Mozzarella is one of the most popular cheeses in the world. In fact, it is the most consumed cheese in the world. It’s everywhere and made all around the globe, but it wasn’t always this way. The cheese had to start somewhere. Read on to find out just how the king of cheeses was born.
The myth and the reality
Legend has it that Mozzarella was born when cheese curds accidentally fell into a pail of hot water in a cheese factory near Naples. There have been many kinds of cheese that have been created by accident. Though a great story, the chances are that this is an urban legend. What is certain is that the Campania region (where Naples nestles) is probably where Mozzarella was first made. Professor Stefano Del Prato writes “It is derived ” from the need to transform milk quickly into cheese, as the poor storage conditions dictated it. Through the process of heating and hot spinning, the acidity is reduced. The resulting curds were then formed by hand into Mozzarella. This process was the largest contribution that Italy has given to the dairy industry in recent years.
The spinning is the process that allows a small number of curds, taken to high temperature, to become plastic and ready to be pulled in one continuous filament, usually longer than one meter and then formed into various forms of Mozzarella.”
The oldest mention of Mozzarella is in a document from the Papal Court, which was written by a chef there in the 16th century. There are older mentions as far back as the 12th Century which documents Benedictine Monks from San Lorenzo in Capua creating cheese for religious holidays. This cheese was called “Mozza” which means by tradition.
The monks settled in Capua in 811 CE after their protectorate, the Duke of Benevento was defeated in a war in 810 CE. The monks who survived fled their base at San Vincenzo al Vilturno and settled in Capua. They founded the San Lorenzo monastery. This is where the town of Aversa is today – a town now known for its production of Buffalo Mozzarella.
It seems that the secrets of Mozzarella production made their way south to Campania from Molise, where cow’s milk Mozzarella is made today. Buffalo were introduced to Italy by Goths in the 13th century and were mainly in the Campania region. Various historical documents how that Mozzarella made with Cow’s milk is a tradition that goes back to Molise.
What is clear is that today Buffalo Mozzarella is associated with the Campania region. Mozzarella di Bufala Campana has had controlled destination of origin status since 1993 and since 1996 has been protected under the EU’s Protected Destination of Origin. Today Mozzarella di Bufala Campana can only be made in Campania, Lazio, Apulia and Molise.
Buffalo Mozzarella is a €300 million industry, producing 33,000 tonnes of the stuff every year. Buffalo milk is more prized for Mozzarella production because it produces more cheese. A tonne of buffalo milk produces 24kg of cheese, compared to 13kg from cow’s milk. This is due to buffalo milk containing nearly twice the amount of milk solids. It’s no wonder there are rumours of the mafia offering protection rackets for buffalo herds!
Here is how Mozzarella is made today: