The practice of making cheese using milk from more than one type of animal is common on the continent, but not something seen often in the UK.
In remote mountain areas, goats and sheep graze the steep and rocky hillsides, and cows tend to be kept on flatter, more gently rolling pastures, lower down in hills. In order for the remote mountain dairies to make cheese all year round, milk from high yielding cows is mixed with the milk from either goats or sheep, depending on which is available at the time.
From the beginning of spring to midsummer, cheese makers in the hills above the Piedmont town of Cuneo blend new season sheep's milk – sweet and fatty, with the year-round supply of cow's milk. One of the cheeses made is the Testun alla Paglia, a semi-soft, pressed “Toma”.
|Testun alla Paglia|
The rind of this artisanal cheese is rubbed in the herbage specific to the region ("Paglia" translates to "hay"), directly imparting the aromas, flavour and essence of the hills to the cheese. As the cheese ripens, the scent of the flower-rich hay develops through the cheese, giving an intense complexity and diversity of flavours.
To begin with, the cheese has clean, milky flavours, soon building acidity and mouthwatering fruitiness, with layers of buttery richness and a fair level of salt.
The cheese remains on the palate long after swallowing, with the lingering flavour of sheep's milk - a distinct almond-like quality.
This cheese is robust and bold, but balanced, with great subtlety and nuance.
A product which truly portrays its origins.
|The hay-coated rind of the Testun alla Paglia.|