Toma

A Fair Day at Cherry Grove Farm

Last week our friends at Fair Food Farmstand dropped by! We had a fantastic time giving them a behind-the-scenes look at how we operate on a daily basis, and we even got our hands a little dirty in the process! Fair Food Farmstand carries our farmstead cheeses and a plethora of other farm-sourced goodies at their stand in the Philadelphia Reading Terminal Market. Next time you are in the city, be sure to check them out! Here is what they had to say about their visit to Cherry Grove:

 

Last Tuesday, the boys of Fair Food—myself, Noel and Nate—took a trip to Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville, NJ. We met some very fine folks including Stacey, our lovely tour guide; Sam, the head cheese maker; and Malachy, our former Farmstand cheese intern. Cherry Grove is a picturesque farm of 400 acres, 250 of which are certified organic pasture for their 115 Jersey and Short Horn cows. From these cows comes the sweet milk that produces some of our favorite cheeses at the Farmstand—the Havilah and Toma Primavera being two of our stand-by’s. 

 

Noel, Craig & Nate gear up for the cheesemaking room.

 

Our first leg of the tour was the cheese room and there was action! Sam was scooping, molding and pressing some fresh Herdsman. Malachy was hand-molding some beautiful bloomy rinds. Giant wheels of Havilah were soaking in their salt brine. We checked out their three caves: one for the bloomy rinds (that buttery Buttercup Brie), one for the Havilah, Herdsman and Jacks and a single cave just for the Toma Primavera.  

 

Cheese Curds

 

Next we took a tour of the farm and pastures. Cherry Grove puts a lot of effort into being a sustainable system. We met “the spreader” which is a nifty conveyor belt that recycles the cow manure into fertilizer. We saw “the sucker” which takes the excess whey from the cheese room and pipes it to their 100% whey-fed Berkshire pigs. Their wood fire heat exchanger provides heat and hot water for all of the cheese making and the farm store. The wood comes from local tree surgeons who deliver the wood that they would normally have to pay to landfill—pretty cool if you ask me! 

 

Cherry Grove’s Pastures

 

Lastly we got to spend some time with the pasture-raised chickens. There is no experience quite like harvesting eggs with 1,000 clucking and pecking chickens at your feet on a 95-degree summer day. We had a blast, to say the least! Living in the city, it’s incredibly refreshing to spend time on a farm—so much that we worked for fun! 

 

Aging Wheels of Toma Primavera

 

We wrapped up our tour with a cheese tasting and we were fortunate to come home with treats: our harvested eggs; delicious pork products for ourselves; and a couple of wheels of Toma Primavera (the first batches of the season!) for your enjoyment at the Farmstand.

The folks at Cherry Grove were so knowledgeable, and fun—I am already looking forward to our next visit! In the meantime we’ll keep on enjoying their delicious cheeses and organic veggies down at the stand!

-Craig

 

 

You’ll Love the Aroma of Our Toma!

 

It’s almost time for the return of our most popular cheese! In anticipation of a high demand thanks to our finalist status in the Good Food Awards, our cheesemakers got a jump-start on their schedule and started making Toma earlier this year! It will be cut next week and available in our store and at markets starting Thursday, July 5th.

 

 

 

Even though the recipe for Toma is always the same, seasonality adds for some subtle yet notable variations in flavor, texture, and appearance. These differences occur due to changes in environmental conditions and the diet of our cows. Early spring Toma is made when temperatures are cooler, the humidity is lower, and when the cows are eating hay rather than grass. We feed hay from our own pastures in the winter when the ground is bare and in early spring to supplement the lack of nutrients in early season grasses. Our pastures have been organically certified for 8 years, which means our hay is also organic!

 

 

The first subtle difference you will notice is that its rind is less defined. This is due to drier conditions in the caves and a shorter aging period. Another difference in our Toma made with “hay milk” is that it is a light creamy white paste instead of the deeper yellow Toma of last summer. That is because the beta-carotene found in fresh grass, which normally gives cheese a yellow or orange hue, is absent in hay. Cows are the only animals that don’t digest beta-carotene, so their raw grass-fed milks and cheeses are the only dairy products with the benefit of this added nutrient!

 

 

Using hay milk will also bring about some notable differences in the flavor and texture of our Toma. Early spring Toma has an earthy and lipolic flavor, similar to an aged provolone, and a semi-creamy texture. As the seasons progress, the cows move from hay to grass, and the cheese spends more time aging in our caves, the flavor profile of Toma will become more pungent and tangy, the rind will become more developed, and the texture will only increase in creaminess.

 

 Pairing Ideas:

 

Toma is wonderful paired with Sauvignon Blanc, dry to semi-dry Riesling, Pinot Noir, or Merlot.  It is also fantastic on crackers with your favorite savory marmalade or chutney. For example, the Apricot Jalapeño Jelly we just added to our shelves from Muirhead would be a match made in heaven! Seasonally, our Toma also goes well with honey, bacon, and caramelized onions.

And The Finalists Are…

“After long days of heavy lifting, when the signs were hung, pods stationed, goodie bags assembled, it was finally time for the event we’ve been working so hard on putting together for the past few months. As we unloaded boxes, looking at the entries of the people who we’d spoken to on the phone or conversed with over e-mail, it finally felt like everything was coming together. We worked tirelessly over the week and weekend, some of us running all over the Bay Area, others manning the endlessly ringing phone, and the rest of us unpacking and sorting the beautiful entries at Veritable Vegetable warehouse.

On Sunday morning, armed with bellies full of Starter Bakery focaccia and caffeine buzzes courtesy of Ritual Coffee, we were anxious and ready. One hundred and thirty of the food movement’s best and brightest started rolling in, game faces on, ready to judge over 900 entries from 46 states, and decide the lucky few who will be honored with this year’s Good Food Awards Ceremony.”

-Posted on Friday, October 14th, 2011 in Blog by Jen Flaxman

We are honored to have our Toma selected as a national Good Food Awards Finalist. For a full listing of all the Good Food Finalists click here.

 


1902 - Family purchased farm

1910 - Leased land to dairy farmer

1987 - Hamill Brothers inherit farm

2002 - Started as a family business

2003 - Started a beef herd, laying hens, and pigs

2004 - Added sheep and attained organic certification of pasture land

2005 - Added dairy herd and began making fresh cheeses like mozzarella

2006 - Built aging caves and began making aged cheeses

2012 - Grid Magazine’s Cheese of the Month (Nov – Full Nettle Jack); Finalist at the Good Food Awards (Toma)

2013 - Won 2 blue ribbons from the American Cheese Society(for Buttercup Brie and Lawrenceville Jack Reserve); Added second cheesemaker

2014 - Broke ground on additional aging space and began process of getting AWA certification for our chickens
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