At Ramini Mozzarella, every day is Mother’s Day.
“This is a very female-oriented society here on the farm,” Craig Ramini tells me. “Everything comes down to the mothers and their babies.”
To meet the Ramini Mozzarella water buffalo moms and their babies , please check out this video (below) — I promise you’ll be glad you did!
As we found out in ZeMambo di Mozzarella di Bufala, these majestic females are the proud producers of the decadently rich, creamy milk that’s the foundation for one of the world’s most legendary cheeses: authentic mozzarella di bufala.
Any mom will tell you that the secret ingredient in her signature dish is love—and water buffalo moms are no exception.
“Our cheese literally depends on love,” Craig says.
“Water buffalo aren’t like modern dairy cows—they’re very independent, vigilant creatures who won’t give their milk to just anyone. These animals are descended from centuries of wild water buffalo, who had to be constantly on the lookout for predators and ready to take off at a moment’s notice.”
And like moms everywhere, water buffalo are always thinking first of their babies.
If the moms are feeling nervous, you can bet they’re not going to let go of a drop of milk for a human.
In order for water buffalo moms to let their precious milk flow freely, they need to be relaxed and at ease so their pituitary glands can produce oxytocin, the hormone that creates feelings of bonding, love and trust.
“When the love is flowing, so is the milk” is the way Craig likes to put it.
With this in mind, Craig and his wife, Audrey Hitchcock, decided to create a water buffalo paradise that would put the moms’ natural intelligence to work in everyone’s favor.
“Our milking barn and creamery are converted from an old cow dairy,” Audrey tells me. “When I redesigned the milking barn, my goal was to create a mellow, churchlike atmosphere where the moms and babies would feel completely happy, peaceful and comfortable.”
Craig, who once worked in software development, put his creativity to work in designing milking stalls that complement a water buffalo’s psychology. In fact, his nose-to-tail stalls have been so successful, they’ve helped earn Craig the reputation among farmers and ranchers as the “Dr. Phil of Water Buffalo.”
Craig says that the best way to treat a water buffalo is just like you would your best friend. When they feel safe, secure and loved, they cooperate.
“During milking time, everything is nice and peaceful,” Craig reminds me. “No tractors, no noisy farm work —we’ve even worked it out so that the Black Angus cattle next door keep quiet.”
As you might expect, the water buffalo moms give a lot more milk when their calves are nearby. Every morning, Craig brings the buffalo babies down from the pasture and into the milking barn.
“While the mothers are being milked, the babies enjoy a breakfast of their favorite hay, then we brush them,” Audrey says.
“Just as they do in the pasture, the mothers are continually communicating with their babies. A gentle lick is like a hug—and the moms have a special grunt that I’m absolutely sure means ‘I love you!’ There’s also a bellow, which I think every mom (human and water buffalo) is familiar with!
And I very much agree with Craig about this being a female-oriented society. Because they’re herd animals, the buffalo moms and aunties all look after the calves out in the pasture. If one baby is in trouble, all the adult females work together to keep that baby safe.”
This season, the five mothers of newborn calves are all first-time moms. But since they’ve been in the milking barn as calves when their own mothers were being milked, they’ve seen how it’s done.
In a way, this is the water buffalo equivalent of passing down special family recipes and techniques to the next generation. And much the same way as the kitchen is the heart of a home, the milking barn is the heart of Ramini Mozzarella.
“The moms and calves know the building and it’s a happy place where they feel safe and secure,” Craig observes. “They associate it with love, family, friendship—and lots of good things to eat.”
Later, when Craig sets a plate of his freshly made mozzarella on a weathered wooden picnic table beside the pasture, the description “good things to eat” seems like an understatement.
The soft, juicy ball of mozzarella di bufala still bears the marks of Craig’s hands, showing how recently the cheese was pulled and shaped. It’s served very simply, with just a sprinkling of sea salt and black pepper and a drizzle of buttery golden olive oil.
When we cut into the mozzarella, a creamy juice flows across the plate. Craig says that this is the hallmark of impeccably fresh mozzarella, usually available only in Italy.
I ask Craig what it’s called. “I’m sure there’s a proper name for it,” he tells me.
“But I like to call it the ‘milky whey’ because it makes the cheese truly celestial!”
One taste of the mozzarella confirms this. It reflects the essence of the animals and the land itself, with a fresh, grassy flavor highlighting the creamy richness.
In the sunlit pasture, the water buffalo moms and babies are playing and conversing in their own private language.
We enjoy the rest of the cheese as we watch them—and taste the love in every bite.
Zebra’s Note: If you’d like read the story of Ramini water buffalo and cheesemaking written by a cool kid for other cool kids, please check out Wonderful Water Buffaloes. For in-depth info about Ramini Mozzarella, please visit their amaZing website!