A new cheese has come onto the southern scene lately that I think you need to know about. Sequatchie Cove is a farm located in Sequatchie Cove, Tennessee, which rests just above Chattanooga. Of the two cheeses they make currently, the one pictured here is Cumberland, a glorious example of a French-style Tomme.
While Cheddar is a style everyone can easily grasp, Tommes are a little more difficult to get a handle on. Generally, their texture is light to semi soft and most posses a weathered rustic rind that gives the cheese an earthy aroma and taste. Tommes are fantastic on a cheese plate, and equally good when used in the kitchen. Potatoes are a natural partner.
Sequatchie's take on Tomme is one of the best examples I have tasted. While the flavors are subtle, it is anything but boring. Their dairy herd includes the rare heritage breed Milking Devon, which is the pretty red cow featured on the label. Heritage animals impart a unique old fashioned flavor that modern Holsteins just can't achieve.
The Cumberland is both rich and light, with a springy creamy texture. Nuttiness, fresh grass, milkiness, and damp cellar (which can be a good thing) are the boldest flavors that shine through. And the rind is one of the prettiest and most colorful natural rinds I've seen. I could easily see it being paired with pecans, green pears, a dry Riesling, or a Saison. I imagine this cheese would also be wonderful melted, but it never lasts long enough to find out.
For cheese geeks like me, it is a very exciting time in American cheese culture (pun intended). Not only have we caught up to the European's quality, I think in some ways we are surpassing it. More exciting is when world class cheese dairies pop up near home. Sequatchie Cove's Cumberland is a fine example of a true Southern original.