When traveling through northern Italy and its mountainous regions of the Piedmont and Aosta Valley one type of cheese that will often cross your path is a “Toma”.
It´s a mountainous pal – pressed, and often made from skimmed or partially skimmed milk – who finds his relatives in the French and Swiss “Tomme” who are lurking on the other side of the mountain peaks.
For the origin of the name one can find almost as many explanations as there are Tomas alongside the road.
From a thread back to the Latin “toma,” deriving from the Greek word “tomè”- “to cut” – to the Piedmontese word “tuma,” which translates as “to fall” and is linked to the precipitation undergone by casein in milk due to the action of rennet, all the way to a more modern twist of “Toma” being referred to “cheese made by the farmer her-/himself”.
In Italy you can find 1 DOP (Toma Piemontese) as well as 10 PAT (prodotti agroalimentari tradizionali – traditional, agricultural product) “Toma” and many, many more specimens made without an official recipe book or designated area of origin and/or production.
Our find, the sign on the door implied, was a *Toma di Lanzo*, one of the 8PAT Tomas from the Piedmont.
However, with no obligatory branding by the 2013 founded consortium and despite a shrug and verbal reassurance that it was in fact a *Toma di Valle di Lanzo* (note the little name difference?), we chit-chatted out that our *Toma* is not one in the official PAT regulatory sense but does share the same history and is born in the same environment as its famous counterpart.
The first mention of a “Lanzo Toma” dates back to 150 A.C., when Gens Vennonia, a Roman Turinese family, sent shepherds and settlers to Piano della Mussa in the upper Ala Valley, to pasture the herds and produce butter and cheese.
And this is in fact something our pal has in common with his very first ancestor as it is produced in Val d´Ala´s upper section Balme, more precisely on the Pian Ciamarella.
Making & Tasting
Cows of the Valdostan breed (pezzata rossa and nera) grazing on an altitude of 1850 mASL and way beyond (breathtaking views included) delivered the milk that gave our precious find its unique taste and mouthwatering texture.
It is a pressed, calf´s rennet coagulated, dry-salted cheese that is made from raw, unskimmed cow´s milk (note: *Toma di Lanzo* can also be made from partially skimmed milk) and was ripened for 3 months before strolling down the valley to delight its new owners. (Note: on that very day this included both us and an apartment building in Milan ).
Our dinner guest has a semi-soft, dry and elastic wrinkly crust, of a golden brown with white areas. The paste is of an ivory color with regular little holes and a nice humid and deformable touch to it.
On the nose it delivers fresh lactic notes of sour cream and cooked butter, which on the palate pirouette to sweet and sour salt aromas of an earthy, mountain hoof flavor quality.
Gustav, who is already planning his next alpeggio trip, says he especially loves the playful curdy texture and sweaty cattle skin flavors of the undercrust and rates our mountain pasture find a clear 13/10.
- Always search for some rare specialities with a DOP, STG or PAT status.
- Never be disappointed if what you searched for is not what you get – there are so many hidden gems.
- Never be shy – always second guess and ask questions to find out more about what you found – there is so much to taste, learn and discover.