When Andrew Zlot and Curtis Fjelstul first bought an old buttery and a herd of cows and buffalo and turned it into Double 8 Dairy, they didn’t start out with the intention of making cheese. However, with a lot of trial and error, they were able to produce a coveted and hard to find product: domestic Buffalo mozzarella. The Good Earth specialty team recently took a trip to Double 8 Dairy in Two Rock, California to learn more about how they were able to make this very special cheese.
When Double 8 Dairy opened, Andrew and Curtis had 11 water buffalo and a handful of Jersey cows. Over time, they’ve slowly grown their herd to almost 100 animals. You won’t find a herd of buffalo like this anywhere else in the United States. Most of the buffalo in the US live on game ranches and are wild and unruly. Building up a herd that is docile and productive takes time, and many have tried and failed.
Raising water buffalo can be quite challenging for a number of reasons. Unlike cattle, water buffalo store their milk internally, so they’re notoriously difficult to milk. Additionally, female buffalo have horns, which don’t mix well with conventional dairy equipment. Lastly, an average Jersey cow will produce 4-6 gallons of milk a day, while a water buffalo only produces 1-2 gallons a day, if you’re lucky. It may not seem worth the effort, but water buffalo milk is higher in fat and protein than cow’s milk, which results in an amazingly creamy and delicious product.
With determination and patience, Andrew and Curtis surmounted the challenges associated with raising and caring for a water buffalo herd. The next issue they encountered centered on cheese production. Because pasteurization laws differ between Italy and the United States, Double 8 Dairy was unable to utilize traditional recipes for buffalo mozzarella. Instead, they had to develop one that would work in America. They partnered with cheesemakers from Caserta, one of Italy’s top buffalo mozzarella producing cities, to create a version that would work stateside. The Double 8 Dairy recipe still uses traditional techniques to hand stretch the curds and obtain the wonderful texture that fresh mozzarella is known for.
Throughout their cheesemaking journey, Andrew and Curtis have met a number of obstacles. Their hard work has paid off and these days Double 8 Dairy produces 1,400 pounds of cheese a week. They currently produce a soft-serve base, gelato, mozzarella, and ricotta, and are experimenting with more offerings. Most of their products are sold directly to local restaurants and ice cream shops like Bi-Rite and Gott’s. Good Earth is proud to be one of two grocery stores in all of the United States that carry Double 8 Dairy cheese. Come in and try their delicious buffalo mozzarella for yourself!