Cheese making in Italy has long been an art form. It’s popularity has led to the development of many artisanal stylings, from the fresh and simple buffalo mozzarella to the more complex pecorino cheese or robiola. The craftsmanship behind these cheeses is matched by a centuries-old tradition that tells of how cheese was originally created by cappa magna (big cap), a rennet made from goat stomach lining, wild herbs and honey. Because of the need to stay within the bounds of lactose tolerance and the increasing cost, some cheeses were spiked with other ingredients. Instead of using cow’s milk, italian producers turned towards buffalo milk.
One of the most common examples is Romansh stracchino or “struzzito”, which is a mild cow’s-milk cheese from Switzerland’s Valais region traditionally made from buffalos’ milk with a recipe consistent across Valais. One of the most famous cheeses all over Italy is made from buffalo milk, called Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, or simply mozzarella. It’s a fresh soft cheese that is creamed, kneaded and stretched by hand. The real mozzarella di bufala is made exclusively from buffalo milk, while the rest of the world can only make theirs with cow’s milk. The quality of the cheese depends on the skill of the maker.
In the last couple of decades, many Italians have found that a big demand for artisanal cheeses has grown in Italy and has led to a large-scale production. By now, diverse artisan cheese makers are evolving and innovating their processes and equipment to meet their customers’ demands. Recipes and methods have changed too as new technologies have been incorporated. Use of wooden boards, and moulds will be replaced by better machines that allow greater control over production process. With these changes, the Italian cheese industry has been able to stay competitive in international markets.
In Italy, the typical season for cheese is from June to September when there is enough fresh milk for making cheese and fresh buffalo mozzarella can be obtained easily. However, this time frame is also an indication of some other factors as well. It’s a time when people have more free time to enjoy life and spend with their family, or friends that they haven’t seen in a while. The majority of the population is away from work, and it is a good time for them to read a book, travel or go camping. During this period, hotels and restaurants won’t be so busy because there are fewer customers on the streets.
There are many varieties of Italian cheeses that people can enjoy, but for most Italians it’s about eating fresh cheese made from buffalo milk. A hard cheese like pecorino cheese can be eaten in its whole form after grating or any other way you like it. However, soft bufala mozzarella is something to savor when it’s fresh out of the oven and oozing out of a cone or a bowl. It needs to be consumed immediately because the cheese dries quickly and gets hard if left uncovered in air. It’s possible to keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours, but it won’t last long.