Toma Ossolano Info
Learn About Toma Ossolano
A cheese of this style was made when milk was flowing abundantly In the mountains (height of the season). It was made quickly and aged for a much shorter period of time. This was a common cheese found in Italy, Switzerland and France. It went quickly to the valley and to the table. They can be found in many different regions under different names and usually as Tomas named for the towns or valleys of the area like Toma Ossolano.
Ossolano cheese is a fat or medium fat mountain cheese, a half-cooked and semi-hard cheese which is exclusively produced in the territory of the five Ossola Mountain Communities (Valle Ossola, Valle Antigorio, Divedro, Formazza, Valle Antrona, Valle Anzasca and Valle Vigezzo) with cow's milk. Both in the mountain cheese huts and in the coop dairies in the valley, the milk of one or two milkings - usually whole or semi-skimmed milk - is used.
The taste is delicate and sweet, characterized by the fragrances and aromas of the fine herbs of the pastures and meadows of Ossola. The full cheese has a medium weight of 11-15 lbs and a diameter of about 11-12.5in, with variations due to particular processing. Ossola milk, which is almost exclusively produced with Brown cows (Bruna Alpina), is an ideal milk for the production of such a fine cheese.
The History of Toma Ossolano
Although this region and its cheese production are now positioned in the lower Alps of Italy today, the people that make it, originally came from what is now Switzerland and on the northern side of the Alps. The original home for these people (collectively known as the Walsern) was Valais, part of Switzerland today.
This was a high mountain region (Hochburgund) and during the 13th century a migration of colonists from Valais crossed through the mountain pass in the Alps to settle in the high mountain valleys such as the Ossola Valley of modern day Italy.
High in the mountains, the meagre land, short harvest times and long winters made the farmers’ work very demanding. The climatic as well as the topographic conditions required a high degree of know-how and experience. In order to create a viable economy, sophisticated ways of working were necessary.
Living in these high valleys necessitated a need to manage the food storage of food for the long winters. Such things as these larger drier cheeses, stored corn meal for polenta, and the dried sausage and hams of northern Italy were typical fare to survive the long winters. Although many have moved from these high valleys to the cities today there are still many examples across northern Italy where the culture and agriculture have been maintained. In Italy this is embraced today by the population at large as its cultural heritage and widely supported by the nation.