[Sca-cooks] Tuma-tuma-tuma-ay

otsisto otsisto at socket.net
Tue Jan 5 13:56:03 PST 2010

Found a comment about tuma
"Pecorino, as its name implies, is made from sheep's milk ("pecora" meaning
sheep). It is true that Sicily's sheep population is ever diminishing, but
in Italian regions, only Sardinia presently raises more sheep than Sicily.
Like Tuma, Pecorino is sometimes flavored with peppercorns or other spices.
Made throughout Sicily, where it may be considered the most widely produced
aged cheese product, it is a favourite for grating over pasta. Its taste,
though sharp, is often less pungent and dry than that of Caciocavallo,
despite a distinctive flavour and texture (it crumbles and flakes easily)."
"Tuma and Primo Sale are known, in some forms, as "Vastedda" in some parts
of Sicily, such as the Belice Valley. Made from sheep's milk, it is usually
called Tuma when tasted right out of the mould, Primo Sale when salted
lightly, and Vastedda when aged slightly longer. Like Pecorino, Tuma is
sometimes flavored with peppercorns or other spices. Unlike Pecorino, it
does not age well and is best served with ham, wines and fruits as a table
cheese. It has a sweet taste not unlike that of Provola, with an equally
rubbery texture."

Could one use the same method to make mozzerella to make tuma, using sheep's
milk instead of cow?


-----Original Message-----
OK, ever since I brought up that 16th-century description of Sicilian pasta
covered with cheeses dripping with butter and milk, and theorized that it is
tuma, I have been on the search for a good description of Sicilian fresh
tuma cheese (and not tuma d'paja, which is from the Piedmont and aged under
straw, or primo sale, which is aged, salted tuma).

Anyway, I found an excellent description of it, as well as some local and
regional cheese-making practices, in, of all things, a 2006 article about an
outbreak of brucellosis in a Sicilian village during the Nativity


"Tuma is a typical Sicilian fresh cheese made from sheep's milk. It has a
cylindrical appearance and is sold fresh, no more than 2 days old. It has no
crust, and the dough is white or ivory-white without holes. The texture is
very soft, tender, and wet. It is generally served with ham, wines, and
fruits as a table cheese."

So the initial thoughts from Adamantius of using fresh mozzarella for a
16th-century pasta adornment is not far off, but being that mozzarella is
made from buffalo or cows' milk and tuma made from sheep's milk, I think the
taste might be different.

And here's some stuff from that same article about ricotta and shepherd's
practices with it:

"Technically, ricotta is not a cheese, but rather is a cheese by-product.
The name 'ricotta' means cooked again, referencing the production method.
Ricotta is made from whey drained from tuma, provolone, and other cheeses.
... Being cooked 2 times, ricotta should not contain viable Brucella
organisms; however, shepherds sprinkle fresh milk on wicker baskets to
refresh the ricotta they contain, thereby contaminating the product."

I'll hit a few gourmet cheese shops in the Philadelphia area and do some
tasting; perhaps one of them carries a tuma that resembles the Sicilian
original; otherwise, it's sounding more and more like fresh mozzarella will
make the best substitute.

(I'm doing this research because I plan to talk about Sicilian food at an
upcoming cooks' schola, and I would love to make a taganu d'aragona to share
with the class; I'd be happy to find tuma, but I'll probably use fresh
mozzarella instead. Although the description of tuma d'paja, with its soft,
wrinkled white rind, does make it sound like certain packaged mozzarellas.)

Adelisa di Salerno
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