What the bleep is a tomme style cheese anyhow? 4 things to know
What is a tomme?
Does it need a French accent?
What is a tomme style cheese?
Tomme de Savoie. Thomasville Tomme (pictured here). Point Reyes Toma. Tomme Crayeuse. Cumberland Tomme. Square Tomme. If you’ve ever looked at a wheel wondered “how do I know if this is a tomme or toma just… cheese?” you are not alone.
Is it where it’s made? It’s family background? Who it hangs out with? Sometimes! Here are four things to ask yourself about that wedge in front of you to know if you should address it with a French or Italian accent.
If your cheese is one of these 4 things, there’s a good chance it’s a tomme or toma.
1. It is from the French, Swiss, or Italian mountains
(EU passport pending)
1. Your cheese could be a tomme or toma if is from from the French, Swiss or Italian mountains but is not as big as an Alpine cheese like Gruyere or Raclette, Appenzeller, or Bitto.
Tommes or tomas (French or Swiss vs Italian) are made in mountain regions just like their bigger sisters, but tend to be smaller. Think 5-11 pounds versus 60-80 pounds (!). European dairy farmers generally send their milk to the village cheesemaker to craft into wheels like Gruyere or Comté, but traditionally they make tommes themselves. Tommes started off being the little cheeses farmers made for their families, then they started selling them because they were so delicious! 🙏.
Automatic tomme status also applies if it is a cheese that is made in the style of the European mountains, like Thomasville Tomme featured above.
2. It tastes sweet and buttery and has a pleasantly musty flavor like a wild mushroom just picked off the forest floor, or a touch of washed-rind funk.
Tommes and tomas are inherently lovable and subtle with an earthy underbite. A bite of Savoie, Crayeuse, or Cumberland reveals notes of sweet creme fraiche, cultured butter, and deepens into flavors of sautéed morels and melted butter. When the cheese has matured a couple months longer you can pick up earthier spices.
3. It has a natural rind.
(it hangs out in your grandmother’s attic)
3. It is semi-firm and has a mottled, natural, dusty looking rind.
Most tommes have rinds that look like they’ve been stuffed into an attic than forgotten about for a couple years. Powdery and dusty or rippled and moldy, their rinds have been unadulterated and left to take on the molds and character of whatever cave they’ve been aged in. Some say that’s why they take on a deeper wild mushroomy taste. Typically most tommes haven’t been rubbed with booze as they’ve aged like Époisses, wrapped in cloth like farmhouse cheddars, or doused with wax like goudas.
4. If the cheese is labeled as a tomme or toma.
You knew this, right? Okay, fair enough! But it brings me to the point that the label tomme or toma is actually more of a mindset. All of the aforementioned 3 questions are good things to refer to, but being a tomme is a choice. Tomme can be a style of cheese, a cheese that tastes a certain way, a cheese that is small and rustic, or, as Point Reyes says, a cheese that “made by a farmer.” If the answers to 1, 2, and 3, are yes, you definitely have a tomme. But here in cheese land, we honor what the cheesemaker intended. If a cheese is just 2 or 3, we’ll call it a tomme or toma and eat it just the same!
If you haven’t tried the tommes listed in this post, do! They’re delicious! Pair with a rich white wine or mountain white, rosé, or a Beaujoulais, Alto Adige red, or Pinot.