Mozzerella di Bufala 


La Buffala 

I once made the mistake of saying Mozzerella di bufalo rather than bufala and was teased that male water buffaloes don’t make milk!  The teasing was playful and part of the language learning curve but I haven’t made that mistake again. Today was all about mozzarella di bufala, tangy and moist it almost squeaks between your teeth.  Founded in 1988 by Antonio Palmieri, and certified organic since 1996,  Tenuta Vannulo near Paestum in the region of Campania does a booming business.  His water buffaloes are fed organically and are only treated with homeopathic medicine.  Their products, made fresh every morning, are best consumed the day they are made. They don’t have a long shelf life.  Creamy ricotta, gelato, yogurt and a tasty chocolate  spread, (think Nutella but better) are also made with this sweetish, high fat delicious milk.  Their products are not exported, not even to shops in the area. Everything is made and sold from the farm and loads of people both tourists and locals, arrive daily to eat in their restaurant and bar and take their goodies home.
These animals are treated very well.  This is not true of all buffalo farms!  The farm is as modern as it comes.   The cows, when lactating, live in spacious, open air stables that are cleaned five times every day.  They listen to a couple of hours of Mozart early every morning and have  access to brushes that spin when they need their backs scratched. They look the brushes you would find in a car wash.

I have an itch…ahhh!

The animals have one responsibility, to make good milk.  In order to do this they need to rest and eat. They are fed with an organic mix of corn, peas, alfalfa and grass.  When it’s hot outside (it gets very hot here) they have a sprinkler that showers them lightly with water as they eat.  Water buffaloes lactate for roughly 280 days a year and will have up to 15 calves during their lifetime.  There are around 600 animals at Vannulo, 200 lactating females at any given time and 8 “lucky bulls” as our guide Stefania says.  When they aren’t lactating, or “working,” the Buffaloes are left to graze in the fields surrounding the caseificio (cheese farm).

I’d like a shower please.

The milking machines really are state of the art. Made by a Swedish company, DeLaval, everything is done automatically. Each animal has a chip. When their udder is full, these smart animals make their way to the milking machine.  They are usually milked 3 times per day and produce about 6 gallons (not a lot) of milk daily.  The milking process only takes a few minutes. Once the cow enters the milking area, her teats are washed and the machine attaches itself to her udder. Once milked she goes back into the resting/eating zone. 
We also get to see how the cheese is made, but only from a window.  Cleanliness is important so as the workers turn the milk into cheese and yogurt we watch from outside. The cheese that they are tearing into balls is very hot and this tank is filled with cold water…I’m getting hungry!

Terracotta olive oil jars in front of the villa.

After visiting the farm it’s time to eat. Vannulo has a beautiful new dining room for individuals who drop in or call ahead. We are lucky enough to be behind a bougainvillea covered villa on the back patio today. 
Lunch is simple and delicious. Crespelle (crepes) stuffed with buffalo ricotta and spinach, fresh baked olive bread and Fiano, a local white wine.  After the crespelle we are served a green salad and cherry tomatoes grown here at the farm dressed with local extra virgin olive oil, along with some fresh…what else…Mozzerella and ricotta cheese.

Simple and delicious!

After our cheese and salad we get to taste the yogurt, it is served in little glass jars and the portion is just right since we need to save room for dessert…

If you are lucky enough to be visiting Naples, the Greek ruins of Paestum (10 minutes away) or the Almafi Coast, and are brave enough to drive, put Tenuta Vannulo on your list of sights and call ahead if you would like a tour. It is most worthy of a visit!
Buon Viaggio!

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