We've already explored bagoss burrata, mozzarella, caciocavallo, blu di morozzo and many more unusual cheeses produced by Italy's artisans, but this is a country that keeps on giving when it comes to delighting cheese lovers!
Next up we have Toma. A hard cheese produced in northern Italy which belongs to the category of "washed-rind" cheeses, so called because the wheels are washed in salted water.
Toma can be produced in various varieties and with different types of milk (mainly cow or with the addition of sheep or goat's milk) and the flavour becomes more decisive and powerful with ageing.
TOMA PIEMONTESE PDO
The most famous toma is the Piedmontese PDO, one of the oldest cheeses in the region. It's a semi-cooked seasoned cheese made exclusively from cow's milk, taken from one or two consecutive milkings.
The area of origin of the milk processing includes the provinces of Novara, Vercelli, Biella, Turin and Cuneo, all found in northern Italy.
Toma can be produced in two versions: both with whole cow's milk and with partially skimmed milk.
The maturation of Piedmontese Toma takes place in traditional caves or in suitable environments (humid and with temperatures between 6 ° and 10 °).
The forms are turned over several times, washing, from time to time, the flat faces with a solution of water and salt.
TWO VERSIONS OF TOMA PIEMONTESE DOP
Piedmontese toma is produced with whole milk, has a smooth straw-yellow rind, small and diffused holes and a sweet and pleasant flavour, with a delicate aroma. The fat of the dry matter must not be less than 40%.
The other toma produced with partially skimmed milk, is called Toma Piemontese Semigrasso. In this case, the crust is not very elastic, with rustic rind, ranging from bright straw to reddish brown. The cheese is straw-white with small holes.
The taste is intense and harmonious on the palate, with a fragrant aroma that becomes more characteristic with ageing. The fat of the dry matter must not be less than 20%.
Both kinds of cheese are protected by the European Dop certification.
A TRADITIONAL RECIPE WITH TOMA "POCIA" WITH TOMA PIEMONTESE
"Pocia" is among the most traditional recipes with Piedmontese Toma:
It's prepared by first frying and then boiling minced garlic, sliced cabbage and diced pork. Separately boil some water with a pinch of salt and add cornflour a little at a time to make a polenta.
Cook for 54 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. When the polenta is ready, add cabbage and pork polenta with polenta, and, at this point, the Toma Piemontese. Gently mix and pour the "Pocia" into a terracotta pan.
To make the dish even more decadent, prepare a Toma fondue, melted in a bain-marie with some milk, to be poured on the pocia before serving.
Polenta Concia, a typical Val d'Aosta dish that combines polenta, butter and cheese can also be made with whole milk Toma Piemontese.
Toma Piemontese Semigrasso is also used to prepare classic fondue, a mix of melted cheeses and milk, in which the pieces of homemade bread are dipped in with a stick.
Toma is also excellent as a filling for baked potatoes and to enrich the risotto with radicchio.
Artisanal Toma : The Toma from Gressonay in the Ark of Taste
Not just Fontina. In Valle d'Aosta, especially in the area of Gressoney-Saint Jean, many small and interesting traditional productions survive, of which La Toma di Gressoney in an example.
This classic toma from the Alps is produced in mountain pastures (even above 2200 meters) and is one of the products protected by the Slow Food Ark of Taste. It's a semi-fat cheese: the raw milk of the evening is left to rest for 24 hours and then skimmed by surfacing.
That of the morning undergoes a slight skimming after 12 hours of rest and is mixed with the previous one.
Then it is heated to 35 ° C, liquid calf rennet is added and allowed to coagulate. Then the curd is finely broken, which, once extracted, is placed in wooden molds and salted, generally dry.
The rind is smooth and goes from reddish to gray-brown, the cheese slightly glazed and straw-colored. Excellent but tender, it acquires character with long aging.