Photo by canadiancheese
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)!
Photo by canadiancheese
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.
Photo by canadiancheese
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.
The tradition of buying fresh cheese at markets has been around since before the medieval times. Cheesemaker’s would shape and mold cheese to capture the attention of the wealthy passerby’s at riverside markets throughout central Europe. It was the only way to sell the soft, sweet cheese without the convenience of store refrigerators and the modern packaging we have now. I still value this tradition…meeting and talking to the person who made your cheese and brought it fresh from the dairy to be consumed within the following days. You may discover cheese you would never find in the supermarket.
For a list of farm markets close to the hood, check out Farmer’s Markets Ontario or your provincial, local farmers market listings.
I bought sheep Taleggio from Monforte this past weekend at Brickworks. It was fresh, light and lactic with flavours of sour cream. The texture was like putting a mini marshmallow on your tongue and letting it roll around and melt. We consumed the entire piece within one night with the help of friends. I would like to try this cheese again as an addition to a summer salad alongside a bottle of Vino Verde.
The course I am currently taking is all about the cheese making and affinage process…a subject I find quite daunting. As a visual learner it’s hard to imagine all the steps to making the final product without seeing it first hand. Thanks to the team at Monforte, and my new teacher Ruth Klahsen, we were able to experience a day in the life of a cheese maker.
Monforte Dairy has faced many challenges as a small scale sheep dairy. Let’s just say if you’re not making cheese with cow milk, most government funding is out of reach. Ruth’s ingenuity to implement CSA subscriptions, or advance payment for future deliveries of cheese, allowed her to receive a grant from the government to renovate her facilities and continue producing amazing cheese.
After a long day, I welcomed a hot meal of prime rib and asparagus topped with one of Monforte Dairy’s hard, aged sheep cheese. This cheese has a dark, craggy rind and a sweet, golden paste. It has been rubbed in olive oil which creates another level of umami and a perfect, meaty addition to the sweetness of the asparagus. And now to bed…
Hard, aged sheep cheese rubbed with olive oil.
Photo by canadiancheese
As you may know by now, I am a huge fan of soft washed rind cheese. The history of trappist cheese is always rich with tales of tradition, taking your time and reaping what you sow.
14 Arpents and other cheese by Fromagerie Médard started production in 2006 but the history of the dairy dates back to 1881. As per their website the following is an account of the farms history. “The ancestor of the family, the widow Emilie Claveau Charlevoix, settled with his family on lot # 21 at St. Gedeon in Lac-Saint-Jean. This land was given to him by the state under the law of Honoré Mercier, legislation that was established at the time to populate regions. It included giving $ 100 (an astronomical sum at the time) or 50 acres of land to families with 12 living children and more. That’s when the son of Emilia, (MÉDARD side) cleared the land, constructed buildings and began to cultivate the land.
Since, from generation to generation, the farm was transferred from father to son. In 1986, Normand Côté (fifth generation) acquired the title. In 25 years together, Madeleine Normand formed several companies including two farms and a nursery.”
Thankfully, there are still two children in succession who are interested in keeping the cheese making tradition alive because I would really miss this cheese. It has an aroma of baked, fresh white bread, yeast and malt with a super creamy soft paste that ranges from mild nuttiness to light fruity such as pear skin. The picture above does not do justice to the lovely, soft peach coloured rind.
The Médard dairy is located north of Quebec City and welcomes visitors. It’s on my list of places to drop by.
Today in my New World cheese studies, Stephanie Diamant, cheesemaker extraordinaire, brought in some delicious Lighthouse Tomme from Fifth Town. I don’t think this piece ever saw the inside of a fridge or plastic wrap. It was bursting with lemony, toasty aromas. I compared it to a New York style cheese cake with a baked top. It was amazing! The rind was also complex and boasted nutty, earthy and toasty flavours. I felt like I was eating dessert. I would pair this with a fruit preserve and serve it after dinner for a lovely, light, end of meal.
If you get the chance to visit the Fifth Town facilities in Prince Edward County, they have a sustainable eco-operation that is also certified by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). It also has a small retail shop so you can access freshly made cheese and they lead tasting tours by appointment.
If you find yourself up in the Fergus / Elora area this winter, make sure to stop in and buy some freshly made cheese direct from the Best Baa Cheese Dairy. Nicole Bzikot (daughter in-law to Elizabeth Bzikot) was kind enough to show me around and explain the cheese making process. Their story is inspiring and so is their cheese!
The pasteurizer where all the sheep milk is processed.
This is where the affinage begins. This used to be an autopsy table!
Sheep Yogurt! This creamy treat won 1st place at the 2011 American Cheese Society Conference.
Eweda and Eweda Cru. Please see my previous post for details.
Mouton Rouge getting a rub down.
Brigitte was one of my purchases at the dairy shop. It’s not readily available but well worth the drive to get it at the perfect ripeness. Her rind has a pungent aroma of ammonia but once it hits your tongue the luxurious sweet, grassy paste makes you forgive the odour. The rind has a balanced bitterness with fine granules of salt from washing.
Nicole graciously sent me home with some walnuts from France which we ate alongside. The entire piece and a baguette was consumed in about 10 minutes.
All photos by canadiancheese