Mountain Style Tomme Info
A Brief History of Mountain Style Tomme
Throughout the centuries, in the mountains of Europe, there has been a traditional spring migration of cheesemakers and their herds. They move up the slopes into the mountains for rich pastures and return to the valley farms just before the snow. This migration is called the ‘Transhuminance’ and is usually celebrated every year. During the celebration herds are decorated with ornamented bells and flowers and villagers parade with the herd from the village to the high pastures in spring and join the herd again on their return trip in the Fall. In the Fall the celebration the most joyous because it features the summers cheese production.
The cheese they made was a mountain style Tomme that was often made up on the mountain in the warmer months and through the winter in the valleys farm kitchens.
This cheese is early ripening at about 2-4 months and has a higher moisture, providing a very supple and elastic texture that is perfect as a table cheese.
Info on Making Mountain Style Tomme
Naturally occurring populations of bacteria and mold are biologically diverse, thus they require diverse environmental conditions to thrive. Traditional cheese making practices are often in tune with this fact. This is reflected in seemingly complex steps. But, when followed, each step becomes less complex and can feel familiar from one guideline to the next.
Without the lab prepared cultures we have today, the first cheese makers had to rely on natural cultures within the milk and surrounding environment. Because they could not choose the type or concentration of these cultures, they cast a wide net with their practices, offering molds and bacteria an assortment of conditions within the milk. In this way, they allowed a whole ecosystem of cultures to work their milk into cheese, as any lone species might not be able to handle the job. From there, the work of refining their practices could begin.
This refinement was also rooted in their lifestyles and landscapes. For instance, when this Tomme style was made, they would milk the cows once in the evening, and let the milk sit overnight in the cool mountain air. This would allow the natural bacteria to work slowly and the cream to rise. The next day, they’d skim the cream off the top, and add in that morning’s milk. Many of these mountain Tomme were made with less fat. The Tomme needed cooler ambient temperatures, so why bother trying to make it in the summer? These practices fit into their daily and seasonal routines.
- Milk is held at lower temperatures overnight so the early working Mesophilic bacteria can develop flavor.
- Milk is raised to a moderate working temperature to allow mesophilic and thermophilic cultures to work in tandem.
- Curds are washed and cooked at a higher temperature to determine their final moisture before draining.
Modern Day Process:
Since many home cheese makers do not have access to raw milk or mountaintops, we will try to emulate both by using a high quality pasteurized milk, and adding cultures similar to what would be found in the mountains. A combo of mesophilic and thermophilic cultures plus surface molds to protect the rind.
- Heat milk to 76F and let sit for 30 minutes to get the mesophilic portion of the culture started. This will produce a buttery flavor and some CO2 (This replaces the cooler overnight temperatures of the mountain).
- Increase the temperature to 92F to accommodate both mesophilic and thermophilic cultures. Let sit for 60 minutes. This temperature will develop the acid producing mesophilics as well as the thermophilic bacteria but the latter will work slowly at this temperature.
- After the rennet completes its set, and the curd is cut and firmed, a higher final temperature of 106-108F with be achieved with a washed curd technique. Functionally this will remove some of the residual lactose in the whey, thus limiting bacteria growth and acid production, and in the end producing a more supple cheese.
- This higher temperature will put an end to most of the Mesophilic culture. However their short life is not in vein. As they die down, they will release enzymes from their cells that will be very productive in the changes as the cheese ages. This affects the flavor, aroma, and texture of the final cheese.