What Do Buffaloes Have to Do with Mozzarella?

The Dances with Wolves kind of buffaloes have nothing to do with it. What Americans call buffaloes are actually American bison and are members of a separate genus. True buffaloes, what we call the water buffalo, originated in south Asia and have been used as work animals in Italy since at least the Middle Ages, with farmers making cheese from their milk for centuries. Mozzarella was originally made from their milk and was widespread in southern Italy by the late 18th century. Most mozzarella is made from cow’s milk today, though water buffalo versions are still available. Anything called buffalo mozzarella is probably made from a combination of buffalo and cow milks, because the only requirement is that it contain some buffalo milk. However, if the label says Mozzarella di bufala campana (thanks to a European Union–granted Protected Designation of Origin), it must be made from 100 percent water buffalo milk and produced in the Campania region of Italy, which includes Naples and four surrounding provinces.

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