July 11, 2020 2 min read
In the case of the catchall Tomme, quite a lot. It is widely believed to originate from toma,which in Savoyard dialect simply means a cheese made in the mountains. And really, given the variation amongst Tommes, it could just as well mean 'cheese'.
After developing a recipe for a larger, rotund and portionable raw-milk goats cheese, Isabelle and Jacques Douillon settled on the name Tomme de Chambrouze as a happy amalgamation of La Grandouze - a tiny hamlet in Claveisolle, Rhône where their farm is based - and "champ" meaning field. Counting Hervé Ravera's biodynamic Gamay bushvines as their neighbour, the farm itself sits 600-700m above sea level and follows a functional, linear pattern. The milking parlour sits at one end of the farm and the goat's pasture flows through to an old farmhouse - home to the dairy and a small classroom.
Thomas, their son, uses the classroom to lead sessions aimed at giving groups of children from nearby towns and cities an insight into life on a working farm. Meanwhile, the building's thick walls offer an insulated home for the dairy where Isabelle heads up the cheesemaking. As a lactic recipe, the majority of the Tomme de Chambrouze production takes place in the morning. After Jacques finishes the 2 hour milking session the raw-milk arrives in the dairy around 8am. This warmer, fresh ingredient (around 32 degrees) is mixed with cooler milk (12 degrees) that has gently acidified overnight with a small amount of whey. The milk then coagulates over 24 hours at around 21 degrees before the curds are ladled into moulds and left to drain for a further 60 hours. At this stage, the cheese is salted and dusted with ash in order to aid the development of its distinctive grey rippled rind and bluish green moulds before arriving at our retail sites 3-4 weeks later.
The milk for Tomme de Chambrouze comes from the Douillon's 340-strong herd of Alpine Chamoisée goats that graze on the surrounding pasture. Splitting the herd down the middle means the Douillons are milking around 100 goats at any one time. Milking half the herd over a 6-7 month period not only allows Jacques and Isabelle to cater for the discord - between goats that produce milk seasonally and a year-round demand for goats cheese, it also allows them a semblance of a holiday where possible - something that few dairy farmers are able to enjoy. The upshot of this is a tangible difference in their summer and winter cheeses. All year round they are characterised by a distinct capric, zippy acidity but as summer progresses, their texture becomes richer & more buttery, while the flavours develop a clean, fresh, milky sweetness. Much like those on our counters at the moment.
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