Swiss Mozzarella?

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Ralph
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Swiss Mozzarella?

Post by Ralph » Mon Jun 12, 2006 6:18 am

From The New York Times

June 12, 2006
Schangnau Journal
Buffalo Milk in Swiss Mozzarella Adds Italian Accent
By JOHN TAGLIABUE

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SCHANGNAU, Switzerland — Hans Bieri's farm perches at the upper reaches of the Emmenthal, the steep alpine valley that gave the world Emmenthaler, the typical Swiss cheese with the holes in it. But Mr. Bieri, 56, a compact man with salt-and-pepper hair and beard, is at the heart of a project to produce the cheese that has become Switzerland's most popular: mozzarella.

The Swiss adore cheese. Last year, they ate about 43 pounds for each of the country's more than seven million citizens, compared with about 30 pounds for Americans. The unlikely leader of the pack was mozzarella, the creamy white soft cheese best made of water buffalo milk that most people associate more with Naples than Neuchâtel.

Mr. Bieri's acquaintance with mozzarella dates from 1992, when a young Romanian agriculture student, Miklos Laping, spent several months on his dairy farm. Mr. Bieri said he was most impressed by Mr. Laping's tales of the role the water buffalo played in Romanian farming — plowing fields, hauling burdens, providing milk to drink or to make cheese and meat to eat. On a trip to Romania two years later, Mr. Bieri saw the buffaloes for himself, and decided to import 15 of them, a steer and 14 cows, to make mozzarella.

Soon, Mr. Bieri's neighbors were admiring the big dark buffaloes, with their long curved horns, grazing side by side with the dairy cows on the rich green hilly pastures of his 70-acre dairy farm.

He lauds the buffalo's rich milk, which has twice the fat content of the dairy cow's. "The highest fat content we've measured is 12 percent," he said. "That's coffee cream."

Yet the step from the arrival of the first buffalo to that of the first pound of mozzarella was long and tedious.

Shortly after the buffaloes arrived, five of them — the steer and four cows — were found to have red nose, a deadly bovine virus, and had to be slaughtered. On top of that, the recipe for mozzarella that Mr. Bieri and his friends had downloaded from the Internet for use in their venture produced cheese that was almost inedible.

It was at this point, in about 2000, that the cheese makers of Schangnau, Mr. Bieri included, departed for Italy in what he described as a bit of "industrial espionage" to learn the craft of making mozzarella at the source.

"In Italy, they treated us like kings," said Michael Jaun, a Schangnau cheese maker who was part of the Swiss delegation. "At 4 a.m. they picked us up at our hotels with taxis. They were very open."'

Well, almost. But, he said, "They didn't tell us everything." The Swiss stuck with it, though, and by the summer of 2000 they had gotten the recipe right.

At first Mr. Jaun and his fellow cheese makers did without machines. "We stood around the table, five of us, and made the mozzarella balls by hand," said Mr. Jaun, 29. "One was 100 grams, another 500. Our distributors were not pleased. They wanted uniformity, and suggested we mechanize." Now, the mozzarella balls are rolled out by stainless steel machines small enough to fit in most kitchens.

Eventually, several cheese makers, including Mr. Jaun, were receiving regular deliveries of water buffalo milk from Mr. Bieri and transforming it into fluffy mozzarella. They sold it over the counter and to selected specialty food stores in Swiss cities, including Interlaken. They recently signed a deal with Emmi, a major Swiss food distributor that handles one-third of all the mozzarella sold in Switzerland.

In the meantime, major food makers, including Emmi, are using regular cow's milk to make less expensive mozzarella. But Mr. Bieri and his circle of friends see their product as appealing to genuine cheese lovers. "We see ourselves as a niche product," Mr. Jaun said.

Their success has turned tiny Schangnau, population 954, into the mozzarella capital of Switzerland, and mozzarella into the favorite Swiss cheese. To be sure, the lion's share of mozzarella consumed by the Swiss is made using cow's milk by big producers, like Emmi; but Schangnau remains the boutonniere on the lapel. "I had to laugh at the latest statistics," Mr. Jaun said, showing that each Swiss consumes roughly 12 pounds of mozzarella a year, more than any other cheese.

In a world of rising cheese consumption, there appears to be little envy of the mozzarella farmers among Switzerland's other cheese makers, most of whom are operating at capacity.

But it is a different story with Italy. "The Italians are not very happy over the fact that the Swiss are making mozzarella," said Francesca Heiniger, the spokeswoman for Switzerland Cheese Marketing, the organization in Bern that promotes Swiss cheeses abroad. The Italian name mozzarella di bufala is protected by law, so Mr. Bieri and his friends have adopted the German-Italian hybrid Büffelmozzarella.

The success of domestic Swiss mozzarella has cut into imports of mozzarella, which dropped in 2005 by 789 tons, Ms. Heineger's organization said. But the damage was suffered mainly by big Italian producers of cow's milk mozzarella, not the higher priced buffalo milk variety. Its sales to Switzerland soared last year.

"Exports of our cheese to Switzerland have doubled," said Gennaro Testa, an official of the National Consortium for the Protection of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, the group that promotes genuine buffalo milk mozzarella in the Naples area of Italy. In fact, he said, the success of Swiss mozzarella, "is a kind of promotion that we enjoy."
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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jun 12, 2006 10:49 am

I need something to do when I retire to upstate New York some years from now. Do you think yak milk would work too?

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Post by Ralph » Mon Jun 12, 2006 10:53 am

jbuck919 wrote:I need something to do when I retire to upstate New York some years from now. Do you think yak milk would work too?
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Yak chocolate milk, hard to obtain outside Ulan Bator, is a great drink.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jun 12, 2006 1:58 pm

Water buffalo!

Cripes! No one ever told me that! I always wondered how they got our plains buffalos over to Europe to produce cheese.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jun 12, 2006 1:59 pm

Anyone here a fan of Armenian String Cheese? I think that's a form of mozzarella. I love it. Can't get it here, of course.
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Ralph
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Post by Ralph » Mon Jun 12, 2006 2:07 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:Anyone here a fan of Armenian String Cheese? I think that's a form of mozzarella. I love it. Can't get it here, of course.
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Yes, it's fun to eat and very tasty.

There are NO gourmet food markets where you are? Or really good super-supermarkets?
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jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jun 12, 2006 2:12 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:Water buffalo!

Cripes! No one ever told me that! I always wondered how they got our plains buffalos over to Europe to produce cheese.
I don't know the details, but we should not confuse the peaceful domesticated European water buffalo, origin unkown (to me) with the African cape buffalo, commonly called water buffalo. That animal remains one of the most dangerous animals to an unwary person in the wild kingdom.

I have never heard whether the American bison produces cheese-worthy milk. I know it produces great meat (commonly available these days if you know where to look).

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Corlyss_D
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jun 12, 2006 2:27 pm

Ralph wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:Anyone here a fan of Armenian String Cheese? I think that's a form of mozzarella. I love it. Can't get it here, of course.
*****

Yes, it's fun to eat and very tasty.

There are NO gourmet food markets where you are? Or really good super-supermarkets?
No, damn it! The most exotic cheese I've seen so far is havarti and jarlsburg.

John, bison is readily available around here - it passes for gourmet food. I tried it with indifferent results. I liked one; didn't the other. Gimme a good prime rib over bison anytime.
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Ralph
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Post by Ralph » Mon Jun 12, 2006 3:34 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:Anyone here a fan of Armenian String Cheese? I think that's a form of mozzarella. I love it. Can't get it here, of course.
*****

Yes, it's fun to eat and very tasty.

There are NO gourmet food markets where you are? Or really good super-supermarkets?
No, damn it! The most exotic cheese I've seen so far is havarti and jarlsburg.

John, bison is readily available around here - it passes for gourmet food. I tried it with indifferent results. I liked one; didn't the other. Gimme a good prime rib over bison anytime.
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But bison prime rib is wonderful.
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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Albert Einstein

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