Friday, October 1, 2010

The History of Mozzarella Cheese

Mozzarella cheese is a product which immediately turns our minds to Italy and the delicious pizza and pasta dishes the Italians have brought to us. It doesn’t necessarily make us think about the buffalo, which to most of us, is a very large animal that runs in herds and we know from our history books was hunted by the native American Indians for food and clothing. In our minds, we don’t often relate this wonderful fresh and delightful cheese with these animals.

Geographical Production of Mozzarella Cheese

The demand for this product continues to grow along with our interest and the increasing availability we have to international cuisines. It is now a $430 million a year industry, shipping 33,000 tons of their Mozzarella cheese product into the European Union countries and which is now expanding into Japan and Russia. The demand has raised so much that Mozzarella cheese is now produced in numerous countries throughout the world including the USA and the UK, but there is little doubt that the original birthplace was Averso, Caserta in Italy.

Italy with Bulgaria as a close second is widely recognized by the scientific community as the two best Mozzarella cheese producers in the world.

The Birth of Mozzarella Cheese

There are several theories, all of which are plausible, on how the buffalo came to be in Italy and how the subsequent production of Mozzarella cheese became a reality.

Perhaps the most widely known theory is that the Goths were responsible for the introduction of the buffalo to Italy towards the end of the Roman Empire rule. However, shortly after the end of the Roman Empire an outbreak of malaria caused the area to be cleared and it was not until the 18th century that people started to move back into the area. They were delighted to find that the buffalo had remained in the area and although now wild had multiplied during their absence. The buffalo soon became domesticated again and the milk from the buffalo was recognized as a suitable and profitable alternative to cow’s milk in the making of dairy products such as cheese and butter and the Mozzarella cheese industry known as Compania Cheese was born.

A second theory is that in the year 1000, the Normans brought the buffalo from Sicily into Italy and that Sicily had originally got them from the Arabs.

A third theory is that the Arabs introduced the buffalo into Mesopotamia and the pilgrims and crusaders brought them back to Europe and in particular Italy, following the Holy Wars.

A fourth theory put forward by archaeologists is that they have found fossil evidence which proves that the buffalo originated in Italy.

Whichever theory you choose to believe, the facts are that the buffalo being introduced and domesticated in the geographical area known as Averso, Caserta was responsible for the region becoming the main Mozzarella cheese production area in Italy. The production was and still is controlled by two main family producers and the region produces three main types of Mozzarella cheese.

• The first variety using the pasteurized buffalo milk;
• The second variety using the non-pasteurized buffalo milk (which is best eaten on the day of production as it is non-pasteurized);
• The third variety is using cow’s milk;

The constituents contained in the buffalo milk make it very rich and suitable for processing which takes four hours to complete the process from beginning to end. However, the production methods are still carried by hand make it very labor intensive, but the economies achieved by using the buffalo milk in place of cow’s milk make it cost effective for the producers.

For example, 1 pound of Mozzarella cheese requires roughly 8 pounds of cow’s milk, but only 5 pounds of buffalo milk is required for the same 1 pound of cheese. This benefit can also be achieved when producing butter ie. 1 pound of butter requires 14 pounds of cow’s milk, but only 10 pounds of buffalo milk.

Industry Growth

The industry has grown tremendously since its inception, which was as a small family business, whose original market was contained within a small area of Italy. Possibly the only health and safety regulations and food regulations which were recognized by the producers, were the ones they developed themselves, to ensure they didn’t poison their customers. The regulations were self-imposed because they relied on their reputation and repeat business to remain as a viable business.

Whereas, now it has now become a multi-million dollar industry and Mozzarella cheese producers are obliged to comply with all the various regulations on health and safety, food standards, employment legislation, etc as well as all the other red tape involved in producing a food product and getting it into the market place to sell. They also need to be aware and take account of the fact that different countries may have differing legislations which will affect their ability to sell into that market place.

Mozzarella cheese is fast becoming an everyday product in our supermarkets and stores and we expect to buy a quality product at a reasonable price and have it readily available when we want it. But how much though do we ever give to how it gets into our supermarket shelves or indeed what history lies behind the production of the Mozzarella cheese in the first place, or do we just take it home and enjoy it with our favorite recipes which are no longer restricted to the original Italian recipes of pizza and pasta dishes. The current day tends to experience different cuisines and to experiment more freely with our cooking have led to the inclusion of Mozzarella cheese in a much wider variety of dishes.

-Written by Ruslan K

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