So I’m not entirely sure how it started. Or where. Or when. Maybe Rachael Ray shrieked about it on her show one day.
Or was it on a previous cover of Food & Wine Magazine? Maybe? Last summer? All I know is that right now, everyone’s favorite designer cheese is the Italian classic: Burrata. It’s sort of like this season’s French Bulldog of the cheeseworld (and when did everyone get one of those smash faced, snub tailed snorters? Damn, they’re cute but why did everyone have to go out and get out?) Hoardes of people come waltzing into the shop, acting like Scarlett O’Hara, waving and blowing kisses to an adoring mass of fans and stop square in front of the case and demand the product.
So, I figured I’d give the reading online masses a little brief on the history of burrata so that when you sit at home in front of your A/C, pop in “Heathers,” crack open a bottle of something sparkling and alcoholic and go about mowing down on an entire ball of burrata, you’ll know what you’re getting into.
So what is this mysterious “burrata” that everyone in Williamsburg craves?
Burrata is basically a hollowed out ball of mozzarella that has been filled with mini-mozzarella shreds and cream. It is then wrapped in asphodel leaves, which are distant relatives to the leek. (Also in Greek legend, it’s believed that the asphodel has a strong connection to the underworld. It was also thought to be a remedy for poisonous snake bites, against sorcery, and as food for poor Greeks!) The leaves are an indicator as to how fresh the cheese is. The greener the leaves, the fresher the burrata. It’s super rich and decadent and goes great with tomatoes, prosciutto, fresh cracked pepper, and light summer wines.
So onto the history.
Burrata dates back to the dawn of time. We are thinking mid-Mesozoic era.
Just kidding. Burrata is actually one of the few cheeses that we are able to pinpoint to a particular time and place on a specific Italian farm. It’s also a relatively new cheese – which may explain it’s recent rocket launch to the top of cheese popularity.
Burrata was first made about 90 years ago in the Italian town of Andria, which is in the Murgia area, which is part of the the Southeastern region of Apulia (this is like some Lord of the Rings shit right here). Originally made on the Bianchini family farm, burrata was at first just a really good local cheese made from the milk of their most cuddly and cute water buffalo. (JK. Water buffalo are huge. And smelly and actually kind of terrifying. God bless anyone who has to milk these jerks.)
Today, you can find burrata made from both cow and buffalo milk (the one we carry at BCS is made of cow’s milk), but originally it came from water buffalo. Water buffalo milk is usually richer and higher in protein than cow’s milk, yielding a fattier, richer, more delicious product. Also, buffalo milk doesn’t have carotene in it, which is a yellow pigment often found in cow’s milk. Therefore, fresh buffalo milk cheeses will always be PURE WHITE. How’s that for supremacy? But, the only problem is that buffalo milk cheeses tend to be twice as expensive as any others. Mainly because of the white thing. I can’t make this kind of thing up, people.
Anywho, back to the legend of Burrata from the Bianchini Farm in the town of Andria in the area of Murgia in the region of Apulia. (I’m telling you. Lord of the Rings.) So it was just a humble farmstead cheese. Then, in the post WW2 factory boom where food and everything went all factory on us, a couple of factories started making burrata. It became popular in factories that also made mozzarella, because it meant that all of the scraps of the mozzarella could be used. Nothing would go to waste! So these factories would fill their hollow balls of mozzarella with “ritagli” (or “rags”) that were left over from earlier mozzarella production. Talk about SuStAiNaBlE!!!! But even then, it didn’t really leave the ethereal plains of Apulia because it was such a fresh product. It needed to be refrigerated from start to finish. So, burrata didn’t make it out of Italy until the invention of really good refrigerated shipping. And didn’t make it to the U.S. until the cocaine boom in the 90′s when everyone craved things that were only PURE WHITE.
These days, fresh burrata is flown into the country one day a week. Usually Wednesday night or Thursday morning. So it is literally the party boy of the cheese world. It only shows up for the weekend and then disappears until the following Friday evening.
Ok, that’s all I can really say about burrata. I filled up a lot of space about this one cheese, but it has literally been on my BRAINZ for like 2 months now. Seriously people. Let’s ditch the burrata and let’s talk some Tomme de Bordeaux because OH MY GAWD that would be good with some sparkling rose. Ok. That is all.