What I did in Naples – Mozzarella Factory Tour

A portrait of the Water Buffalo that hung in the small family store.  Tribute to their source of income.

A portrait of the Water Buffalo that hung in the small family store. Tribute to their source of income.

That morning started out much better than the dash about going to Capri Morning. Got up in time to have coffee and breakfast before heading off to the Mozzarella factory. Walking to the meeting point I saw I was going to be about 5 minutes late but since it was a bus not a boat I wasn’t worried.

As I walked up to the four bulletin boards on the left side of the road to the base at the airport cul de sac I saw a very diswraught woman talking with a traffic cop. She was sobbing and speaking in broken Italian. she asked me in good southern American English if I spoke Italian. I said no. She wailed. Aldo showed up to help. It seems she was making the turn to the base road when someone hit the bumper of her car. She got out to see the damage and talk to the person. The traffic cop having been all the way on the other side of the cul de sac headed her direction. The former driver of the other car threw her to the ground and hopped into her car. Both cars roared off with her purse and all her ID papers inside. She works at this base, lives at the support site, and drives the commute daily. Aldo helped as he could call the base police and the traffic cop called the rapid response team. So Aldo came to me once the lady was tended. Seems it was some Romani (gypsies) they do this sort of thing periodically and when the heat gets too much they move on. Aldo said “Napoli can be dangerous never relax here, alway be on guard outside your gates there.” Pointing to the base gates. “I go to London to relax where I am safe with all the video, that is the only hope here, since she doesn’t know her tag number, is that the airport or the Americans have it on video.” I’m guessing her vechicle registragion with the base will have it too. The base police were very nice and one rapid response Poliza fetched her tea to calm her as they sat her in the car and the two departments worked out who would do what.

My first dinner out Mike insisted I try Buffalo Mozzarella.  It was as good as he said it was.

My first dinner out Mike insisted I try Buffalo Mozzarella. It was as good as he said it was.

 

After that excitement the bus came it was 8:25 (yeah be out there at 7:45 bus departs at 8). So over to the support site to pick up more of the tour group. I felt very special having a full luxury bus with tv and all just for me. Once we picked up the group it was off into the country side while Aldo filled us in on what we were going to see.

The family farm house where we toured the buffalo mozzarella making.

The family farm house where we toured the buffalo mozzarella making.

It is here I have to back up a bit. Our only dinner out in Naples Mike ordered buffalo mozzarella saying I had to try it. It is served with panchetta. He didn’t know what the story was or why it was called buffalo but only it is unpasteurized fresh cheese and wonderfully delicious. He was right, it was wonderfully delicious. That is what I went to see made on the tour, that cheese.

The curd cake as it developed

The curd cake as it developed

Now back to Aldo on the bus giving us the intro to what we were going to see. He answered why buffalo mozzarella – the mozzarella here is made with water buffalo milk. Yes it is a naturally swampy region and the Etruscans trading with those in India got water buffalo for their swampy land and they have been here ever since. That’s about 5,000 years or so. Where we were going was a small family farm where they make cheese and meats from water buffalo.

After working the curd Master Pepe tests it.

After working the curd Master Pepe tests it.

There we saw the process and learned a bit about cultivating water buffalo. We had to wait while the milk fermented into curd after adding the rennet. The cowman talked. Water buffalo give about 10 liters per day in two milkings compared to about 30 liters per day in dairy cows for two milkings. They are now using selective breeding with artificial insemination to try to get the production up. However those who do not make the cut make the meat he said. It is hard right now as they are in a drought and the animals need swamp land. If not in swampy land you have to keep spraying them and covering them with mud to keep them healthy. So he said he felt he was raising Kobi beef massaging his heard daily with a mud pack.

Our lovely clean room attire.  Hair nets and green boots.

Our lovely clean room attire. Hair nets and green boots.

Then the curd was tested. Master Pepe who is a cheese master (nothing to sneeze at I learned at a Wisconsin dairy making seminar) takes some curd mashes it out and pulls it to see if it was soft and would drop like strings from a small wooden paddle. It did then came the mixing and the mozz-ing or cutting.

Oh I didn’t mention we all looked cute in our hair net and big green disposable boots standing around the clean room watching. The curds were removed and whey poured off. Then the curds were cut and chopped. They were put in a large metal bowl. They poured water heated one degree less than boiling (in Celsius of course) over the curds. Master Pepe took two plastic paddles, he bemoaned the fact that due to regulation they can no longer use wood as was traditional. Plastic doesn’t have the same feel as wood to tell when to pour off to cut.

Mater Pepe and his apprentices working to smooth the curd.

Mater Pepe and his apprentices working to smooth the curd.

He starts doing this crisscross like arm movements as the assistants add water and the curds string and form a nice dough. He looked like a stage magician over a smoking cauldron. Once it is ready they poured out half the ball and put it through a machine to make mozzarella balls of bite size, 1/4 kilo, 1/2 kilo, and 1 kilo. The balls dropped into a cold water bath to set them. Then they did the other half in the traditional way by hand. Pepe showed he could cut off and form the right measurement by feel. It was impressive. Then the balls were taken to the brine room, There they put into a mix of whey, mineral water, and salt. They sit floating there for several hours. Then they are packaged with the brine water and shipped or sold.

Mozzarella gets its name from the Italian word mozz meaning to cut.  Here is the modern way of cutting by machine.

Mozzarella gets its name from the Italian word mozz meaning to cut. Here is the modern way of cutting by machine.

We all exited the room doffing as we went. My expert doffing of my green boot covers got a comment from one lady. “How did you do that so quick and get it inside out?” I laughed and said years of working in radiological waste industry. She decided she’s rather learn it making cheese.

Here is the traditional way of cutting (mozz) by hand.  Amazingly Master Pepe could by feel make perfect  1/4 Kilo, 1/2 kilo, and 1 kilo balls of cheese.

Here is the traditional way of cutting (mozz) by hand. Amazingly Master Pepe could by feel make perfect 1/4 Kilo, 1/2 kilo, and 1 kilo balls of cheese.

Lunch was a spread of fresh baked bread that kept coming (yes they FORCED me to eat a loaf that’s my story and I’m sticking with it in grand Capri table 9 tradition) We had buffalo mozzarella made that morning, buffalo ricotta, sheep ricotta with red pepper, goat feta. The meats were all buffalo Napoli Salami, prochetta, pruchetta, Sicilian salami, and roasted bestia (roast beast remember beouf is pork for some reason). Of course there was olive oil from the grove down the road, tomatoes from their garden, balsamic vinegar from down the road, and fresh chopped herbs. Upon our departure we were given one kilo of mozzarella from that morning’s batch (before we got there ours was still in the brine), a 1/4 kilo of Napoli salami and a loaf of bread still warm from the big brick oven. We were given instructions from Aldo and Pepe. Do not refrigerate any of this! Meat is preserved enough will last two days sliced in a cover container on counter, cheese keep in brine until you want to eat for three days on counter, bread eat today!

The mozzarella in the brine soak.

The mozzarella in the brine soak.

Then back to the support base. There I was approached by Aldo who asked if I would mind riding to Capo in a car. I said no so the driver took Aldo and me to the Capo base in a Navy car.

This is how you take home buffalo mozzarella.  It comes in a cooler still in the brine, leave it soaking until you want some.

This is how you take home buffalo mozzarella. It comes in a cooler still in the brine, leave it soaking until you want some.

Once at the base gate I follow a very nervous guy who was getting directions to the base inn from the guard. I said I was going that way so he could walk with me. Once my ID was checked we set off for the walk to the inn. He is here from Huntsville Alabama (read that in your best Forrest Grump drawl) He is an electrical engineer here working on a project for the Navy. He’s never been here before and thought I walked fast. ME! The slow and steady plodder.

Here's fresh buffalo mozzarella torn for eating. Tear don't cut if you want to be Etruscan about it.

Here’s fresh buffalo mozzarella torn for eating. Tear don’t cut if you want to be Etruscan about it.

I got back in time to do a load of laundry and read some. Mike rolled in later and we made dinner from my farm take along with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar I got at the exchange when I got back to go with the bread.

I wished I could get this at home.  But alas our government regulations do not allow unpasteurized cheese.  Which is what this is and why 3 days is its limit.  For buffalo mozzarella the key is fresh made.  Also there’s not a lot of water buffalo herds here in the US.  Sadly for us we miss out on this delicious treasure.

But being in Wisconsin a state that loves cheeses I was pleased to learn that our local grocery made fresh mozzarella in the Italian tradition.  Now granted they keep to our regulations.  It’s made with pasteurized milk, not fresh milked that day. It’s refrigerated and not sold in brine though it does get a brine soak before being vacuum packed in plastic.  Now it’s good cheese, damn fine cheese that’s reminiscent of the great buffalo mozzarella but it’s not quite the same.  It’ll do until I get to the Amalfi coast again.  Actually as I type this there’s some in my fridge right now that was made Sunday.  Also our bakery in the same grocery makes garlic asiago Roma bread.  That’s in the house too with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  The secret to good food the Italians reminded me is fresh, fresh, fresh!

Next week’s post is the Naples Underground.  Oh and as always want to see more photos click on the ones here that take you over to my Flickr account and there’s more of the whole process there.  Enjoy!

4 thoughts on “What I did in Naples – Mozzarella Factory Tour

  1. I am so sorry to insist, but i am travelling to italy next week… Did you find Out the name of the factory? Best regards,

    Joao Pedro

    • No problem it just slipped my mind when I got home but am home now so looked it up. Now the tour I took was arranged by the recreation department of the US Navy base in Naples. It was Caseificio F. LL I Capo zip phone 338 1312636. I can send you a photo of their business card if you like. I will need an email address.

    • I am sorry but have been out of the country again. I don’t remember off the top of my head. I will find my travel journal and look it up for you. Sorry to take so long to reply and not have an answer yet! But I’m working on it!

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