Abbaye de Tamie
Made from raw cow's milk, Abbaye de Tamie is produced by the monks at the Trappist Abbey of Tamié, located at the head of Val de Tamie in the Savoie region of southeastern France. The abbey was founded in 1131 by St. Pierre of Tarantaise and has a long and colorful history. The small dairy and cheesemaking operation is run by twelve of the monks, and it is believed that cheese has been made here for use in the refectory ever since the monastery was established. Although the milk formerly came from the abbey's own herd, milk from Abondance cows is now sourced from four local farms, collected daily and brought to Tamié.
The Monasteries of France are well known for their distinctive washed-rind cheeses, and Abbaye de Tamie is very typical of this style. Raw whole milk is warmed to 93 degrees Fahrenheit. Starter cultures made at the abbey are added and the milk is left to ripen for about ninety minutes. Traditional rennet is added and, after the milk has coagulated, the curd is cut into pieces about the size of peas. The curds are then left for twenty minutes to drain naturally before being placed into molds. They're gently pressed for about four hours to expel some of the remaining whey, which is processed into methane that heats the abbey's hot water system.
After pressing, the cheeses are removed from the molds and immersed in a brine bath for two to three hours before being transferred to vaulted cellars, where the temperature is maintained at 57 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidity. The Abbaye de Tamie is turned and flipped every other day to ensure even distribution of moisture throughout the cheese, and the wheel is washed with a brine solution to encourage the growth of the Bacterium linens mold that is naturally present in the cellar. Cheeses are aged for about four weeks. While maturing, the flavors of the cheese concentrate via moisture loss and evaporation. Appealingly, this is referred to by the monks as the "Angels' share." When they are ready for sale, the wheels are wrapped in the abbey's distinctive blue-and-white paper, decorated with the white cross of Malta.
The texture of Abbaye de Tamie is smooth, meltingly soft, and yielding. Rind color is orange-red and feels slightly sticky. The aroma of Abbaye de Tamie (like many other washed rind cheeses) is much more pungent than the flavor of the cheese, which is beautifully balanced and delicate with sweet notes of cream, salt, and hay.