WATER BUFFALO CULTURE IN ASIA, FERAL BUFFALO IN AUSTRALIA AND MOZZARELLA CHEESE

WATER BUFFALO AND ASIAN CULTURE


Indonesia

Some ethnic groups, such as Batak and Toraja in Indonesia and the Derung in China, use water buffalo or kerbau (called horbo in Batak or tedong in Toraja) as sacrificial animals at several festivals. Legend has it that the Chinese philosophical sage Laozi left China through the Han Gu Pass riding a water buffalo. According to Hindu lore, the god of death Yama, rides on a male water buffalo. The carabao subspecies is considered a national symbol in the Philippines.

In Vietnam, water buffalo are often the most valuable possession of poor farmers: They are treated as a member of the family. It is said: “The husband ploughs, the wife sows, water buffalo draws the rake and are friends of the children.” Children talk to their water buffalo. They are often responsible for grazing water buffalo. In the old days, West Lake in Hanoi was named Golden Water Buffalo. The Yoruban Orisha Oya (goddess of change) takes the form of a water buffalo.

Water buffalo have no teeth on their upper jaw. According to a Vietnamese folk story the reason for this is that a farmer tricked a tiger while trying to show him what wisdom is and tied him to tree and set him on fire. When the tiger finally escaped he kicked out the water buffalo's teeth. Even the way hair grows on a water buffalo says something to the Vietnamese. If a pattern grows symmetrically on both sides of a water buffalo that means good luck and good health.

Buffalo Boy: Lovely Film About Rural Life in Vietnam


Vietnam

Bruce Newman wrote in the San Jose Mercury News, "Water is everywhere in writer-director Minh Nguyen-Vo's "Buffalo Boy'' ("Mua Len Trau''), a coming-of-age story based on the classic short story collection "Scent of the Ca-Mau Forest'' by the celebrated Vietnamese author Son Nam. "To anyone unfamiliar with life in rural Vietnam during the French colonial period, the opening scenes of "Buffalo Boy,'' which made the rounds at film festivals in 2004, might seem almost comical, with all the earnest discussions between father and son about the health and well-being of the family's two water buffaloes. But they're not kidding. Not only do the buffaloes account for most of their livelihood as draught animals in a subsistence economy, it's also easy to see that Kim (Le The Lu) loves them as if they were pets. During Kim's journey, he sleeps on the back of one of the buffaloes, and after talking to him about his plans for the next day, he hugs the animal's giant head. [Source: Bruce Newman, San Jose Mercury News, September 15, 2006 :::]

"In this film, buffaloes often get more respect than humans do. Director Nguyen-Vo lingers lovingly on a shot of buffaloes watching the clouds as they graze on the floodplain. In the evening, husbands and wives discuss the beauty of the great buffalo herds they have seen. You never heard such a lot of buffalo talk! But if the specifics of a Vietnamese trail drive differ noticeably from those of their Hollywood western counterparts, the rustlin' and fightin' among frontier varmints appear to be the same everywhere. :::

"Kim's search for grass that his buffaloes can fatten themselves on has brought him to the brink of ruin, when he awakens to find a herd going past. But his offer to indenture himself to the leader of what the herders refer to as their "gang'' is at first spurned, and the brutality of this world — in which man and beast sometimes simply are left for dead — is powerfully evoked. Even strength in numbers doesn't always prove decisive in such a harsh landscape; after Kim is allowed into the gang that had rejected him, his buffaloes go hungry when a rival gang lets its herd devour all the grass on a hill to which Kim had looked for salvation. :::

Lao Water Buffalo Meat Recipes


water buffalo meat in Nepal

Dried water buffalo skin is a popular food in Laos. Among the exotic dishes eaten there are dried water buffalo lung, water buffalo blood congealed into tofu-size blocks. Water buffalo produce a lot of meat. It is said that the method for slaughter is gunshot through the head. All the meat and parts that are consumed by buyers is in part why it's such a valuable animal. In the old days, if you had a lot of buffaloes you were considered rich. Even to this day, there's still a bit of that perception that still exists.

Buffalo and Lemon Grass Sausage Patties: Ingredients: A) 1 pound coarsely ground buffalo or beef chuck (ground by a butcher; do not chop in a food processor); B) 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt; C) 3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper; D) 1 long green hot chili, finely chopped; E) 3 tablespoons finely chopped lemon grass; F) 1 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped; G) 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped. [Source: Amanda Hesser, New York Times, July 13, 2005; Amanda Hesser narrates a tour of the cuisine of Laos: nytimes.com/dining <^>]

Cooking directions for Buffalo and Lemon Grass Sausage Patties: 1) In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well and form into 2-inch patties. 2) Heat a grill or large well-seasoned or nonstick skillet. Grill or saut?ntil patties are crisp on exterior and no longer pink in center. Serve hot. Yield: 4 servings (about 16 2-inch patties). Adapted from 3 Nagas, Luang Prabang, Laos Time: 20 minutes <^>

Or Lam Sin Kuay ('Or Lam' of Water-buffalo Meat): Ingredients: A) 3 pieces of dried buffalo meat, sliced into smaller pieces and washed; B) 2 strips of dried buffalo skin - cook it by putting it directly into the charcoal fire and then scraping off the burned parts, after which cut it into smaller pieces and soak them in water; C) 3 or 4 (small) shallots, peeled; D) 1 piece of crisp-fried pork skin, sliced into smaller pieces; E) 1 piece of sa-kahn (an aromatic plant) 5 centimeters long-peel off and discard the rough outer skin and divide it into 15 small parts; F) 3 straight-bulbed spring onions; G) 1 stalk of lemon grass-sear it in hot ashes, then wash it and crush it; H) 7 young round eggplants; I) 7 fresh chilli peppers (large ones); J) 1 bunch phak tam ling (an edible leaf); K) 1 bunch of young shoots (stems and leaves) of a chilli pepper plant; L) a considerable amount of sweet basil leaves; L) 1 bunch of dill, chopped; M) a considerable amount of chopped spring onion leaves; ) salt and padek. [Source: Traditional Recipes of Laos by Phia Sing. Available from Food Words, Box 42568, Portland, OR 97242-0568 (NY Times 2005) ||||]

Cooking directions for Or Lam Sin Kuay: 1) Put 1 1/2 metal jugfuls (1 1/2 pints) of water into a pot and place it on the fire. Add salt, the crushed stalk of lemon grass, the buffalo meat, the buffalo skin, the shallots, the chilli peppers, the eggplants and the sa-kahn. Wait for all this to come to the boil, then add some padek by using a small-meshed strainer. Leave it boiling until the chilli peppers and eggplants are done - then take out these ingredients, pound them finely and return them to the pot. 2) Next, add the phak tam ling and the young shoots of chilli pepper. Taste and check the saltiness. Then add the crisp-fried pork skin, the chopped dill and the sweet basil leaves. Take the pot off the fire. Transfer the contents to a bowl. Garnish the dish with chopped spring onion leaves and serve it with Som Moo or Som Pa Keng. |||

Toraja and Water Buffalo


Toraja sacrifice

The Toraja live in highlands and mountainous area of South Sulawesi and Central Sulawesi. They are most well know for their grand burial ceremonies when great week-long feasts are held with buffalos sacrifices and the remains of the deceased are placed into a coffin and carried to a hollowed out cliff side cave by a frenzied procession.

Some say their traditional houses represent buffalo heads and horns, other suggest suggests they represent the ships the Toraja use to come to Sulawesi. The Toraja decorate their houses with images of buffalos and cocks. The buffalos are a symbols of prestige and the cocks are messengers to the afterlife. The dead are often buried in hollowed out cliff side graves that sometimes are as high as 100 feet off the ground. The caves are hollowed by specialists who are paid in buffalos.

The water buffalo is the symbol of Toraja wealth, strength, fertility and prosperity. Buffalo with black and brown spots are worth twenty times a normal grey ones. At funeral ceremonies when many people are buried hundreds of buffalos are sometimes killed. Men and children usually take care of the water buffalo while women feed pigs. Surviving children and grandchildren an inherit property but need to sacrifice a water buffalo at the funeral to claim their inheritance rights. Water buffalo have traditionally been raised for war and sacrifices. Pigs and chicken are also killed for ritual purposed but buffalos carry the most prestige. The wealthy are defined by how many buffalos they own. Land can be purchased with buffalos.

Describing a the climax of a royal Toraja funeral, Lawrence and Lorne Blair wrote in their book “Ring of Fire”: “”Hundreds of chickens, pigs and water buffalo were sacrificed. most of which were dispatched with blow to the jugular vein and later boiled in bamboo tubes and eaten by the people occupying the arc houses around the Rante. Among the animals sacrificed were rare white and pink water buffalos and one with blue eyes worth 20 times a normal grey one.”

Water Buffalo and the Toraja Funeral Ceremony

Toraja he funeral ceremonies usually take place in two parts. The first part is the Rambu Solo ceremony, a grisly affair in which dozens, sometimes hundreds, of buffalos and pigs are slaughtered in the belief that the spirit of the dead will be accepted by God. The funeral can be held in front of the village tongkonan. Sometimes it takes place in a field, where bamboo platforms have been set up for people to sit with deceased presiding over the event from a high-roofed tower. Some are held in special funeral sites marked by megaliths.

A typical middle-class funeral has four buffalo and many pigs and lasts for three days. A funeral for an aristocrat can last for two weeks. Before a funeral it seems like every single Toraja shows up with a fighting cock, a pig on a stick or a buffalo. The people form long lines. The date of the funeral is difficult to ascertain. A couple of National Geographic writers went to cover one of the funerals had to return to the U.S. before anything happened.♂

Animal sacrifices are a key component of Toraja funerals. Torajans believe that sacrificed animals will accompany the dead to the afterlife and help transport to them to heaven. Buffalos are signs of wealth. The number of buffalos sacrificed is an indication of how important the deceased was. The throat of the buffalos are slit to release spirit. Horns are removed to be mounted on a house. The sacrificed animals are carved up and roasted, and eaten on palm-leaf-plates. Extra meat is divided among guests to take home.

In the past thousands of buffalo were dispatched, but the Dutch brought an end to these practices because it was considered wasteful. In recent decades the practice has returned. The Indonesian government has tried to stem the practice by placing a tax on sacrificed buffalo. The funerals are getting bigger, "Twenty-four buffalos used to be a big feast," a guide told Marvine Howe of the New York Times, "now a 100 buffalos is good, people are richer." It is not unusual for a family to go broke in an effort to but on grand show.


Toraja wake preparation


Other Indonesian Ethnic Groups and Water Buffalo

The Minangkabau of West Sumatra are also into water buffalos.The roofs of their houses—which bow down deeply at mid-length and turn up steeply to gabled ends— are shaped like buffalo horns, and their favorite sport is water buffalo fighting. The fights are between two bulls of around equals size. They lock horns and push one another. The bull that gives up loses. It is not unusual for a bull to run and in the crowd and every one runs for cover. Betting can be quite intense. The biggest bullfights are held in the villages of Kota Bari and Batagak. Bareback horseracing is also popular.

The Minangkabau sometimes describe West Sumatra as the land of the V. The name V means triumphant buffalo. Their traditional homes are called V houses. Their name is said to have resulted from a fight between a Minangkabau bull and a massive Javanese bull. Realizing the could never find a bull as large as the Javanese one the clever Minangkabau fielded a baby bull with V-shaped knives attached to its horns. When the fight started the baby bull it perceived its opponents as its mother and rushed to suckle and in the process ripped out the Javanese bull’s belly.

Palu’e of Flores live a life is defined by taboos and prohibitions, which are passed orally through the generations, warfare involving land disputes, and water buffalo sacrifices. Their religious beliefs and water buffalo sacrifices are somewhat similar to the Toraja and are rooted in myths about ancestors arriving by boats from a distant places long ago. Water buffalo are sacrificed by special priest to bring prosperity. The dead are buried near their homes. If the body has been lost at sea, the trunk of abama tree is buried in its place.

Water Buffalo Fighting Festivals

Moh juj Water Buffalo fighting is held every year in Bhogali Bihu in Assam, India. Ahotguri in Nagaon is famous for it. "Ma'Pasilaga Tedong" Water Buffalo Fighting Festival in Tana Toraja Regency of Sulawesi Island, Indonesia is a very popular event where the Rambu Solo' or a Burial Festival took place in Tana Toraja.

The Do Son Water Buffalo Fighting Festival of Vietnam, held each year on the ninth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar at Do Son Township, Haiphong City in Vietnam, is one of the most popular Vietnam festivals and events in Haiphong City. The preparations for this buffalo fighting festival begin from the two to three months earlier. The competing buffalo are selected and methodically trained months in advance. It is a traditional festival of Vietnam attached to a Water God worshipping ceremony and the Hien Sinh custom to show martial spirit of the local people of Do Son, Haiphong.

In the Do Son buffalo fights there are two rounds of elimination before the middle of the fifth month and 8th day of the Sixth lunar month (July). The preparation for this festival is very elaborate. Fighting buffaloes must be carefully selected, well fed, and trained. These buffaloes must be between 4 and 5 years old, with a good appearance, a wide chest, a big groin, a long neck, an acute bottom, and bow shaped horns. The fighting buffaloes are fed in separate pens to keep them from contact with common buffaloes.

The beginning of the worshiping ceremony lasts until lunch time. A typical procession begins with an octet and a big procession chair, carried by six strong young men. The six clean buffaloes that are part of the ceremony are covered with red cloths and bound with reddish bands on their horns. There are 24 young men who dance and wave flags as two teams of troops start fighting. After this event, a pair of buffaloes are led to opposite sides of the festival grounds and are made to stand near two flags called Ngu Phung. When the right signal is released, the two buffaloes are moved to within 20 meters of each other. At the next signal, the two leaders release the ropes that are attached to the noses of the buffaloes. The two buffaloes then rush into each other with well practiced movements. The spectators then shout and urge the fighting along. At the completion of the fight, the spectacle of "receiving the buffaloes" is very interesting as the leaders must then catch the winning buffalo to grant it its reward.

"Hai Luu" Water Buffalo Fighting Festival of Vietnam. According to ancient records, the buffalo fighting in Hai Luu Commune has existed from the 2nd century B.C. General Lu Gia at that time, had the buffalo slaughtered to give a feast to the local people and the warriors, and organized buffalo fighting for amusement. Eventually, all the fighting buffalo will be slaughtered as tributes to the deities.

"Ko Samui" Water Buffalo Fighting Festival of Thailand is a very popular event held on special occasions such as New Year's Day in January, and Songkran in mid-April, this festival features head-wrestling bouts in which two male Asian water buffalo are pitted against one another. Unlike in Spanish Bullfighting, wherein bulls get killed while fighting sword-wielding men, Buffalo Fighting Festival held at Ko Samui, Thailand is fairly harmless contest. The fighting season varies according to ancient customs & ceremonies. The first Buffalo to turn and run away is considered the loser, the winning buffalo becomes worth several million baht. Ko Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand in the South China Sea, it is 700 km from Bangkok and is connected to it by regular flights.

Water Buffalo Racing Festivals

The Kambala water buffalo races of Karnataka, India take place between December and March. The races are conducted by having the water buffalo (he buffalo) run in long parallel slushy ditches, where they are driven by men standing on wooden planks drawn by the buffaloes. The objectives of the race are to finish first and to raise the water to the greatest height and also a rural sport. Kambala races are arranged with competition as well as without competition and as a part of thanks giving (to god) in about 50 villages of coastal Karnataka.Pottu puttu matsaram, in Kerala, South India is similar to the Kambala races.

Chon Buri Water buffalo racing festival, Thailand: Thousands of people flock to this entertainment in downtown Chonburi, 70 km (43 mi) south of Bangkok, at the annual water buffalo festival. About 300 buffalo race in groups of five or six, spurred on by bareback jockeys wielding wooden sticks, as hundreds of spectators cheer. The water buffalo has always played an important role in agriculture in Thailand. For farmers of Chon Buri Province, near Bangkok, it is an important annual festival, beginning in mid-October. It is also a celebration among rice farmers before the rice harvest. At dawn, farmers walk their buffalo through surrounding rice fields, splashing them with water to keep them cool before leading them to the race field. This amazing festival started over a hundred years ago when two men arguing about whose buffalo was the fastest ended up having a race between them. That’s how it became a tradition and gradually a social event for farmers who gathered from around the country in Chonburi to trade their goods. The festival also helps a great deal in preserving the number of buffalo, which have been dwindling at quite an alarming rate in other regions. Modern machinery is rapidly replacing buffalo in Thai agriculture. With most of the farm work mechanized, the buffalo-racing tradition has continued. Racing buffalo are now raised just to race; they do not work at all. The few farm buffalo which still do work are much bigger than the racers because of the strenuous work they perform. Farm buffalo are in the “Buffalo Beauty Pageant”, a Miss Farmer beauty contest and a comic buffalo costume contest etc.. This festival perfectly exemplifies a favored Thai attitude to life — "sanuk," meaning fun.

Babulang Water buffalo racing festival, Sarawak, Malaysia: Babulang is the largest or grandest of the many rituals, ceremonies and festivals of the traditional Bisaya (Borneo) community of Limbang, Sarawak. Highlights are the Ratu Babulang competition and the Water buffalo races which can only be found in this town in Sarawak, Malaysia.

Each year, millions of Cambodians visit Buddhist temples across the country to honor their deceased loved ones during a 15-day period commonly known as the Festival of the Dead but in Vihear Suor village, about 22 miles (35 km) northeast of the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, citizens each year wrap up the festival with a water buffalo race to entertain visitors and honour a pledge made hundreds of years ago. There was a time when many village cattle which provide rural Cambodians with muscle power to plough their fields and transport agricultural products died from an unknown disease. The villagers prayed to a spirit to help save their animals from the disease and promised to show their gratitude by holding a buffalo race each year on the last day of “P'chum Ben” festival as it is known in Cambodian. The race draws hundreds of spectators who come to see riders and their animals charge down the racing field, the racers bouncing up and down on the backs of their buffalo, whose horns were draped with colorful cloth.

Water Buffalo Races in Thailand

Water buffalos races—with human riders on the buffalos— are held during the annual Buffalo Racing Festival in Chonburi. Richard Barrow wrote in his blog in 2008: “I have been going to this event for a few years now to watch the spectacle of buffaloes racing down a track with riders perched precariously on their backs. This is now the 137th buffalo racing event. Every year the races seem to be getting more popular as word starts to spread. This year was no exception with larger crowds. There were also many more foreign tourists than I have seen before. I think most probably came up from Pattaya for the day. The Buffalo Racing Festival is still not in the Lonely Planet but news of this event is obviously spreading on the Internet. The date is fixed by the phases of the moon. It usually takes place the day before the full moon in October. The full moon day is also celebrated as the end of the three month long Buddhist Retreat. [Source: Richard Barrow, thai-blogs.com October 18, 2008, *]

“Buffalo racing is not really like a day at the horse races. It takes a long time to prepare them for the start of each race. There are also many false starts which again takes time for them to get back to the start line. Even though four buffaloes and their riders are at the start line, not all of them reached the finish line. Some never even start and some riders fall off along the way. As you can see from this picture, there is no saddle for the rider and it cannot be easy for him to stay mounted like that. It looked like there weren’t enough jockeys as I spotted the same riders on different buffaloes. It is also quite easy for them to be injured and some were sent to hospital. The sun was hot and as there was a long wait between races, I only watched three or four. But, there were plenty of other things going on at the festival.” *

“In another area of the field, there was an auction going on for some buffaloes. These were really big animals. As I walked passed, the prices were going up as high as 100,000 baht. A bit further on I came across the winners for the Miss Buffalo Beauty Pageant. The buffaloes were all dressed up as well. Apparently they take part in a parade through the town though I missed that this year as I was away on a road trip to Isaan. Other events going on included cock fighting, Thai boxing, climbing a greasy pole, team takraw and slingshot. There were also the usual fairground rides for the kids and of course plenty of food to eat. If you have never seen buffalo racing then it is worth going for the novelty. Though, don’t wear your best shoes and be careful where you step. Also, take plenty of sun lotion as the sun was very strong. Most people used umbrellas.” *

Water Buffalo in India


water buffalo choclate milk

Indians usually eat water buffalo meat, mutton or chicken as eating pork is offensive to Muslims and eating cows is offensive to Hindus. In many places in India plowing is still done with a pair of water buffalo. Blacksmiths in India that put shoes on water buffalo, cows and horses often make "house calls" on the side of the orad.

In India water buffalo milk is made into ghee (clarified butter). Indians get much of their protein and fat from water buffalo milk, yogurt, butter, cheese and ghee. When no shampoo is available women shampoos their hair with a mixture of buttermilk and ghee Before a cremation in India the body is anointed with ghee.

Water buffalo cost more to purchase and maintain than a cow but are favored by dairy farmers because it produced larger amounts of richer milk. Leather is made from water buffalo skin. Boats are made from water buffalo leather.

India is one of the world’s top three producers of milk. Much of it comes from water buffalo and is consumed domestically. The Hindi word for milk is doodh. Many milk products are made with water buffalo milk. India is a major producer of mozzarella cheese whih is made with water buffalo milk.

Much of the milk comes straight for the animal and is not pasteurized. One Indian man told the Washington Post, “My strength comes from buffalo milk. Children who have been drinking packaged milk, the will not have strength.” Another said, “Buffalo milk is much better because of the food buffalo’s eat.” Some compalin that the “synthetic” stuff sold in stores has detergent powder mixed in to make it whiter.

Describing the milking of a water buffalo, John Lancaster wrote in in the Washington Post, “Singh squats next to one of the animals and cleans its udder with water. Then he places two hands on the animal’s rubbery teats and pumps them up and down, squirting jets of warm, frothy milk into an aluminum pail.” When water buffalo don’t give milk they are given an injection of a sedative on the neck and smacked with a bamboo stave across the shoulder blades.

In India the main alternative to water buffalo are zebu cattle, which are much more rugged and durable animals. They are more versatile, adaptable and resistant to disease. The are better at dry-field farming than water buffalo and particularly good at surviving droughts, which often occur when the monsoons don't arrive on time. Zebu cattle are also regarded as being smarter than water buffalo. One Punjabi farmer told National Geographic, "Zebus are geniuses. They understand my language. When I say hethan , hethan they go left, and when I say uttan , uttan they go right. Man water buffalo and cattle owners have sold their grazing land and keep their animals in pens near their house.

Water Buffalo in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Americas

It is assumed that water buffaloes were introduced to Europe from India or other Oriental countries. To Italy they were introduced about the year 600 in the reign of the Longobardian King Agilulf. As they appear in the company of wild horses, it seems probable that they were a present from the Khan of the Avars, a Turkish nomadic tribe that dwelt near the Danube River at the time. Sir H. Johnston knew of a herd of water buffaloes presented by a King of Naples to the Bey of Tunis in the mid 19th century that had resumed the feral state in northern Tunis. [Source: Wikipedia +]

European buffaloes are all of the river type and considered to be of the same breed named Mediterranean buffalo. In Italy the Mediterranean type was particularly selected and is called Mediterranean Italian breed to distinguish it from other European breeds, which differ genetically. Mediterranean buffalos are also found in Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Kosovo and Republic of Macedonia, and a few hundred in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Hungary. There has been little exchange of breeding buffaloes among countries, therefore each population has its own phenotypic features and performances. In Bulgaria, they were crossbred with the Indian Murrah breed, and in Romania some were crossbred with Bulgarian Murrah. Populations in Turkey are of the Anatolian buffalo breed. +

Water buffalo were introduced into the Amazon River basin in 1895. They are now extensively used there for meat and dairy production. In 2005, the buffalo herd in the Brazilian Amazon stood at approximately 1.6 million head, of which approximately 460,000 were located in the lower Amazon floodplain. Breeds used include Mediterranean from Italy, Murrah and Jafarabadi from India, and Carabao from the Philippines. In Argentina, many game ranches raise water buffalo for commercial hunting. +

There are very limited commercial herds in the U.S., for yogurt and cheese products. In Gainesville, Florida, a University of Florida professor, Hugh Popenoe, until recently (2011) had raised water buffalo from young obtained from zoo overflow. He used them primarily for meat production (frequently sold as hamburger), although other local ranchers use them for production of high-quality mozzarella cheese. +

Water Buffalo, Pizza Mozzarella and Cheese


Water buffalo mozzarella

Real mozzarella cheese is made from water buffalo milk. Water buffalo may have arrived in the Naples area around the 2nd century A.D. from India. In World War II, the retreating Nazis slaughtered the buffalo herds. They have since been replaced by buffalo imported from India. Real mozzarella cheese is ideally made overnight and sold and eaten the following day. Good mozzarella should be creamy and tender, elastic but not rubbery. Italians consider the mozzarella sold at American supermarkets be like plastic. [Source: Judith Weinraub, Washington Post, August 5, 1998]

Mozzarella is made from 30-pound blocks of pressed milk curd, salt and water heated to 180 degrees F. The curds are cut into half-inch-wide stripes and slowly cooked in hot water (which release whey and some but not all of the butterfat content). The cooked curd is then salted and stretched and kneaded ideally to elastic but not rubber consistency. The pieces are then pulled away from the main mass and molded into egg shaped pieces. The name mozzarella comes from the verb mozzare , to lop off.

The difficult part of making mozzarella is getting the proportions of curd, salt and water right and mixing, pulling and kneading it the correct amount of time. One mozzarella maker told the Washington Post, "The most complicated thing is to know exactly how much to work it. You want to be sure that the cheese is not in the hot water bath too long, so that you don't loose to much butter fat—that affects the flavor, the texture and moisture in the cheese. But if you don't work it enough, it becomes grainy."

In Italy, mozzarella cheese is sold in standard egg-shaped four- to eight ounce pieces as well as bocconcini (smaller pieces), ciliegini (even smaller cherry sized pieces) and ricciole (jelly-role like mozzarella logs fill with pesto or sun died tomatoes.) A popular dish in Italy is insalata caprese (alternating slices of tomato and mozzarella with a dressing of olive oil and basil).

Traditional Neapolitan pizza had a thin curst and only a little tomato sauce. True Neapolitan pizza today is made from water-buffalo mozzarella that comes from two regions of Italy and mozzarella must be kept be separate from the dough while cooking. Around the turn of the 20th century, Neapolitan immigrants introduced pizza to the East Coast of the United States, where it was cooked in large wheels in honor of their large new homeland. Because tradition ingredients were unavailable, cows-milk mozzarella was substituted for water-buffalo milk mozzarella and marjoram replaced oregano. Pizza didn't really catch on in the United States until American GIs developed a craving for it World War II and brought this taste home with them.

Water Buffaloes in Australia

There are around 150,000 feral water buffalo in Australia. They create wallows in the freshwater marshes of northern Australia. Water buffalos were introduced to the Northern Territory of Australia from Indonesia in the 1820s and 1830s. They were used in the British settlements to mainly pull carts. When the outposts were abandoned, the buffalo escaped or were set free. They thrived in the wild, especially along the coastal plains that turn into swamps in the wet season.

These days you'll find Water Buffalo in the freshwater floodplains of the Top End and along creek lines through Arnhem Land. During the 1980s, the government tried to control the population of feral Water Buffalo through a Brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign. But they've proved a hardy breed and they've come back stronger than before. Aboriginal people hunt buffaloes in Arnhem land and they even feature in their stories and culture.

Between 1824 and 1849, water buffalos were introduced into the Northern Territory from Timor, Kisar and probably other islands in the Indonesian archipelago. In 1886, a few milking types were brought from India to Darwin. They have been the main grazing animals on the sub-coastal plains and river basins between Darwin and Arnhem Land since the 1880s. In the early 1960s, an estimated population of 150,000 to 200,000 buffalos were living in the plains and nearby areas. Buffalos were exported live to Indonesia until 2011, at a rate of about 3000 for year. After the live export ban that year, the exports dropped to zero, and had not resumed as of June 2013. [Source: Wikipedia +]

They became feral and are causing significant environmental damage. Buffalo are also found in the Top End. As a result, they were hunted in the Top End from 1885 until 1980. The commencement of the Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Campaign (BTEC) resulted in a huge culling program to reduce buffalo herds to a fraction of the numbers that were reached in the 1980s. The BTEC was finished when the Northern Territory was declared free of the disease in 1997. Numbers dropped dramatically as a result of the campaign, but have since recovered to an estimated 150,000 animals across northern Australia in 2008. +

During the 1950s, buffalo were hunted for their skins and meat, which was exported and used in the local trade. In the late 1970s, live exports were made to Cuba and continued later into other countries. Buffalo are now crossed with riverine buffalo in artificial breeding (AI) programs, and may be found in many areas of Australia. Some of these crossbreds are used for milk production. Melville Island is a popular hunting location, where a steady population of up to 4,000 individuals exist. Safari outfits are run out of Darwin to Melville Island and other locations in the Top End, often with the use of bush pilots. The horns, which can measure up to a record of 3.1 metres tip-to-tip, are prized hunting trophies. +

The buffalo have developed a different appearance from the Indonesian buffalo from which they descend.[citation needed] They live mainly in freshwater marshes and billabongs, and their territory range can be quite expansive during the wet season. Their only natural predators in Australia are large adult saltwater crocodiles, with whom they share the billabongs, and dingoes, which have been known to prey on buffalo calves and occasionally adult buffalos when the dingoes are in large packs.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2014

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