Posted: 01/02/2022

Buffalicious is converting consumers to the taste of mozzarella made the Italian way

When star mozzarella-maker Maurizio Vozzolo visited London last year to provide consultancy to an upmarket pizza restaurant, Jon Corpe couldn’t resist sending a speculative DM on Instagram. 

The Somerset farmer, who has a herd of 260 buffaloes and makes raw milk mozzarella under the Buffalicious brand, wondered whether he could tempt Vozzolo down to the farm near Yeovil to share his expertise from a long career as a globe-trotting consultant. 

The Italian ‘mastro casaro’ (master cheesemaker) was happy to oblige. The only problem was the language barrier.

“We had to communicate through Google Translate, but I learned so much just by watching,” says Corpe. “Small changes we learned from him have made a big difference to the cheese, from changing the temperature of the room and how we cut the curd to how we stretch the mozzarella and the brine solution we use.”

Corpe’s father first bought buffalo in the late 1990s when milk prices were so low that he decided to diversify from traditional dairy farming, initially selling the meat at local farmers’ markets. “He would sell out in an hour-and-a-half, which was a new and refreshing experience. Selling direct and getting paid in cash was a real eye-opener.”

Inevitably, customers would ask about the milk, which the farm started to bottle and turn into ice cream. Corpe began cheesemaking in 2019 and was soon attracting people tired of the rubbery balls found in the multiples. 

“What we make is completely different to what most people are used to,” he says. “Our cheese has really nice sweetness and lactic acidity, plus a silky, elastic texture, rather than being just soft. There’s nowhere to hide when it comes to making good mozzarella.”

Watching Corpe delicately break up the curd to maintain moisture and softness, and expertly spinning and stretching it by hand in 95°C water, it’s clear that a light touch is key. But so is freshness, he explains.

“In Italy, cheesemakers start at 3am and people are queuing at the dairy door at 9am to get it as fresh as possible. When mozzarella is freshly made it’s stringy and fabulously warm and milky. That milkiness lessens after two or three days and it becomes softer and creamier. Our cheeses have a 14-day shelf-life and by that point, they are almost like burrata – very soft in the middle, but with enough of a skin to hold together.”

To ensure freshness, Buffalicious sells through its own farm shop and delivers direct to local customers, including The Pig Hotel group, Durslade Farm Shop and the Bristol Cheesemonger. Some shops collect from the farm and there have also been talks about distribution with wholesalers.

“Our cheese needs to be handled carefully and reach people when it’s fresh, so it’s not going to work with wholesalers who see it as just another product that gets added to a list.”

Some retailers are wary of short shelf-life cheeses, but there is a strong market for fresh, buffalo mozzarella, says Corpe. 

“Durslade started with 10 balls of mozzarella and grew to doing 50 a week last summer and we couldn’t keep up with demand,” he says. “Once customers tasted it they were converted because it’s so different to the white balls of gloop they are used to from the supermarkets.”

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