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 Abbaye 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 12 of the monks, and it is thought that cheese has been made here for use in the refectory ever since the monastery was established.
Although 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 the Abbey.
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°F. Starter cultures made at the Abbey are added and the milk is left to ripen for about 90 minutes. Traditional rennet is added and, after the milk has coagulated, the curd is cut into pieces about the size of a pea.
The curds are left for 20 minutes to drain naturally before being placed into molds and gently pressed for about four hours to expel some of the remaining whey. The whey is processed into methane, which is used to heat the Abbey's hot water system.
The cheeses are removed from the presses and immersed in a brine bath for two to three hours before being transferred to the vaulted cellars of the abbey, where the temperature is maintained at 57°F, together with a high humidity.
The Tamie is turned (flipped) every other day to ensure even distribution of moisture throughout the cheese, and is washed with a brine solution to encourage the growth of the Bacterium Linens mold that is already 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 Tamie is smooth, meltingly soft and yelding. The rind is orange-red in color and slightly sticky. The aroma of Tamie (like many washed rind cheeses) is much more pungent than the flavor of the cheese.
Flavors are beautifully balanced and delicate with sweet notes of cream, salt and hay.