by Hunter Fike
There has been a disappointing trend in the Specialty Foods industry over the last decade. As Americans race through our daily routine with accelerating velocity, we are devoting less time to the enjoyment of quality food. This theme is reflected within the realms of culinary arts, as industry giants routinely convert artisan foods into cheap imitation hash. These indiscretions have caused us to associate Parmesan with Parmigiano Reggiano, domestic Romano with the genuine article, and myriad other artificial cheeses with their authentic inspirations. But we will not allow these fallacies to continue to pollute this discussion.
In this disconcerting time for foodies, there exists a beacon of hope that is actually inverting the process: Burrata. In the 1920s, an industrial Mozzarella producer wanted to make some additional profit by creating a way to sell the scraps, called “ritagli,” that remained following the production process. Ingeniously, they opted to stretch some Mozzarella into a sheet and form it into a pouch. The ritagli is then whipped with a dab of heavy cream, creating a ricotta-like consistency. This mixture is dumped into the pouch, which is tied into a knot to prevent the ritagli and cream mixture from leaking. The moniker Burrata, Italian for “buttered,” was applied to reflect the cheese’s buttery core.
Burrata existed in relative obscurity, remaining unknown to anyone outside of southern Italy. However, in recent years several artisan producers have begun to realize Burrata’s full potential. Exquisite Burrata is now produced throughout Italy and in Philadelphia, at DiBruno Brothers. An easy way to identify the quality of a Burrata is by judging its appearance. Any hand production results in a remarkably thin wall of Mozzarella, and this delicate membrane is kept in tact inside a clear plastic bag. Leek leaves are then tied around the circumference, which serves two purposes. Primarily, it adds aesthetic appeal. Secondly, the leek has the same shelf life as the cheese, so any spots of brown will indicate that the cheese within is on the verge of deterioration.
Burrata is becoming popular at the right time. Many cheese fanatics look forward to Buffalo Mozzarella during the spring and summer months, but a recent epidemic in Campagna has resulted in the slaughter of nearly a third of the water buffalo who give their milk to this cheese. This will certainly result in a significant increase in price. Burrata, because of its rustic means and ingredients, is a more affordable option that is equally compatible with the summer months. It can be served as an alternative to Mozzarella in a caprese salad, but is best presented on its own with a loaf of ciabatta and high quality olive oil.