A couple of weeks ago I was in a supermarket in Aosta. There was the most wonderful spread of everything… plump aubergines, twinkling alici, soft as silk ham. I reached the cheese counter fairly drooling.
And I spied a cheese I’d never heard of.
I asked if it was local and the girl behind the counter looked at me pityingly. “Of course, it’s local”, she said, adding proudly “è molto buono”. Did I want to try some?
Toma di Gressoney is indeed a cheese very local to Aosta. It’s a semi-fat cows’ milk cheese produced in the Lys Valley (whose main town is Gressoney) using very traditional methods. Evening milk is left to rest for 24 hours and then skimmed. The following morning’s milk is also given a light skimming after just 12 hours and is then mixed with the evening batch. It’s heated, some rennet is added and it’s left to curdle. The cows are free to roam on mountain pastures so it is only produced during the summer months.
The cheese has a round shape, 5-15 cm high, with a diameter of 15-30 cm and it’ll weigh 2-5 kg. The rind is soft, slightly unctuous, and the colour changes with age from reddish to a browny-grey.
It’s matured initially on wooden boards in a dark and damp cellar for two to four months. It’s flavour improves with age, it should be at least a year old before eating and it’s at its best at around 18 months to two years. Unfortunately it is quite often sold fresh, but the cheese is now protected by the Valle D’Aosta Slow Food Presidium whose aim is to safeguard these long-term traditional methods. Annual production is limited to 1,000 – 1,500 cheeses.