If, like me, you're infatuated with silky Italian buffalo mozzarella, you'll understand why I was so excited to discover a yogurt made from the same animal. The yogurt, made by Bufala Maciocia in Quebec (from just two ingredients: water-buffalo milk and bacterial culture), highlights the delicious qualities of this unique milk. Higher in butterfat than cow milk, buffalo milk creates a yogurt that's dense and rich – its texture is close to a Greek-style yogurt. The taste is flavourful but with a mellower tang than cow-milk yogurt and has a milder, sweeter finish. As an added bonus, it also comes flavoured with real maple syrup (which does tint the colour slightly). I was a convert from the first spoonful.
I'm a fan of full-fat yogurt any time – if simply for the taste – but buffalo milk has some added nutritional benefits that tip the scales further in its favour. Though higher in butterfat (part of the reason the yogurt sets naturally without added thickeners), it has 43-per-cent less cholesterol than cow milk. Anthea Archer is co-founder of Fairburn Farm in British Columbia, notable for importing Canada's first water-buffalo herd in 2000. She explains that water-buffalo milk also contains 40-per-cent more protein and 58-per-cent more calcium than cow milk. And, if that isn't enough cow butt-kicking, it also contains high levels of a naturally occurring antioxidant called tocopherol. Archer points out that because the buffalo milk protein differs from cow's, many people who suffer from cow's-milk sensitivity can consume it with no trouble. It also maintains a long shelf life without added preservatives.
The producers at Bufala Maciocia brought their water buffaloes to Quebec in 2009 from their original farm in Vermont and now have the largest herd (500 animals) in North America. Owner, Frank Abballe, is originally from Frosinone in the Lazio region of Italy where he was first introduced to water-buffalo products. His dream was to make exceptional, niche products from their milk in this country. In Canada, his yogurt, first created just over a year ago, is sold only in Quebec and Ontario. But good news for the West Coasters – Natural Pastures Cheese Company in Courtenay, B.C., which already makes buffalo mozzarella (all their milk is supplied by Fairburn Farms) is starting to develop a buffalo-milk yogurt that they have been offering at local farmers' markets.
Rebecca Guida, who works at Off the Bone Meat Products in Mississauga, says that kids especially go crazy for the maple version while more cautious adults – who sometimes expect a gamy taste to the product – are converted as soon as they try it. Guida loves how versatile the yogurt is: It makes an easy substitute for sour cream, cream or mayo in cooking and baking but also works perfectly in smoothies. My favourite suggestion was to mix in a little Nutella, stir lightly and create a type of Nutella "mousse" that you can serve with berries for an easy dessert. You can also drain in cheesecloth in the fridge to thicken and create a cream cheese.
Being a fan of all types of milk, and sheep-milk yogurt in particular for its rich flavour, I didn't expect to be hooked so quickly, but I must admit I think I just found my new morning BFF.
For more information about availability go to offthebone.ca.
In Toronto, it's available at Scheffler's Deli (St. Lawrence Market), The Big Carrot, Sanagan's Meat Locker (Kensington), Leslieville Cheese Market, Summerhill Market and selected Foodlands. In Thornhill, it's at Reesors Chicken and Deli and in Newmarket at Nature's Emporium Wholistic Market.
Sue Riedl blogs about cheese and other edibles at cheeseandtoast.com.