Blue Juliette has captured another admirer…she is pungent and earthy with lots of mushroom and soil flavours on the exterior and an ultra creamy paste that I chose to pair with my fig crackers from The Fine Cheese Co. and Stasis Preserves Black Walnuts in honey. Her craggy, natural rind is unusual to see on a surface ripened, soft cheese but it makes a beautiful addition to a cheese plate that needs some earthy elements. Salt Spring Island Cheese Company has a no nonsense message about their business. “We simply believe that a better kind of food business is one that reflects both good community and good food, as the two frequently go together.” They have been making cheese since 1994 and craft their products from goat and sheep cheese. They are best known for goat chévre that has been molded to look like a créme caramel dessert and available in a variety of flavours ranging from Basil, Chili, Garlic, Lemon, Pepper, and White Truffle. The plain also comes decorated with an edible flower that makes the perfect hostess gift.
This is the beginning of beautiful marriage between Natural Pastures Aged Farmhouse cheese, pancetta and macaroni. We all need to take the time and make our own homemade mac and cheese so we can experiment with the wonderful melting qualities of real cheese.
Natural Pastures artisan cheeses are known for having a unique, robust taste attributed to the terroir
developed from the pristine soils, waters and pastures created in B.C’s spectacular Comox Valley.
They only use fresh milk produced on their selected Heritage Dairy Farms, which practice sustainable farming and animal stewardship. The designation means that the farmers must be good stewards of the land and raise animals that are stress free and live in a healthy environment. The cows feed on the local grass and herbs, perpetually watered by the Pacific Ocean. The combination of the different ecosystems make for a unique milk.
Aged Farmhouse smells like cultured butter and tastes like caramel and toffee. The texture is crumbly and firm but melts instantly and coats the entire mouth in sweet, full flavour.
“Ça prend pas la tête à Papineau”. I hope I never encounter anyone who uses this expression with me. Apparently, you don’t understand what is happening. I’m pretty sure this cheese knows and may even make you smarter…
Fromagerie Montebello ripens this cheese from 35 days to 2 months before it is released. My friend who came by for dinner happen to catch it after a couple of hours out on the counter and was amazed at how mild and creamy it was. She actually threatened to replace her Brie with it! It has the same buttery flavours, without the harsh aromas of a ripened rind.
The two gentlemen who started Montebello, Alain Boyer and Guy Boucher, began as co-workers and eventually forged a new relationship as partners. Alain, as a Plaisance trained cheese maker, and Guy as a trained accountant who takes care of the financial aspects.
It has been said that “people used to drink Papineau’s words”. He was motivational and inspiring. I would like to drink a pint of dark ale to commemorate this tête.
Shepherd’s Harvest has a rind that smells like soil after a long winter. The aroma of rotten leaves and earth assure us that spring is here and it’s time to lighten up. The mottled, washed rind looks like a tiger’s backside, while the paste is smooth, golden and sweet as honey.
Hope Artisan Dairy Co-op “grows” their cheese. It is hand made and hand washed in a little cheese house before being released into the wild. Their sheep are raised on a diet of blue chickory flowers, red cover blossoms, the purple veteh, yellow of alsike, plantain and herbs. They are allowed to feed on this luxurious diet from early spring into late fall as weather permits. Availabilty is limited and I have yet to find a shop that carries this cheese. As they say,”good things grow slowly”.
The Niagara Escarpment holds geological treasures, a warm climate and plenty of available, fresh water. It’s perfect for wine making so why not cheese? Upper Canada Cheese Company has managed to find a niche in the small town of Jordan,Ontario. Founded and built by contractor, Wayne Philbrick, a local who was inspired by the traditions of Trappist cheese making while in Quebec. Upper Canada is always bustling and full of unique and interesting gourmet accompaniments to pair with the range of Guernsey Cow cheese they are known for.
Nosey Goat Camelot is the first semi-firm, washed rind Goat cheese they have attempted. It’s pleasant aroma and salty rind compliment the sweet, lactic paste. I would not hesitate to recommend this to a virgin of the world of goat cheese. It’s mild and has a lovely, creamy mouth feel…just be aware of the hefty price tag (over $100/kg)!
It has been a while since my last post. Life got very busy and the summer went by too quickly. Fall is upon us and my cheese drawer in the fridge has started to fill up again. While trying whiskey pairings with cheese that I will use for my tutoured tastings, I discovered Le Bleu. The high alcohol in whiskey needs a rich, full bodied cheese to round out the sharp bite but also enough flavour to stand up to the fermented fruit flavours. Le Bleu is creamy, coats the mouth and has enough barnyard aromas to tone down even the strongest of alcohols. It also makes a wonderful addition to a cheese plate for your friends with discerning taste.
Fromagerie La Moutonniére has a wonderful approach to making cheese. Their 100% Happy Sheep stamp is a testament to how well they care for their livestock. The pastures are seeded with a mixture of more than a dozen wild plants and herbs that occur naturally in the region of les Bois-Francs. They drink from natural spring water and are free to roam. Each cheese is made by hand using only farmstead milk and aged in an underground cave where they are cared for on an individual basis.
I purchased this cheese from Bean Curd and Grain on Dundas West in Toronto but any quality boutique cheese shop should carry it.
Being Swiss-Canadian, I have a soft spot for cheese modeled after old, classic recipes from the Alps. I also admire young, Canadian cheesemakers that take over the family business and bring these recipes to fruition. In my next life I hope to be born into a dairy farmer’s family so that I can follow suit.
Tucked away in Oxford County, 2 hours west of Toronto, Shep Ysselstein is doing just that. He is a third generation dairy farmer, the grandson of a Dutch immigrant who moved to Canada after the war in 1951. The skills he has learned have been passed down and further tuned through travels to Europe, mainly Switzerland, to bring home recipes only an apprentice could get their hands on.
The result is beautiful, artisan farmstead cheese with playful and light flavours bursting with sweet, lactic butter and floral clover. This cheese, created after the Swiss recipe for Mutchli, is named in honour of the bountiful harvest of Oxford County, the dairy capital of Canada. Gunn’s Hill Farms is well set up to host tours and sell cheese from the shop on site. They also have a “cheesemaker for a day” program taught by Shep himself.
Bouq Emissaire, now known as Prestige, was a last minute decision to purchase a goat cheese that has the following requirements; soft, creamy, barnyard aromas and made in Canada. I wanted to make sure this cheese could stand up and compliment my Kolapore smoked Trout and other accoutrements. In the past, I have always gone for the light creamy Chevre that contrasts the richness of the fish, but tonight I wanted to play. The earthy, mineral tang was enough but then came the meaty flavours of cured prosciutto. I thought I was imagining it until I crumbled the cheese over a pasta dish…and instantly gave it a meaty flavour! This cheese was made with raw goat milk by Fromages Chaput in Quebec. Fromages Chaput is a third generation, family of cheesemakers that have toured internationally and won awards for their cheeses.
I had the pleasure of meeting Maggie from Les Folies Bergéres when we purchased this cheese. Her and her husband, Christian, decided to start creating farmstead cheese after the Listeriosis breakout in 2008. The idea seemed crazy, and the name Les Folies Bergéres, meaning “crazy shepherds” fit the bill. They believed that small scale, meticulous farming practices would help to create safe, local cheese that people could trust.
The couple continue to make artisinal cheese from their farm…sometimes using only sheep, and sometimes blending the milk with cow to create different flavour profiles. This is some of the best sheep cheese I have ever tasted. The balance of sweet to salty is an art form they have mastered. Le Jupon Frivole is chalky yet creamy, chewy yet silky, sweet yet yeasty and earthy…all without being too much of either. I served this cheese as an afternoon snack with a baguette but fresh green grapes would have been perfect for cleansing the palate after each bite.
Meet my new best friend, Alfred. He’s sure to be the star of the show at your next party. At first, he may come off as tad stinky, reminiscent of a wood barn, but his sweet, chewy paste will win you over instantly. The flavour of fresh roasted hazelnut persists to the last bite and even has the tannin tickle you would get from the skin.
I picked up Alfred at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival last weekend from the strapping lads at Fromagerie La Station. They strive to produce alpine cheese inspired from the great Comté and Tommes of France. It is named after Alfred Boduc, the founder of Boduc farm and the first ancestor to settle in the Compton region of Quebec. A single herd of Holstein cows which are raised on their certified Organic pastures, create the milk for this farmstead cheese. It is then matured on wooden boards for eight months.
I enjoyed it with Barley Days Brewery County IPA which I purchased on my way to Bloomfield. Alfred’s not shy and helped bring out the sweet, fun side of this hoppy beer.