There’s no cheese like fresh cheese, as any bufala-lover knows. While a Parmesan or a Gouda might age for months, even years, softer specimens are best straight from the cow—mozzarella can go from udder to wrapper in just a few hours, and is then shipped out the same day. And so too with burrata, as I learned on a visit to the Mozzarella Gioiella factory in the southern Italian region of Puglia.
Among the least appreciated of Italy’s soft cheeses, burrata is like the postmodern version of mozzarella: stringy scraps of leftover mozzarella, stirred into salted cream, and enclosed in a stretched mozzarella casing. While other fresh cheeses might be called creamy or milky, burrata actually is. Sliding a fork through the smooth, soft cheese unleashes a satisfying ooze of cheese-speckled cream—just like cutting into a perfectly poached egg.
First invented by farmers from the city of Andria in the early twentieth century as a way to reclaim unused curds, it’s now a respected Puglian product in its own right. So off the pastoral farmstead, how is burrata made? A tour of the cheese factory, after the jump.
Step One: The Milk
Fresh cow’s milk is gathered from farms around the city of Gioia del Colle, collected in tanks, and transferred to these enormous vats within a single day. The milk is mixed with young calf’s rennet and then heated to around 100° F, when it begins to curdle.
Step Two: The Curds
The solid curds are separated from the liquid (which is then reused in making ricotta cheese). After briefly resting at room temperature, these curds are then reheated to nearly 190° F, when they become soft and pliable.
Step Three: The Stretch
Working quickly, and presumably with fingers of steel, workers stretch the hot mozzarella and form it into familiar knots.
Step Four: The Shred
That mozzarella is then separated into short, thin strings called stracciatella, from an Italian word meaning “torn apart”—though no culinary relation to the egg drop soup or vanilla-chocolate gelato of the same name.
Step Five: The Filling
These tiny shreds are stirred into a base of salted fresh cream.
Step Six: The Pouch
An additional batch of mozzarella is then stretched into small pouches…
… which are piped full of the creamy mozzarella mixture, and twisted shut at the top.
Step Seven: The Rest
Each burrata ball is immersed in cold water for around thirty minutes, until the exterior mozzarella shell cools and thickens slightly.
Step Eight: The Finished Burrata
Finally, each cheese is wrapped and rushed to markets, stores, and restaurants across Puglia.
With such a delicate flavor, burrata is best in its natural state, as shown at the Osteria Del Borgo Antico in Gioia del Colle—perhaps with summer-fresh heirloom tomatoes and a grind of black pepper, or with just a simple drizzle of the ever-present extra-virgin, as pictured above. But even there, be careful; too much of Puglia’s often spicy olive oil can overwhelm the soft, silky burrata. So proceed with caution.
Via Santeramo 97
Gioia del Colle, Bari, Puglia (map)
Osteria Del Borgo Antico
Via Spada 62 Gioia del Colle, Bari, Puglia (map)