Tanasi Tomme, a three time ACS award-winning cheese, is the result of the work of Jim and Gayle Tanner of Bonnie Blue Farm.
In 2006, several years after moving from Northern California to Tennessee for retirement, the Tanners began a goat dairy, naming it after the original battle flag of the Civil War in honor of its close proximity to the Shiloh battlefield.
The Tanners had been enthusiastic goat herders for years, but when they met a dairy farmer who had been born on their new Tennessee property, Gayle thought it providential. Their original herd of 11 goats expanded to 80 and an old barn was reborn as a cheese studio. Jim, a former contractor, built aging caves in the limestone hillsides on the property. Bonnie Blue became the first Grade A goat dairy in Tennessee.
Today, Bonnie Blue’s herd of Nubian and Saanen goats produce around 10,000 pounds of artisan cheese every year. The goats are fed a mixture of wild grasses from browsing on pasture, supplimented with alfalfa hay and grain. The flavors of the land and hay are embodied in the cheese.
In homage to the history of Tennessee, Tanasi Tomme was named after the capital of the Cherokee, from which the state took its name. It is a creation of Gayle’s, who was inspired to produce an aged cheese as a result of the cheese cave that Jim built.
Each wheel of Tanasi Tomme is handcrafted by Gayle, who starts the process by spending up to four hours each day milking the does. After the milk is transferred to the cheese studio, she warms the milk and sets the curd. She then cuts the curds to pea-sized pieces and hand ladles the curd into the molds.
Once the cheeses have drained, each newly formed wheel is brined and afterwards placed on wooden shelves made from ash to age. During the four-month maturing process the wheels are turned periodically.