Fresh mozzarella made in Québec with water buffalo milk—just like it has been made in Italy since the 12th century—is now available to cheese lovers in Ontario.
Élevages Buffalo Maciocia, home of the largest water-buffalo herd in Canada, has teamed with Fromagerie Polyethnique to make its Buffalo Mozzarella by hand and with Off The Bone Meat Products to distribute the cheese to retailers, such as Scheffler’s Delicatessen & Cheese at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, the same day or next day.
Mozzarella di bufala is at its best within two or three days of production. It’s soft and elastic and delicious from Day One but seems to gain buttery flavour by the second or third day.
Élevages Buffalo Maciocia first entered the Québec market and then Ontario with its Bufala Yogurt, a richer yogurt than what’s made with cow’s milk. It now also offers Bufala Majestic, a semi-firm ripened cheese with a mixed rind that’s made by Lucille Giroux at Fromagerie Moutonnière. We fell in love with Majestic when we sampled it at Rendez-vous Gourmet Québec in Toronto on Monday. Creamy, with lots of character and a pinch of saltiness.
Élevages Buffalo Maciocia, located in Saint Charles sur Richelieu one hour northeast of Montréal, imported 285 water buffalo from Vermont in 2009. Since then, the herd has grown to 500 head with 150 giving milk at any time.
Louis Hébert, who manages the cheese operation for the Maciocia family, points out that water buffalo produce milk “rich in fat and protein which is very tasty and can be tolerated by many lactose intolerant people.”
It took five years to develop the water buffalo herd and the process of making the mozzarella the way owner Mario Maciocia wanted it to taste. Much trial and error, experts and equipment from Italy, and $300,000 from the federal and Quebec government helped make it happen.
The Maciocia mozzarella is not the first produced in Québec—the vast majority of the milk produced is still bought by the giant Saputo for factory processing—but Maciocia offers a hand-crafted product. The cheese is stretched and spun by hand, delivered to the consumer within 24 to 48 hours. The production happens Wednesday to Friday, destined for sale in delicatessens, cheese shops and restaurants from Thursday to Sunday.
As is the case with cheese curds, freshness is one of the best guarantees of quality.
“There is nothing like eating a mozzarella made in the morning,” says Mario Maciocia, something that is not possible with even the fastest transport plane from Italy.
The challenge of immediate distribution was not insurmountable, according to Louis Hébert. After all, Québecers already have experience in the field of rapid distribution of fresh products, thanks to the popularity of cheese curds. For both curds and mozza, quality is directly proportional to the time that elapses between the moment the cheese is made and when it arrives on your table.