You probably think that I’m only writing about Buffalo milk cheese out of love for my hometown, Buffalo, NY. While that does influence me slightly… I’m actually completely blown away by this fantastic and unique buffalo milk cheese from Quattro Portico in Lombardy, Italy.
When we think of Buffalo milk cheeses, we usually think of Buffalo Mozzarella. Buffalo – and these are water buffalo, not the wild west kind – are typically raised only in southern Italy (think Rome and Naples). Monks were even writing about milk from the massive creatures back in the 12th century. However, Alfio and Bruno Gritti made the unusual decision just a few years ago to bring them up north, to Lombardy.
The Gritti brothers took over their father’s farm in 2005, at which point it was mostly a cow dairy operation. The brothers made a slow transition into buffalo milk over the next few years, and their current creations are new to the marketplace.
Quattro Portoni (named for the 13th-century gates into their moat-encirled town of Cologno al Serio) is a self-sustaining farm. The Gritti brothers grow crops to feed their buffalo, as well as using spent barley from the beer producer down the road; they breed and calf the animals; then milk and make cheese from them. It’s rare to find an operation that is so integrated and holistic. And the cheeses are unique and delicious to boot! Quattro Portoni makes 25 different types of cheese, but because water buffalo produce half as much milk as cows, it makes them slightly difficult to obtain.
Moringhello di Bufala, aged for 2-4 months, is a semi-firm, moist, flaky round of goodness. Its basket-aging is evident in the pattern imparted to the natural rind, which is edible if you like (though I prefer not to).
Surprisingly, the flavor of this cheese is nothing like mozzarella di bufala – instead, it’s grassy, bright, and lemony, with a slight lactic tang on the finish. It is full-flavored while not overwhelmingly rich – a perfect autumn treat. Pair with a rich white, such as the Piedmontese Arneis; or even better, an earthy, cherried Valpolicella from Veneto – both regions being Northern Italian neighbors. A fruit mostarda or peppery jam would be a nice accompaniment to sample alongside as well. Moringhello di Bufala, along with other cheeses from the fascinating Quattro Portico, can be found at Murrays Cheese.