One of the good things about living in Puglia, apart from the weather, is that you can get the freshet handmade mozzarella at any small little “bottega” or artisan shops.
For Pugliese people, mozzarella is not just another example of cheese, but it belongs to the specific “mozzarella” category. When you go to a restaurant and you ask for some cheese, they will bring you to the table all the most amazing cheese you can think of: Pecorino, Parmigiano etc. But if you want a mozzarella, you need to specifically ask for: a “mozzarella”.
In Puglia there is a big tradition and culture around the mozzarella.
If you try the mozzarella in Puglia, you understand why. It has a high moisture content and is very tender and tasty. And it doesn’t matter if it is a buffalo mozzarella or a cow milk mozzarella (though, the one from Puglia is traditionally the cow milk mozzarella and we call it fior di latte). When you cut a piece of mozzarella with your fork and you have all the milk coming out….you start mouthwatering and you are just in paradise!
I believe the main reason why mozzarella is so good in Puglia is because lots of artisans still hand make the mozzarella, as opposed to using a machine. One of the best food experiences you can have is to eat a mozzarella a few minutes after it was handmade. Can it be any fresher than this?
Mozzarella belongs to the “pasta filata” cheese.
This means that after the milk is curdled, the mozzarella is stretched and kneaded until it gets very soft. The interesting thing is that the artisan stretches the mozzarella dough with his hands and a wooden spoon. However, this is not as painless as when you make a pizza or bread: the mozzarella dough is submerged in VERY HOT water (which can go up to 90°C
). So for sure it’s not something for those who have delicate hands and skin!
Mozzarella in Puglia is made from cow milk
, whereas in the Naples region, it is made from buffalo milk. When I was little I was told that cow is lighter than buffalo milk. I am not completely sure this is true, but it has always given me a good excuse to eat double portion of mozzarella.
Many times I pointed out that Puglia has many different culinary traditions
. The size of the handmade pasta, the way we make the focaccia, the flour we use for bread and pasta, the way we name dishes, may all change from town to town, even if they are just a few miles apart.
Of course this also applies to the mozzarella. When you are talking about mozzarella in the Bari area (the Northern part of Puglia) you are certainly referring to the burrata
. Burrata is a mozzarella which has inside a mix of cream and mozzarella.
In the Lecce area (Southern part of Puglia), instead, it is very rare to find the burrata and it is not very common for the local people to eat it. In Lecce, locals would eat the simplest and tasty fior di latte mozzarella made from cow milk. The fior di latte comes in many different shapes: the small nodini (knods
), the beautiful trecce (braids
) and the wonderful and huge “bombe” (YES! It means bombs!..because of their size).
All artisans say that handmade mozzarella can last up to one week. I never succeeded with this sort of experiment because I always finished my mozzarella in the same day it was made. However, if you want to keep the mozzarella for more days, put it in a bowl and cover it with milk!
That’s the secret!
Have you ever tried a mozzarella from Puglia? How much mozzarella were you able to eat? (including the one you stole from your friend’s plate!)