Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Weekly Cheese: Tomme Crayeuse
This weeks Weekly Cheese is one of my very favorite: Tomme Crayeuse (tohm cray-YUHZ). It is made from the milk of mountain grazing cows in the Savoie region of France in the Swiss Italian Alps. This buttery, semi-soft, soft-ripened cheese is layered with damp earthy flavors including straw and mushroom in the rind, and a mildly milky but tart almost citrusy center. When eating cheese I like to imagine myself enjoying a food with ancient roots and a long history; I was surprised to learn that this cheese is actually a relatively recent invention. It was developed in the nineties by a French Affineur (an expert in maturing cheese) Max Schmidhauser. He partnered with a cheesemaker in order to make a cheese superior to the areas classic: Tomme de Savoie; and I'm very glad he did. This beautiful cheese has a dusty brownish grey and white rind with bright yellow spots caused by cellulose in the cows diet. The ivory interior is smooth and soft with a slightly crumbly dense center getting a little gooey as you get closer to the rind which is thin and pliable enough to easily slice and delicious to eat.
Reading the process raw milk undergoes to become this delicious cheese gave me a whole new appreciation for the art and craft of making cheese. One secret to this amazing cheese is two stages of aging for a total of about two to three months: the first in a warm moist environment; much like a sauna, the second in an equally moist but cool cave. The first stage loosens and softens the outer crust of the cheese and the second brings out the earthy mushroom flavor and preserves the milky center. This particular combination of techniques creates a moist flavorful wheel or tomme that now competes for popularity with Tomme de Savoie, and in my book is the hands down winner.
I like this cheese best on a good piece of bread, or simple crackers.