05 June 2017

Making Fresh Tomini Cheese at Home

fresh Tomini Cheese
Super fresh Tomini Cheese
Tomini Cheese, in this part of Piemonte, Italy, means a soft fresh cheese that looks a lot like miniature ricotta cheese. Looking up Tomini in the large Piedmont chapter of our Slow Food book on Italian cheeses, Tomini is referred to as Tomini di Talucco, which happens to be the valley just on the other side of our on hillside, and it refers to it as pure goats cheese. It also states that the territory of origin comes from not only Talucco, but Grandubbione, which is where our road deadends  5 km further up the road from our house. It is the only Tomino listed in book which covers ever single region of Italy. So this type of cheese really is from our neighborhood. 
Here the Tomino is eaten in it's fresh state after a day of settling and letting the water drain out, it is salted top and bottom. Tradition is also to mature the cheese after it has firmed up by dusting them with some black or red pepper, or domestic or wild thyme and then place it in a earthenware vessel called an "ule", or glass jars, till it is ripened to the cheese makers taste. My mother in law loves to ripen them till they are quite aromatic.
Earthenware "ule" for ripening tomini cheeses, missing its lid
Ripened Tomini using black pepper and hot red pepper

So in our part of northern Italy Tomini was made completely with whole goat milk, although with changing times and palates you will find it also made with half goat and half cows milk or an all cows milk variety for those that like the style of cheese but not so fond of goat milk. I love goat cheese, so I'm a fan of the original, but not opposed to the other varieties. They are all delicious.
There is also a variety of Tomini that is sometimes called dry Tomini that has been innoculate to form a white crust similar to brie cheese. Most cheese makers here call this type of cheese Pagliarine. It's a great cheese, but to me it tastes nothing like the Tomini type that is typical to here. 
Dry Tomini or what most cheese makers here call Pagliarine
I've seen a variety of cheese makers work their their magic and thought why not give it a go at home since it seems relatively easy and I have access to fresh unpasteurized milk from what I like to call our mechanical cow over in Pinerolo.   It's great because it still has the cream on top once it sits and it truly is delicious. It's our very own local milk without the milking. 
Fresh unpasteurized milk, €1 per liter
We have a lot of cheesemakers in our valleys and a long history of being famous for our cheeses. Its been said that General Hannibal, of the elephant fame, crossed the Alps around 3through our valleys because it was not only the quickest way to cross, but it was an opportunity to try and nourish his dwindling number of men on our Alpine dairy products, most notably cheese. 

A few years back we went to a Tomini cheese making demonstration in Talucco at Agriturismo Pinareul Arios, which just happens to be cousins in the extended way that people are related when your family has lived in the neighborhood for many generations. They still make their Tomini over a wood fired stove and it all done by hand within the family. They also operate a charming dining room that features their delicious genuine home grown and made food and is famous, not only for their Tomini, but for also their Fritto Misto alla Piemontese , an extravaganza of all sorts of savory and sweet fried foods. It's a popular indulgence in these parts and they do it well.
Hand produced Tomini di Talucco at Pinareul Arios
We also take guests up our Chisone valley to Vento Grigio Farm for a demonstration of milking and Tomino making complete with a light picnic lunch outdoors with a fabulous view of the Chisone valley and a change to have a go at milking a goat if you want to. Naturally we get to sample some of Cesare's pure goat cheese Tomino and you won't be disappointed. 

Milking Goats at Vento Grigio
So now you can try and make some at home, as it isn't difficult, you just need some good quality whole milk, cows or goat, a large stainless steel cooking pot (needs to hold at least 5 quarts liquid), some rennet for producing the curds, something to hold the curds  and shape the cheese while allowing the water or whey to drain out. 
There are proper forms that you can find from cheese making suppliers or some cheese cloth lining a strainer or colander that you could use  while you decide if this is something you might make more than once in a blue moon. 
Tomino making steps

Tomino Cheese 

12 approximately cheeses, depending on how well you fill them


1 - 5 liter cook pot, stainless steel best
Cooking thermometer
5 cm x 4-5 cm (2inch x 1.75 inch) round cheese form for draining cheese in (strainer lined with cheese cloth will work) 


4 liters ( 4 quarts) whole milk, best if unpasteurized, but can make it with pasteurized milk
2 grams per liter (8 g = 1.6 tsp ) caglio ( rennet or vegetable rennet) 


If the milk has been refrigerated, let the milk set out to bring it to room temperature before heating. 
Place ambient temperature milk (37*C /  98.6*F)  in the large pot. 
Slowly raise the temperature of the milk to at least 75*C (167*F) that will pasteurize the milk. 
The milk can go as high as 85*C (185*F) 

According to some cheese makers, bringing the milk to 75*C-85*C (167*F-186*F)  pasteurizes the milk but leaves some good bacteria that adds flavor and nutrition. 

If you heat the milk all the way to 90*C (194*F) it sterilizes the milk. 
Once the milk reaches the desired temperature hold the milk there for at least 5 minutes.  

My pots hold the heat quite well, so I turned the heat off and kept the thermometer in the milk to make sure the heat didn't dip below the 75* mark until after the 5 minutes. Descriptions of making Tomini states the milk needs to go to 85*C, but cheese makers seem to have varying opinions on this point. It seems to be their twist on making the Tomino recipe their own.

Allow the milk to cool down in the cooking pot to 38* (194*F). 
While the milk is cooling measure out your caglio (rennet) and have it ready to add immediately at 38*C (195*F) 
The temperature can drop quickly so keep a close eye on the temperature of the milk.

Add the caglio (rennet) and stir throughly to distribute the rennet. Cover the pot with a lid and allow to cool undisturbed for at least 40 minutes - 2 hours.  You can raise the lid to peak in just don't stir or move the pot gently if needed so as not to disturb the milk curds. I did the 40 minutes one time and it didn't seem to be enough time for mine to set properly, so now I just go with the 2 hour timing. 
Once you let it cool down you will find that the milk has softly solidified and pulled away from the sides of the pan. There will be a clearish whey formed between the cheese and the pot. 

Take a long handled spoon or metal spatula and start by making a long cut through the top to the bottom of the curd and draw a line horizontally toward you. Lift the spatula out make the same motion horizontally across the curd to form the blessing of the cross. 
Then gently cut the curds up the same way throughout the whole of the pan until the curds form and the whey begins to be throughout the whole pot. Let the curd set for a few minties and then either scoop up the curds with your form or fill the forms gently lifting the curds and pouring then into the draining forms. Fill a few forms and keep going back to refill, as the curds will give a lot of whey even after sitting. 
**Do not let the cheeses sit in the drained whey because it is bitter from the rennet and will give an off flavor to the cheese. There are draining trays here for helping with that problem, but even with those you must keep watching them for a few hours as they will give off whey for a couple of days. After the first few hours the amount will slow down, but be very vigilant with making sure the cheese does not rest for very long in the whey. 

They can be eaten after a couple of hours, but will be quite soft. I would let the others sit at least over night if you can before unmolding them to stand on their own. If desired, you can sprinkle a bit of salt on the top and bottom of the individual cheeses, but not everyone does that. Many people here prefer them with out the salt to taste the freshness os the milk. its a bit like unsalted and salted butter. They both have their place. You can always salt them to taste when eating. 
The cheeses will last several days to a week ot so depending on your salting or not and how you hold them. I keep the nin the refrigerator unless I am going to salt them and dry them with a bit of pepper or herbs. After a day or two of air drying you can then put them in the jars or earthenware jar. They will get strong tasting after a week or so and you can ripen them to taste. Usually for us, they never get that far, as we will have eaten them with tomatoes, and a drizzle of good olive oil or hot pepper oil, a few cranks of fresh cracked pepper for a delicate fresh cheese that you made yourself. 
Do enjoy.
Fresh Tomini cheese with a parsley garnish
*The whey is good as an addition to bread and some types of baked goods. It has also been used in making home made soap. You will find that many animals will enjoy the rennet also, but not all. 


Anne in Oxfordshire said...

A very interesting post , thanks for sharing. I love trying all different cheeses. Strange that you can put them in earthenware pots too.

Bella Baita Marla said...

Hi Anne, thanks for topping by and commenting. It is strange because once they go in the pots or jars and start to ripen, they completely change from the mild mannered fresh cheese, to a much more strong flavored cheese. I like them aged a bit but my family has a taste for the very ripe aromatic cheese. Enjoy and carry on.

learntravelitalian said...

Making cheese is really a lot of fun and fairly easy. Thanks for sharing about this unique cheese.

Bella Baita Marla said...

Thank you Kathryn.. cheese is so much easier than we thought, so I agree let's have some fun!

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