Toma is a type of cow's milk cheese produced throughout the Alpine arc of northern Italy, especially in the regions of Valle d'Aosta and Piemonte.
Interestingly, it tends to crop up in those areas where the classic mountain 'fontina' has less of a presence.
In Valle d'Aosta it was used mainly as a substitute for meat, which tended to be scarce in the hills, and is still wonderful when cooked with polenta or soup.
In Piemonte there are more than 20 types of Toma (one is pictured above) with the DOP mark awarded to those produced in the provinces in and around Novara, Vercelli, Biella, Torino, Cuneo and a handful of comune near Asti and Alessandria.
A genuine Toma cheese should be made the old 'artigianale' way. In other words, by the very hands of the farmer who overlooks the grazing and milking of his animals on the Alpine slopes throughout the year.
The cheese should be seasoned for at least three months and possess with a soft, elastic consistency and a light, yellow crust.
The color of the 'pasta' is typically pale yellow to ivory and contains tiny holes as a result of the fermentation process. The taste is fairly salty becoming 'piccante' as the months pass.
Unlike the Tomini, Toma is sold in cylinders of 15-25 centimeters in diameter with a depth of 5-10 cm. The average Toma is around 3kg in weight.
The best Toma can be found, according to our sources, at Gressoney in the Valle del Lys, Brusson and the Valgrisenche, while many other variations bear the local place names.