Prairie Tomme Cheese Making History

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What’s Prairie Tomme?

Green Dirt Farm’s Prairie Tomme is our rustic, mountain-style, 100% sheep’s milk hard cheese. It’s similar to the sheep’s milk cheeses from the Pyrenees mountains, like Idiazabal and Ossau Iraty, but has its own unique character owing to the distinctive flavors imparted by the forages our sheep eat. Sarah first learned to make our version of this style of cheese in 2010 from a Croatian cheese maker who demonstrated the traditional techniques for making the fabulous but little-known Croatian sheep’s milk cheese, Paski Sir. Sheep on the Island of Pag, where Paski Sir is made, graze on wild grasses and herbs that flavor their sheep’s milk, just like our grasses and forbs flavor our sheep’s milk. Our cheese-making team continues to refine the recipe little by little each year to create the fantastic cheese we make today. 

Making Prairie Tomme

To make Prairie Tomme, the curd is cut very small (as small as rice kernels), cooked slowly, and pressed, resulting in a lower moisture, hard cheese. After cutting and cooking, the curd is gathered and “hooped” into forms that give it its characteristic size and shape. Each wheel is a disc that is approximately four pounds in weight and seven inches in diameter. Once pressed into its forms and drained overnight, we rub it with salt. Then we age it in temperature and humidity-controlled aging “caves,” really just specially modified walk-in refrigerators. During aging, it’s continually babied as we wash it with brine and hand-rub it to encourage the rind to develop. 

The aging process usually takes at least three months. Prairie Tomme becomes harder, saltier, and much more flavorful as it ages. We taste it at various points during its aging to determine the best time to release it for sale. Our longest-aged Prairie Tomme is similar to a well-aged parmesan cheese but has lovely “sheepy” flavors. A well-aged Prairie Tomme tastes nutty and caramel-y, with hints of brown butter. Its rind is evocative of grass and minerals with a heavy, wet clay aroma. 

Eating Prairie Tomme

Prairie Tomme can be cut into wedges or batons, making a lovely counterpoint of texture and flavor on a cheese board. It also creates a delicious cheese soup or grilled cheese sandwich and grates beautifully on dishes as a substitute for parmesan or pecorino cheese. Prairie Tomme pairs well with Belgian- style Ales and Lagers, Pinot noir or Burgundy reds, Spanish chorizo, and pears. 

Prairie Tomme Pride

We’re so proud that Prairie Tomme won a 1st place ribbon at the 2023 “Oscars of Cheese” (the American Cheese Society Competition) and then went on to win Third Place in Best in Show! And Prairie Tomme was featured on the cover of Culture Magazine’s Best Cheeses of 2023 issue. Prairie Tomme also won a blue ribbon in the aged sheep’s milk cheese category in 2022. And we’re especially proud that Prairie Tomme won a  “Good Food Award” in 2018. The Good Food Awards go to exceptional food crafters who not only top the charts in a blind tasting but also meet the Good Food Foundation’s environmental and social responsibility standards.