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It looks like an ordinary mozzarella, but any similarity ends here. If you unravel the green raffia ribbon in which it is wrapped and plunge a knife into the cheese, after an initial resistance it will sink in easily to encounter a soft heart of cream.
What we are describing is burrata di Andria which, exactly one year ago, obtained PGI product status: finally, almost one century after the creation of this dairy product, its producers have joined together and set up a consortium.
What is burrata di Andria?
It looks like a pouch of hand torn stretched curd cheese in a delicate white colour. As always in the case of craft cheese, its shade of white depends on the season and the animal fodder. It contains a filling consisting of cream and mozzarella “scraps”, called stracciatella.
They vary between 100 to 500 g, but it is possible to find burratas weighting up to one kilo. An authentic gem that has now risen to planetary fame and can be delivered to gourmet customers in just twelve hours. Apulian cook Pino Lavarra has contributed to creating a mythical aura around burrata by taking it to the 102nd floor of the Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong where he works. In fact, the production and packaging area of Burrata PGI is not restricted to Andria and its surrounds but extends all over the region of Apulia.
As always in such cases, it is not easy to establish the exact origin of burrata. It would seem that it owes its creation to Lorenzo Bianchino, the dairyman who used to work in the National Park of Alta Murgia at the start of the twentieth century. A heavy snowfall had prevented him from leaving the farm, along with the cow’s milk he had intended to take down to the valley.
He created a sort of pouch from the stretched curd he had prepared and filled it with cream and mozzarella scraps. Finally, he tied the top of his creation with two blades of straw. The first ever burrata. Contrary to the widespread belief, the name burrata is inspired by the rich buttery flavour of its filling and not because it contains butter.
How is burrata di Andria produced?
It is produced from cold unpasteurized cow’s milk obtained from one or two daily milking sessions. After being acidified – ph 6.1-6.2 – with whey, the milk is heated to 35-36 °C, and calf’s rennet is then added. After about 20-25 minutes, it starts to coagulate and when it reaches the right consistency, it forms granules similar in size to grains of rice. Once the separation process is complete, the curds are extracted from the excess whey and poured onto stainless steel tables where they are left to develop at ambient temperature for about five hours.
Now comes the difficult part and it must be carried out manually. Boiling hot water is added to enable the stretching process. The cut curd is hand stretched by the cheese-maker who constantly lifts and pulls the paste, softened by very hot water, until it is smooth and shiny. On machines that filter and sterilize the air, the sheet of stretched paste is shaped into a pouch. Now it is filled with scraps of mozzarella and cream.
At the end of the process, the “mozzarella pouch” is hermetically closed and tied with a top knot. Then the product undergoes a salting process. Finally, the burrata is wrapped in a special raffia suitable for food packaging or in Asphodel leaves, this being a plant that grows wild in the Murge.
Storing and Serving Burrata Cheese
It keeps for a couple of days at a temperature of 4 to 6 degrees, but it is important to remember that it must be removed from the fridge for the necessary time to be served at room temperature. A fresh burrata will leave no hint of bitterness or acidity on the palate but will regale an aftertaste of fresh butter and hazelnuts.
It is excellent either eaten alone or placed on a slice of toasted bread together with a slice of raw ham. Alternatively, try it with fresh tomatoes simply dressed with a little extra virgin olive oil or as a filling for pumpkin flowers. It makes a marvellous ingredient for creaming a risotto or adding to a dish of spaghetti and tomato sauce. Or, for a refined gourmet accompaniment: raw red prawns from Mazara, burrata and caviar. Its ideal pairing is with dry white, lightly structured wines.