Is this perhaps the best Buffalo mozzarella outside of Italy? (2024)

Buffalo Farm Twente, found deep in the lush, green Dutch countryside on the Dutch German border, is a truly amazing farm. Headed up by husband and wife team, Alfons and Andra, these are food producers at the top of their game, producing cheese of the finest quality, arguably some of the best mozzarella outside of Italy.

I have loved this mozzarella cheese for a while now, and regularly purchase it on a Thursday from my local delicatessen in Enschede – leave it any later in the week and it is all sold out! So recently, I eventually managed to visit the farm, to see the wonderful buffalo, to meet these talented farmers and custodians, and to learn more about their story.

What it is that makes this mozzarella cheese so special, a cheese loved by so many?

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One of the nicest and most welcoming front of house teams around. You can see the love and dedication in their eyes when they talk – they really believe in their product, and it shows!

The Buffalo’s story

We all love buffalo mozzarella cheese so much1 that it is easy to overlook the fact that this cheese is actually produced by these immense and beautiful buffalo which we rarely see here in northern Europe, and are even something of a curiosity.

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The buffalo’s history and when did they arrive in Europe?

Buffalo arrived in Europe around the time of the Romans, most probably from Asia, and found their way to Italy where we now find the largest concentration of buffalo in Europe – currently around 400,000 buffalo on 2,200 farms, up from 40,000 in 1953. Most Italian buffalo are reared in and around the southwest region of Italy, Campania (Naples) and down to Puglia, home to the E.U. registered Mozzarella di Buffalo Campana D.O.P.

Italy has the perfect terrain for buffalo. Their ability to convert poor-quality roughage (food) into milk and meat much more efficiently than a standard dairy cow is perfectly suited to the harsher and and at times arid terrain of southern Italy. The dominant breed is the Mediterranean Italian breed, a river type buffalo, with a love of rolling in muddy, swampy water. Create a pool or lake for the buffalo and you have happy cows!

As the demand for mozzarella cheese continues to rise, the number of buffalo will undoubtably increase. The challenge for farmers, both in Italy and the rest of Europe, is to meet the high demand for milk in the summer when sales of mozzarella cheese peak. Farmers have to work with the buffalo’s natural cycle of milk production in an animal, more inclined to produce lots of milk in the winter instead of the summer when the demand for mozzarella cheese is higher.

Buffalo Farm Twente’s story

Alfons and Andra Westerhoff are natural farmers. Having started their business farming red and white holstein cows, they were faced with a dilemma when in 2015, the Dutch government said that the farm was not producing enough nitrogen. Yes, you have read that correctly: the Dutch government said that the farm was not producing enough nitrogen! In today’s current climate, this seems mad, but this was the case in 2015.

Buffalo Farm Twente decided to diversify and to introduce 38 pregnant buffalos to the herd. They were highly successful. Not only did they meet the government’s requirements, but they started producing amazing milk which makes the most amazing cheese. The rest is history!

Around this time, Andra spent time travelling in Italy, returning to the Netherlands totally inspired by the Italians’ love of good, wholesome and tasty food, and the Italian culture of sharing food as a social activity. Studying and learning to make cheese the Italian way using their own buffalo milk seemed the next natural step. Initially the cheese was made on-site under the careful instruction of two Italian craftsmen, but cheese-making is a lengthy and carefully balanced process, and does not lie easily with the busy life of a farmer who has to care for animals and run a farm shop. Cheese production is now found off-site with a dedicated staff whose sole purpose is to make cheese. With production off-site, customers can now book guided tours of the farm, finishing up with tastings of all the different cheese. Everyone is happy!

The future!

In the future, Buffalo Farm Twente have the option to bring production back on site and build their own state-of-the-art factory, but these are uncertain times in the farming industry, with the government seeking to bring in laws to restrict the number of dairy producers. Patience, hope and faith in the system are all necessary requirements of being a farmer in the modern world.

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Bio-diversity

Bio-diversity is central to the work of this Twente-based farm, and likewise, to the health of their cattle. Cattle graze in pastures, rich in over 30 different herbs. Unlike many other Dutch farmers, Alfons does not plough the pastures every two years and sow new grass seed. Instead, he allows the existing grass to remain, and for seeds to germinate naturally with the addition of just a small amount of new seed. Coupled with the use of naturally produced manure from the buffalo, this helps to encourage more wildlife and improve the quality of the soil, thus maintaining and improving the quality of the food the buffalo eat.

The health of the cows is of paramount importance because healthy cows produce quality milk.

Buffalo Farm Twente puts quality over quality. Milk used for Italian cheese has typically 4.5% protein and 7.5% fat. Because Buffalo Farm Twente place such importance on the quality of the food and the care they give to their animals, this figure is reached with ease and often exceeded.

This is the secret to their success and why possibly, Buffalo Farm Twente mozzarella may well be some of the best mozzarella outside of Italy!

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Cheese, Cheese and yet more Cheese – all produced using Buffalo Farm Twente’s buffalo milk!

Mozzarella di Bufala | A very fresh cheese, made using milk from buffalo cattle. The cheese is porcelain white, just like the buffalo milk and has a shelf life of 2 weeks.

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It is important to always serve this cheese at room temperature. For best results, I leave my cheese out of the fridge for at least two hours before serving.

Is this perhaps the best mozzarella outside of Italy?

Mozzarella di Bufala affumicata | Provola – A smoked mozzarella.

Scamorza affumicata | Cheeses (weighing between 160 – 200g) are tied in pairs and hung to ripen before a light smoking which helps develop a delicious and very edible crust.

Caciocavallo | A curd cheese which is hung to ripen. It has a cone or pear-shaped appearance | Not available at the moment, but maybe..

Ricotta | A very fresh, snow white cheese made from buffalo milk with a mild, delicate, sweet taste. The low fat and salt content means that it is a very versatile cheese and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

To make ricotta cheese, milk is heated until the curds and whey separate. The curds become the basis for varieties such as mozzarella, while reheating the whey produces the moist, fine grains that traditionally create ricotta (hence the name, meaning “twice cooked”). It’s brilliantcrumbled over pasta,roasted with sweet cherry tomatoes and lemon, or even sweetened and stuffed intocrunchy cannoli.

Jamie Oliver, 2018
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Primo Sale | A fresh buffalo cheese with the addition of salt as a natural preservative and matured at a temperature of 4 degrees. Available with the addition of various herbs such as fenugreek, or black olives.

Buffalo ice cream

Paneer | An essential ingredient in Indian cooking and much like the Greek halloumi cheese in texture. Excellent pan-fried in butter or olive oil (with just a touch of salt) and delicious in salads or stir fires. See here below a recipe for a Paneer curry from Jamie Oliver’s website. A very quick and easy option for a tasty mid-week meal perhaps?

Other food products available in the shop

Buffalo meat | steaks, minced buffalo meat (gehakt), burger, sausages, stewing steak (sucade) and sometimes, dried buffalo meat sausages.

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The minced buffalo meat used in this lasagne has quite a lot of fat, but I just drained it off. It really does add to the flavour! The bolognaise sauce had an excellent texture and was extremely flavoursome. Definitely one to try and very reasonably priced!

Extra-virgin olive oil

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Castillo de Canena is a Spanish spanish oil, produced on a family estate since 1780. The bottles are absolutely beautiful if nothing else! There are two types: Picual – the more commonly known oil; and Arbequina – a sweet olive oil without a bitter aftertaste.

Extra-virgin oil is best used in used in salads, for dipping chunks of crusty bread, or for finishing a dish. Avoid using at very high temperatures, say for roasting meat or pan-frying, where it can leave a bitter aftertaste.

Eggs

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Yoghurt

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Other home-made products

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This most interesting range of herbal waters (made using poppy, nettle and motherwort, amongst others) started at a time when Andra became unwell and shop-bought products were not making her any better. All these herbs have medicinal qualities and can be use to treat allergies, or used in cooking stews, or for adding flavour to a sauce… or even used to flavour ice-cream!

All are hand-made on site by Mariel and Andra. If you would like to learn more, Andra runs courses in how to make the waters, soaps and much more. Check out the website for more info.

A little hand-made soap

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A cabinet bursting full with hand-made soap, lovingly crafted by Andra on the farm using restaurant-quality olive oil. Quite beautiful!

Where to source and buy Buffalo Farm Twente products:

Buffalo Twente Farm Shop

Gourmet Food Shop | Guided Tours | Workshops

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Boeren en Buren (Farmers and Neighbours) | online

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Borenhart van Nederland | online for retail and restaurants

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De Leckernij | Enschede

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Rob Ver’s Shop, Denekamp

Delicatessen | Fruit & Vegetables | Prepared Meals

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La Bomba, Denekamp

Bakery | Patisserie | Ice cream Parlour | Café

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Is this a sponsored post?

No, I am an independent reviewer and all views are my own. I find it is easier that way as it allows me to write about businesses and products I genuinely admire, and who I actually visit or use on a regular basis.

Follow Clare Varney onFacebook orInstagramto read more about Music, Food and Culture

Is this perhaps the best Buffalo mozzarella outside of Italy? (2024)

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