Tolminc, or Tolminski sir (Tolmin cheese), also called Tminc in local dialect is a Slovenian hard cow’s milk cheese that takes its name from the city of Tolmin, situated in the high Isonzo Valley (Zgornje Posočje), in Slovenia’s northwest near the Italian border.
Cylindrical in shape, Tominc stands 8-9cm tall, has straight or slightly convex sides and flat or slightly convex faces, with a diameter of 23-27 cm. The weight varies from 3.5 to 5 kilos. When cut it displays a lovely deep yellow color and smooth and flexible consistency, with small holes (the holes must no larger than a cherry pip).
Historically this cheese was produced in the mountain pastures of the Julian Alps that surround the valley. The first documented evidence of cheesemaking in the region dates back to the 13th century, when cheese was also used to pay taxes to land owners. A cheese with the name Tominisk sir first appears in 1756 in a price list from the city of Udine. At the end of the nineteenth century, a number of cheesemakers who contributed to improving the product’s quality traveled to the region to help local farmers to resolve some production problems, thanks to the farmers' association of Gorica (Gorizia). On Razor Mountain, in 1886, under the direction of Swiss Tomaž Hitz, the decision was made to start producing hard cheese.
Production of Tolminc starts with fermenting the milk for at least 12 hours. During this process a native microflora develops, giving the milk the right level of acidity. Rennet is then added to coagulate the milk.
The curds are placed into molds and pressed for 6-12 hours, in heated premises. The cheeses are turned during the pressing, allowing for a more rapid purging of the whey.
The forms are then salted in brine for 24-48 hours.
Aging takes place for a minimum of 60 days in natural well-ventilated premises, but to acquire a good complexity of aroma and flavor the cheeses are aged for at least six to eight months.
During the maturation period, Tolminc becomes covered in a light gray mold that is removed by brushing or with a damp cloth.
In 2001, Tolminc obtained PDO (protected designation of origin) status, but production in mountain dairies continues to decline: of the 68 that were still operating in the 1930s, less than 20 survive today. The cow’s raised on these alpine pastures are predominately the Braunvieh breed.
This typical product is at risk of disappearing because very few young people are choosing to take on pastoral activities. One of the few young people that is continuing in his father’s footsteps is Rok Stres, pictured in the photo, on the right.
Photo — Archivio Slow Food