Buffalo Milk, Ice Cream and Cheese made in Somerset
Sometimes I hate my insomnia. Sometimes it is incredibly rewarding - like this instance in mid-December which led me to find 'Buffalicious'. Jonathan Corpe and his family rear Buffalo in Somerset, selling their Raw Milk (2* Great Taste Award winner 2019), Ice Cream and most recently Buffalo Mozzarella. Thank you sleepless nights and social media algorithms for providing me with this wonderful find.
I spoke to Jonathan who kindly gave me a virtual tour of their business and just who they are and why they are doing something rare in the UK.
As a family they have been farming for generations, but originally just Holstein Friesian cows. In the early 1990’s Jonathan's father sold up and decided to diversify into water buffalo, originally to milk and make cheese. Jonathan told me that unfortunately due to his age and the facilities at the time, this project never developed, however a market for the unique benefits of buffalo meat was discovered and launched the buffalo business - for them, in 2002. They now have 250 buffalo overall with about 30-45 in their new dairy herd producing milk which they have been doing since 2016.
Jonathan's personal background is in design and engineering, but he has always had a massive passion for food. After studying for 5 years at University and taking on a design job, he soon realised he was not suited to working 9-5 in a windowless office and his desire to be outside and work for himself drove him to return home and work for the family business.
As their farm and business expanded, he decided it was time to revisit the unique benefits of buffalo milk. To research this he visited Italy, Holland and Sweden in regards to both the water buffalo breed research and product development.
The first product from their milk was an ice cream which they developed with an artisan ice cream producer named Amanda Stansfield at Granny Gothards. However the goal was always to make mozzarella.
Following the idea of a collaboration in London which failed to come to fruition and other local cheese makers in Somerset turning them down, in 2017 Jonathan made the decision that they would make cheese themselves and he has spent the last 2 and a bit years training and researching mozzarella production whilst also creating their own artisan facility.
Jonathan knows that to really understand mozzarella takes a good few years, up to five typically, however, after tasting his cheeses, they seem to be well ahead of that time frame. He modestly states that his design and engineering background have given him an advantage in cheese making as his brain is logical and he is very structured in his processes. This desirable foundation of personal qualities along with a good mentor who learnt herself about Mozzarella and the science behind the make in Italy has been a good pairing for the beginning of something exciting and delicious.
Bocconcini - the newest addition to the range. Bitesized pearls of Buffalo Mozzarella.
Treccia - a plait of Mozzarella curd.
Scamorza - just made and in its brine.
I asked Jonathan a little bit more about the buffalo and how it is raising them in cold wet England, particularly concentrating on their feed. Originally they were completely focused on a grass based diet. However they soon realised that due to grazing patterns and the variation of our British Summers they struggled to control the high butter fats and proteins required from their buffalo. The target for their buffalo milk is 7.5-8.4% butterfat with protein at around 4.3%. Currently they are at 7.8% butterfat with protein at 4.2%. To achieve this they have had to add a small amount of milled wheat and lucerne (alfalfa) to grass silage. So in reality these additions are minimal but just helps to prop up their diet in a natural way.
The cheeses Jonathan sent me were perfectly packaged - I like their simple branding and the fact you are able to see the product through the container. The cheeses had a wonderful texture with a little spring back but the core of the cheese was oozing and melted in my mouth. They currently use vegetarian rennet but are looking to diversify and offer both traditional and vegetarian rennet cheeses. The cheeses I tried were from the Winter and flavours were gentle, creamy and salt was present and elevated. I cannot wait to try the cheese when their animals are on full pasture to see if there is a big difference in flavour profile. I pretty much ate them like an apple. Which is what I usually do with Buffalo Mozzarella. However, if you have more class than me then you can at least eat the cheese with some Basil and tomatoes when in season for a typical Caprese or have it alongside some of their Buffalo Bresaola.
Currently you can buy these cheeses from their farm shop in Yeovil, Somerset and at a set range of farmers markets in the area - https://www.buffaliciousuk.com/stockists .
Looking forward to seeing it coming up to London - I will update this post when that happens! Watch this space for exciting new projects afoot as they are currently experimenting to make a further style of cheese and some other great dairy products.
*All photos are my own and from Buffalicious.