Guest blog by Adam S. Thompson, Head Cheesemaker & Partner at OroBianco Italian Creamery (Texas, USA)
I've waited a long time to learn the art of pasta filata. After 15 years of making "mozzarella" or something in that genre, I can finally say I actually know how to make traditional pasta filata cheeses, using water buffalo milk, as it was intended to be produced.
My name is Adam S. Thompson, and I'm the head cheesemaker and partner at OroBianco Italian Creamery — the one and only water buffalo dairy and creamery in Texas. I've been making cheese for over 15 years, with my first one being a quick method mozzarella, using citric acid and store bought milk. Before the buffalo, I had a goat dairy and made an array of cheeses and yogurts from their milk. I've also made sheep and cow milk cheeses at a couple of other operations, and trained in Mexico City on Oaxaca cheese — a pasta filata cheese, but made in a completely different fashion.
I joined the team at OroBianco in September of 2021, however, I had been doing some testing of the milk as early as March of 2021. For the past year, I've made a couple of decent products that somewhat resemble mozzarella, but never could get the texture and flavor of what we really wanted — an authentic buffalo mozzarella, that oozes the milky water out when you bite into it. Made and served fresh and meant to be eaten almost immediately.
While Covid restrictions were preventing me from taking this course, Erica Jarman of Sapori & Saperi helped me as much as possible from afar, even getting a Zoom class going with the former head cheesemaker at Prime Querce farm and dairy. She had also been telling me that I needed to see the process and experience it firsthand to really understand it.
I’ve attempted the mozzarella at least 50 times over the last year, sometimes pushing into the morning sunrise, trying to accomplish this cheese making process. Time and time again, I would get a nice cheese, but not the mozzarella we were aiming for. Finally, in October 2022, I arrived in Campania, Italy, to take the course.
The class was the most educational course I’ve ever received in such a short amount of time. I think it helped I had been trying and failing, as I had many questions to be answered and walls to get over. Any time I had a question, no matter how small or off-topic to the current stage, Erica would wait for the cheesemaker to finish what he was talking about, and field my questions to him.
We trained at two different dairies, Chirico and Prime Querce. Each place had its own methods and variations for the different pasta filata cheeses, but the basics were more or less the same. The cheese making facilities were full of passionate people, who would move like ants at times, in a synchronized, and super-speed fashion at times. I was allowed to make a complete batch at one facility, then work on all of the different stages at another, in the midst of normal production. I had no question left unanswered after this course.
The mozzarella and pasta filata training here was incredible, but there was much more to this course. We also had the pleasure of being accompanied by a very talented sommelier, and did nightly wine tasting, and went to dine at some of the finest establishments I’ve ever eaten at. Some were embellished with gold trim and crystals, serving high-grade steaks, and some were little hidden gems, with the morning’s fresh catch served in unique presentations. We even had a “dinner with friends” where one of the B and B owners invited some locals, and we dined family style in the living room.
The entire course was very organized and maintained on a sometimes very strict schedule, and this ensured we were always where we needed to be to learn, and visit the extracurricular, planned activities. Everything was purposeful and useful to bring these skills back to Texas and incorporate into my cheesemaking, as well as bringing information about the water buffalo themselves back to the dairy.
To anyone wanting to learn the art of pasta filata, this course is a must-take. You won’t call one of these places directly and get a class, and you won’t find these courses online, or marketed on some big cheese website. Most places are very secretive, or do not want to waste the time teaching other people how to make this classic cheese.
The food alone is worth the cost of the course, in my opinion. Of course my focus was always on the cheese making, but the course being completely submerged in the culture, and getting to taste different foods, and wines, from around the terroir left me with an elevated sense of inspiration. The people there were very welcoming, and passionate about their trade. Not only have I finally locked down the mysteries of mozzarella, but found myself returning home and making my own tomato sauce, gnocchi, and other classic Italian dishes for my family.
If you’re “stretching” mozzarella at home or for a dairy/cheesemaking facility, you’re likely doing it wrong. True mozzarella only takes the perfect curd, and almost boiling water, and it “spins” together almost effortlessly. The mozzarella should make you take a step back when biting, so the beautiful, milky whey doesn't get all over you.
So break out the pocket-book, book this course, and get a class that will give you all the tools you need to make mozzarella, as well as fill you with inspiration and the Italian culture that makes this cheese what it is.
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