24 Mar 2016

Milk for Mozzarella

From Country Life, 9:36 pm on 24 March 2016

A herd of horned beasts provides milk for Methven cheese makers.

Water buffalo dairy herds are extremely common in many parts of the world, in fact in India and Pakistan buffaloes produce more milk than cattle. In southern Italy, where buffaloes have roamed for centuries, a large amount of mozzarella cheese is made from the milk of this stocky, dark haired animal.

In New Zealand buffaloes are an uncommon sight. In the South Island there's only one commercial herd and it's tucked away on an isolated property near the foothills of the Southern Alps.

Lucy Appleton and Christo Keijzer brought the core of the dairy herd over from Australia several years ago and have been building it up on their 40 hectare farm ever since. Now it numbers over fifty 50 and their milking buffaloes produce five to six litres of milk a day each. The milk has 100% more fat than cow's milk.

This year they have more healthy calves on the ground.

"We keep the girls and hand feed them so they're nice and calm and the boys we usually move onto a farm park or they go to somebody who wants to eat them in the future" says Christo.

Lucy, who has studied cheese making in Italy, uses the milk to make Mozzarella, halloumi, ricotta and yogurt in a custom made cheese room beside the milking shed. She believes the mozzarella should be consumed within a few days of being made.

"I think in Italy they'd be shocked if you tell them in New Zealand we eat two, three or four week old mozzarella. It's like fish it's beast eaten today and maybe tomorrow but the day after it starts to degrade."

Lucy and Christo sell their fresh Wairiri Water Buffalo mozzarella and other produce at farmers' markets in Christchurch.

Another buffalo mozzarella tip: fresh mozzarella should never be used in cooking as its delicate flavours and texture will be overwhelmed by the other ingredients.

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