the turn of the 20th century and in Canada around 1949 was made with cow’s milk probably because they couldn’t get buffala milk.

You can find pre-made buffala mozzarella at Trader’s Joes and I highly recommend you try it for comparison although it is expensive.