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.
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.