Mar 18, 2014

Good to the Last Drop: Tomme du Chablais


One of the most common questions I am asked when serving my foreign guests a cheese platter is, "Do we eat the rind or not?" And when cheeses are very fuzzy and moldy and multi-colored and foreign-looking, it's a pretty understandable question.

So here's the answer: Yes. With caveats. There are, indeed, a few that you don't eat, but it's not the ones you fear the most.

Moldy? Even fuzzy? Bordering on downright hairy? Delicious. These crusts add something subtle in the flavor and texture -- something a bit chewy, a bit peppery perhaps. I like to describe them like a light peach skin. They will not make you sick. Honestly. Most of the time you actually won't even notice them in your mouth.

The exception to this has nothing to with scary black, green, orange, or red molds. Actually, the only exception to this is for industrial cheeses that have ultra-thick crusts. These are sometimes simply too chalky and thick and, well, industrial feeling. Instead of the delicate, earthy flavor of an artisanal cheese, they just have an artificial feel to them and so, yes, even French people will sometimes choose not to eat them (though they are, in fact, edible).

On hard, aged cheeses, the crust is generally edible, but sometimes so hard and dry and chalky from the aging process that even French people often cut them off (or just bite up to them). Sometimes, just for the mixture of textures, I actually like these crusts, taking a bite mixed in with enough interior to moisten it up, but I won't make fun of you if you choose not to eat them.


The one kind of rind that you simply do not eat is, understandably, wax.


THE CHEESE: Tomme du Chablais

A Tomme du Chablais is, essentially, a Tomme de Savoie. Except that it's specifically from Chablais. You get it. In many stores, you might even see this cheese labeled as a Tomme de Savoie...from Chablais.

Chablais is in the northern part of Haut-Savoie, in Alps territory. That makes this another raw milk cow's cheese, with herby notes. The milk comes from Tarentaise, Abondance, Montbéliarde, and Holstein breed cows, and their rich mountain grazing territory comes through in the tangy flavor. It's not as strong as a Comté. The crust is dry and chalky, and many will choose not to eat it.


Here's a rind you could eat, but even if you're French, you might choose not to. It's thick and chalky and dry, but sometimes people (such as me!) like that crumbling feeling in the mouth. 


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