Toma cheese is a thin or semi-fatty cheese made from cow’s milk that is soft and smooth. The cheese is usually made from whole or partly skimmed cow’s milk. Sometimes, sheep’s milk is added. The animals that provide the milk customarily feed on forage that is highly aromatic. Toma will be soft and yielding if whole milk is used. If the milk has been partly skimmed, the cheese will be firmer and more compact.
The production area of this cheese includes the entire Aosta Valley and Piedmont. In 1964, Toma was certified as a typical product of Italy. The most highly regarded cheeses come from the Valsesia, Valle dell’Orco, Valle di Lanzo, Val di Susa and Val Formazza in Piedmont.
The output of two milkings is used in the production of Toma. The milk of the previous night is heated to the same temperature as the morning’s milk, with which it is then combined. Rennet, which has been dissolved in whey or in a mixture of water and vinegar, is added next. An hour later, the curds are broken up into fine grains. They are allowed to “rest” for a few minutes in a hemp sack and are then molded into the size.
The word toma does not appear in the Italian dictionary. However, the most complete lexicons do contain the expressions “promettere Roma e Toma” (to promise heaven and earth) and “capire Roma per Toma” (to take Rome for Toma). In either case, the word was coined solely because it rhymed with Roma. The name may have developed from the old French term tumer, which means to fall. In the case of the cheese, it may refer to the dropping of the rennet into the milk to make it curdle. Whatever the origin of the name, the cheese itself is ancient. Pantaleone da Confidenza discussed it in his Summa Lacticinorum, which was published in 1477 in Turin.