Toast Post: Alberta’s Farmstead Buffalo Mozzarella

I had the pleasure of not only feasting on the above delicacy from Old West Ranch in Alberta, but I also had an amazing conversation with farmer and cheesemaker James Meservy.  At the end of it I was convinced he should host his own radio show, the man is a natural story teller.   But part of it is that he has an amazing story to tell.

You can read the piece in my article  in today’s Globe and Mail, but I never have the space I wish I had to full tell a cheesemaker’s story…….so here’s a little bit about James, his wife Debbie and their journey to cheesemakerdom (they started off as beef farmers) which didn’t make it into the piece.

Patch the Water Buffalo, in the rain. Photo by James Meservy.

In 2003 “mad cow disease” had killed the beef industry and by 2007 the Meservy’s were selling off cattle to make bank payments (therefore cutting revenue at the same time).  They had to do something drastic, “So naturally I thought, we’ll get water buffalo, isn’t that what everyone does?”  says Mr. Meservy.  He’d been fascinated with the animals since he discovered mozzarella was made from their milk during a childhood game of Trivial Pursuit and had already been researching the idea for a number of years. The couple encountered many stumbling blocks—from difficulty sourcing the water buffalos and once acquired, losing precious animals to illness.  When he finally saw his big, spunky beasts for the first time, Mr. Meservy only half-jokes that his stomach sank “ I thought, I’m going to get killed, I can’t survive that.”

With no formal training other than a home cheese book and a half-day spent at a Vermont mozzarella plant he made his first batch of cheese in March 2010.  Popping 10 balls of mozzarella into a jar he started canvassing Calgary restaurants.  The response was overwhelmingly positive, his mozzarella is now on the menu at the renowned River Café (among others) and sold at Janice Beaton Fine Cheese

James’ (and his family’s) perseverence seems like it could move mountains.  Perhaps typical of many agricultural families.   His cheese is pretty amazing.  James says he’s not trying to replicate the Italian version, he’s doing his own thing.  His goal was to create a more robust expression of the flavours normally found in buffalo mozarella and I think he really succeeded.

Take the lid off one of the containers of his cheese and just the wonderful, fresh, milky aroma will convert you.

Contact James Meservy at farm@oldwestranch.ca

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4 Comments

Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Toast Posts, Travel and Food

4 responses to “Toast Post: Alberta’s Farmstead Buffalo Mozzarella

  1. Mat Jenkikns

    Hi sue,

    Do you know where we can get this cheese in Edmonton???

    • Hi Mat-

      I don’t think james is selling it yet in Edmonton. He wants to but is waiting to get more buffalo milking and get on a weekly schedule end of May I think (he currently makes cheese every 2 weeks). Do you know that cheese shop Everything Cheese? I imagine he might sell it there eventually, we had briefly talked about it. But, I would email him (info bottom of post) and maybe he can just send some? Plus, he might like knowing it is desired in Edmonton!

      • Mat Jenkikns

        Hi Sue,

        Interestingly enough, I did hear from James (thank you) and we both lived in Brazil at the same time in the early 90’s and both speak Portuguese. I do know Everything Cheese and shop there fairly often. As well, I almost opened a cheese shop myself around the time they opened. Small world! Thanks, love your blog.

  2. Antonella Cortese

    Hi there,
    I just happened upon the article today and emailed Mr. Meservy about perhaps purchasing the mozzarella from him directly. I DO hope he does start to sell in Edmonton, but in the meantime, I hope I can buy it from him
    🙂
    Thanks again for your blog…happened upon it too and I do enjoy reading it though I never post any comments …

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