This past week I attended a cheese tasting workshop with the owners of Bra-based Giolito Formaggi. With my classmates, we tasted several unique raw milk cheese, but one of them in particular left quite an impact on me: blu di bufala.
Best recognized for their innovative ways to craft cheese made strictly from buffalo milk, Bergamo-based Quattro Portoni leads production of this blue cheese. Typically a southern Italian practise, making water buffalo cheese has been a unique way for Bruno and Alfio Gritti to differentiate themselves from the rest. As the brothers took over the family dairy business in the late 1980s, they faced challenges to sustain production, so they decided to try a new angle. They purchased 40 water buffalo from a local farmer and began creating cheeses using buffalo milk, one of which being the famous blu di bufala.
Aged three months, the blue rind is a wrinkled grey colour that gives way to a creamy white interior laced with silver ribbons of mould. Absolutely pungent and absolutely delicious.
While the cheese was undeniably delicious, I couldn’t help wondering what are the differences of buffalo milk cheese from a health standpoint?
The history of blue cheese dates back to the 7th century in the French village of Roquefort. Legend has it that a man (shepherd or lovestruck peasant) was distracted, forgetting his lunch of bread and cheese in a nearby cave only to return months later, discovering it decorated with mould. Around the same time in Italy, Gorgonzola (part of the stracchino family of cheeses) also made an appearance. Stilton, on the other hand, began circulating around England in the 1700s.
Protected by PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), Gorgonzola , Roquefort and Stilton are now made with a bit more precision, with cheesemongers adding extracts like penicillium roqueforti to the cheeses to create the gorgeous mold marbling we’ve grown to love. Love is a fickle thing, however.
Though there are countless people all around that world that would rather die than never go without eating cheese, it’s common knowledge that it isn’t a food to be consumed on the daily… or it is?
The claims made for eating blue cheese made from cow’s milk include lowering risk of osteoporosis and heart disease and even preventing obesity thanks to its high levels of calcium and B12. Blue cheese is even said to have anti-inflammatory properties in addition to being downright delicious.
Interestingly, cheeses made with buffalo milk rather than cow’s milk also boast bone and heart health. Plus, water buffalo milk also provides key antioxidants like Vitamins A and E, which help strengthen the immune system and help the body to fight off infection.
So, if blue cheese is considered healthier than non-mouldy cheese and buffalo milk is considered healthier than cow’s milk, what about when blue cheese is made with buffalo milk?
With increased benefits from buffalo milk, a cheese like blu di bufala could hold the secret to maintaining a balanced lifestyle without deprivation. After all, a life without cheese isn’t a life. So instead of writing off cheese completely, maybe it’s time we learned more about moderation can actually help us get the vital nutrients we need to live a healthy lifestyle, while also enjoying what we put into our body.
Though eating a piece of blu di bufala probably isn’t a preventative measure against disease (cheese is still salt and saturated fats), it might just be the healthier option when compared to other cheeses like the humble cheddar that has a lower protein and nutrient content.
Personally, I’d like to believe that blu di bufala could be the secret aperitivo snack that could actually help rather than harm. This spring, I’ll be reaping all the delicious benefits by adding it to a tagliere with some fresh focaccia and honey or crumbled inside stuffed veggies!
Help or harm? You decide if blu di bufala will be making its way into your morning vitamin routine.