Celtic Blue Reserve: Best cheese in all the Americas

Best of Show: Celtic Blue Reserve by Glengarry Fine Cheese.

Best of Show: Celtic Blue Reserve by Glengarry Fine Cheese.

Congratulations to Glengarry Fine Cheese​ for winning Best of Show with Celtic Blue Reserve at the biggest cheese competition in the United States!

A soft blue enriched with extra buttercream and aged four months, the cheese won top honours at the annual American Cheese Society Judging & Competition, held this week in Providence, Rhode Island. Some 1,700 cheeses were submitted for judging by cheese producers in North, Central and South America.

Two years ago, Glengarry’s Lankaster Aged was named Best Cheese in the World at an international competition in England.

Cheesemakers extraordinaire: Margaret Peters-Morris (left) and Wilma Klein-Swormink

Cheesemakers extraordinaire: Margaret Peters-Morris (left) and Wilma Klein-Swormink.

Margaret Peters-Morris, owner at Glengarry Fine Cheese, located in Lancaster near Cornwall, Ontario, give full credit to cheesemaker Wilma Klein-Swormink: “This cements 20 years of really hard work from myself and my staff. Through a lot of sweat and tears, we were determined to reach a real pinnacle in our career.”

Klein-Swormink has played a key role in cheesemaking at Glengarry since its inception in 2008 and produces cheese with the dedicated team at Glengarry as plant manager/cheesemaker.

Glengarry Fine Cheese and Glengarry Cheesemaking are located on the Peters family farm which has been in the family since 1967, Peters-Morris explains. “Our ancestral roots hail from the Netherlands and our parents have laid the framework for the family farm to grow and prosper in Lancaster where our parents started their dairy and crop farm which is now in the hands of the next generation who are continuing the dairy tradition and, now, the cheese factory is building its own tradition and reputation with the hard work and dedication that our parents instilled in myself and my brother.”

Margaret shares cheesemaking responsibilities with Wilma who is also the daughter of Dutch immigrants who also came to Eastern Ontario to establish a dairy farm.

A single herd of Brown Swiss cows provides the milk for Celtic Blue.

In addition to being named Best of Show, Celtic Blue Reserve won the blue-cheese category. Canadian cheesemakers won five other categories in the prestigious competition:

Best Gouda: Louis Cyr by Fromagerie Bergeron.

Best Gouda: Louis Cyr by Fromagerie Bergeron.

Margaret Peters-Morris started making cheese commercially under the Glengarry Fine Cheese banner seven years ago, but her involvement in cheesemaking across North America goes back two decades. She’s making a name now as an award-winning cheesemaker in her own right but for many years, Margaret was—and still is—the go-to-source for lactic starters and ripening cultures for cheesemakers from California to Quebec.

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Mira Schenkel: Best home cheesemaker in Canada

Clover, made by Mira Schenkel, Best of Show at the first Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards.

Clover, made by Mira Schenkel, Best of Show and Best Washed Rind Cheese at the first Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards.

Eighteen years ago, Mira Schenkel emigrated from Switzerland with her husband, Uli, to farm and raise a family in British Columbia. Today, she’s the best home cheesemaker in Canada.

Initially, it was Uli who was the cheesemaker in the family but as the demands of the farm in Salmon Arm, B.C., increased and his time for making cheese became limited, Uli convinced Mira to try her hand at it. Four years ago, she made her first cheese.

Mira Schenkel in her aging room.

Mira Schenkel in her aging room.

On the first weekend of June, her wonderful cheese called Clover captured Best of Show honours and won the washed-rind category in the inaugural Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards held in conjunction with The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario.

“While mostly self-taught, I am truly grateful to my dear and hardworking husband for encouraging me to become a cheesemaker and also for his great care and milking of our cows to provide the highest quality milk which makes the cheese special,” Mira wrote in an email. She also credits 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes by Debra Amrein-Boyes, an award-winning cheesemaker at The Farm House Natural Cheeses in Agassiz, B.C.

Along with many other animals the farm, the Schenkels have four family cows, two Jerseys (Amber and Peekaboo) and two crossbreds (Belle and Brittney) that provide the fresh unpasteurized milk from which Mira make her cheese.

Mira Schenkel with Brittney, one of her four dairy cows on the farm in Salmon Arm, B.C.

Mira Schenkel with Brittney, one of four dairy cows on the family farm in Salmon Arm, B.C.

Since making her first mountain cheese four years ago, Mira says she has enjoyed making a variety of cheeses including Gouda, Maasdammer, Camembert and, of course, Clover—all always aged for a minimum of 60 days due to the use of unpasteurized milk.

“The unique flavour of my award-winning Clover cheese features clover and herbs which I bring in from Switzerland,” Mira explains.

The judges loved Clover:

“This raw-milk Alpine cheese has a wonderful clover and grass aroma that comes from the Swiss Clover wash used on the rind. The wonderful golden hue of the paste is dotted with occasional small eyes which developed during ripening that complement the make-up of the cheese. The cheese has a nice clover flavour with hints of honey and finishes with a nuttiness that hints of hazelnuts or roasted almonds. The texture of this cheese is as complex as the flavor. It starts firm but, as you taste it, the cheese breaks down to an almost-fudge like finish.”

Click here for the complete results of the first-ever Amateur Cheesemaking competition.

The second annual Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards will be held June 4-5, 2016, again in conjunction with the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada.

Home cheesemaking showcased in first-ever competition

From left: Ian Treuer, Judge; ​Elis Ziegler, Best Fresh Cheese; Doreen and Pete Sullivan, Best Bloomy Rind Cheese; and Suzanne Lavoie, Best Blue Cheese. Missing John Michael Symmonds, Best Firm Cheese, and Mira Schenkel, Best Washed Rind Cheese and Best of Show. All photos by Jane Churchill. Click on any image for an enlarged view.

From left: Ian Treuer, Judge; ​Elis Ziegler, Best Fresh Cheese; Doreen and Pete Sullivan, Best Bloomy Rind Cheese; and Suzanne Lavoie, Best Blue Cheese. Missing John Michael Symmonds, Best Firm Cheese, and Mira Schenkel, Best Washed Rind Cheese and Best of Show. All photos by Jane Churchill. Click on any image for an enlarged view.

The eye-opener at the inaugural Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards—and the palate-shocker—was the high quality of cheese made in homes across Canada.

In appearance, aroma, texture and flavour, many of the entries were the equal of commercially made cheese. None so more than Clover, the entry that captured Best of Show honours and won the washed-rind category in the competition held in conjunction with The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario, on the first weekend of June.

Made by Mira Schenkel of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Clover was the clear favourite of anyone lucky enough to taste it.

Judges Ian Treuer and Stephanie Diamant.

Judges Ian Treuer and Stephanie Diamant.

There were 25 entries from three provinces accepted in five judging categories. The best in each category were judged a second time to determine Best in Show. Award-winning cheesemaker Stephanie Diamant, formerly of Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, now at Black River Cheese in Prince Edward Country, and Ian Treuer of Edmonton, longtime home cheesemaker and a popular blogger at Much To Do About Cheese, served as judges.

Category winners with tasting notes by Ian Treuer:

Best Fresh Cheese: Curious Goat Chèvre

—Elis Ziegler of Toronto and Jess Posgate of Milton, Ontario, hope to start a farmstead cheese business one day with this wonderful, light cream cheese, a classic example of what a Chèvre should be. Perfect salt with hints of citrus round out the mild goat flavour.

Best Bloomy Rind Cheese: Camembert Type Cheese

—Doreen and Pete Sullivan of Niagara Falls, Ontario, are retired educators who offer home cheesemaking instruction. They created this bloomy rind gem where a lovely white exterior gives way to a fudgy and creamy paste.

Best Blue Cheese: Feu

—Suzanne Lavoie of Plantagenet, Ontario, was given a Jersey heifer called Yoga for her birthday. Curiosity and love of cheese led her to cheesemaking. Feu, a creamy blue cheese that is perfectly balanced, was a close contender for Best In Show.

Best Firm Cheese: Smoked Caciocavallo

—John Michael Symmonds of Vancouver is a sous chef at West restaurant in Vancouver. He started his love affair with cheese and cheesemaking after a trip to Neil’s Yard Dairy in London, England. His Smoked Caciocavallo has a great balance of smoke and cheese, the smoke serving to accent the local B.C. milk used to make the cheese.

Best Washed Rind Cheese: Clover

—Mira Schenkel of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, was born in Switzerland and immigrated with her husband, Uli, to Canada 18 years ago to farm and to raise a family.   Click here to read more about Mira and her Best of Show cheese.

Entries in the inaugural Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards presented for sampling by the public.

Entries in the inaugural Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards presented for sampling by the public.

Competition co-ordinators were Ian Treuer and Jackie Armet, cheese co-ordinator of the annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival and the biennial Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens.

Fytozimus Bio Tech is Founding Sponsor of the Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards.

The mission of Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards is to provide encouragement to home cheesemakers, to offer expert feedback to all amateur cheesemakers, and to recognize the best in amateur cheesemaking in Canada.

The venue and logistical support were provided by Cheese Lover Productions, producers of the Cheese Festival and Cheese Awards/Le Concours.

The second annual Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards will be held June 4-5, 2016, again in conjunction with the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada.

Chef Lili Sullivan: Grilled-cheese champion at #TGCCF

All hail Chef Lili Sullivan of Gazebo Restaurant at Waupoos Estate Winery!

All hail Chef Lili Sullivan of Gazebo Restaurant at Waupoos Estate Winery!

Chef Lili Sullivan showed three chefs of the male persuasion how its done in the County when she easily defeated them in a grilled-cheese showdown at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

Chef Sullivan, who runs Gazebo Restaurant at Waupoos Estates Winery in Prince Edward County, grilled 250 cheese sandwiches in 34 minutes flatwhile the men were barely halfway. Total focus and fast hands not afraid of heat were her secret weapons.

The competition—to see which of the four chefs could grill 250 cheese sandwiches the quickest—was the method Cheese Festival organizers concocted to feed the first 1,000 ticket holders admitted on Sunday, June 7, in a fifth-anniversary celebration called Grilled Cheese Chowdown.

Total focus and fast hands not afraid of heat.

Total focus and fast hands not afraid of heat. Chef photos and graphic by Jane Churchill.

Chef Sullivan grilled her sammies with Black River Cheese cheddar, Stonemill Bakehouse Prince Edward County Rye and Stirling Creamery unsalted butter.

Her prize? A cheque for $1,000 paid on her behalf by the Cheese Festival to the charity of her choice, Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.

Click here for a Grilled Cheese Chowdown photo album.

While grilled cheese does not make an appearance on the menu at Gazebo Restaurant in Waupoos, Chef Sullivan certainly brought her A-game to the competition.

After studying culinary management at George Brown College, Sullivan went on to Toronto’s Auberge du Pommier, later taking the lead as head chef at Chapeau Bistro and The Rebel House. As an advocate of the slow food movement in Ontario, she spent nine years on the board of directors of Organic Advocates’ Feast of Fields. The organization, which was co-founded by Chef Jamie Kennedy, brings chefs and farmers together to raise awareness of organic eating and its benefits to the environment and to humans. As the movement took hold in bucolic Prince Edward County, the wine region’s magnetism was evident.

A long-time supporter of Countylicious, Sullivan’s cooking draws crowds during the County’s twice annual prix-fixe celebration of local food. Countylicious’ goal is to introduce diners to the bounty of local food that’s still available during the “shoulder seasons” of fall and spring, when most farmer’s markets have wound down for the year or have yet to open up.

Gazebo Restaurant at Waupoos Estates Winery in Prince Edward County.

Gazebo Restaurant at Waupoos Estates Winery in Prince Edward County.

“Locally grown is not a trend, but a lifestyle,” quips Sullivan. A truly seasonal eater, her family relocated from Europe in the 1960s, bringing their culinary sensibilities with them. “We only ate strawberries when they were in season. It’s just the way I was raised,” said Sullivan, in a Bay of Quinte Tourism Local Food episode last year. The Grilled Cheese Chowdown was the perfect venue for Sullivan to showcase local tastes, with all cheese provided by the Cheddar & Ale Trail producers of Hastings and Prince Edward counties.

The next Great Canadian Cheese Festival—the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada—takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and 5, 2016, in Picton, Ontario, at the Fairgrounds. For complete information, visit CheeseFestival.ca.

—Laura Voskamp

By night, Laura Voskamp is a cheese lover and freelance writer. By day, she’s Communications Coordinator for Bay of Quinte Tourism and Bay of Quinte Living.

Chien Noir chef competes in Grilled Cheese Chowdown

With a Parisian bistro feel, located just a few blocks away from historic Market Square, Le Chien Noir Bistro in downtown Kingston is known for serving up fresh, seasonal, high quality, and local ingredients along with a spectacular wine list. This neighbourhood hangout spot dishes up pleasurable experiences and offers feel good classics with an innovative twist and friendly service in a beautiful art deco inspired setting.

Chef Eric Brennan.

Chef Eric Brennan.

Offering traditional French dishes such as Duck Confit, Boeuf Bourguignonne and Tartare, this bistro would not be complete without highlighting charcuterie and Canadian artisan cheeses that will be featured among many more at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival where Sous Chef Eric Brennan will swing into action against three other Ontario chefs at the Grilled Cheese Chowdown.

Who can cook 250 grilled-cheese sandwiches the quickest? Well that is yet to be determined but Kingston native Chef Eric of Chien Noir is certainly ready for the challenge as the winning chef will have $1,000 donated to his favourite charity and where the first 1,000 ticket holders admitted on Sunday, June 7, will receive a free grilled-cheese sandwich as part of the fifth anniversary celebrations at the biggest cheese show in Canada. It doesn’t get better than that!

Chef Eric’s grilled cheese creation you may ask? It pays homage to local products—from Stonemill Bakehouse and its Prince Edward County Rye, Stirling Creamery butter and of course the pièce de résistance, a two-year white cheddar from Wilton Cheese on the Cheddar & Ale Trail in Bay of Quinte Region.

Le Chien Noir: The Kingston resto definitely looks like a bistro.

Le Chien Noir: The Kingston resto definitely looks like a bistro. Click on any image for an enlarged view.

Let’s take a moment though to appreciate Chef Eric’s passion for creating uncomplicated dishes using locally sourced ingredients and embracing the local food movement – this truly makes him the perfect addition to the Grilled Cheese Chowdown with his unique flair in the kitchen. He rose to this level as he climbed the culinary ladder at Chien Noir after completing his apprenticeship at George Brown College while he gained first-hand experience at several popular Toronto dining establishments including Chippy’s Fish & Chips, The Harbord Room and Frank’s Kitchen.

While with every man, the true motivation that keeps Eric going is the love of food and having grown up surrounded by his parents big garden—sitting in the dirt rows between the plants, picking beans and peas and eating them is where the true appreciation for good fresh food commenced and has yet to leave him. So it is no surprise that Chef Eric is a great supporter of local Canadian cheese as well—his favourite being Wilton cheese curds or “squeaky cheese” as he calls it. He relishes in the fact that the options are almost endless with cheese. With so many styles and ages, there is always room for a slice or shred of the good stuff!

Cheese and charcuterie locally sourced at Le Chien Bistro.

Cheese and charcuterie locally sourced at Le Chien Bistro.

With all this talk about cheese be sure to visit Chien Noir’s Sous Chef Eric Brennan as he competes at the Grilled Cheese Chowdown at the fifth anniversary Great Canadian Cheese Festival—the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada as it takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7, in Picton, Ontario, at the Fairgrounds. For complete information and tickets, please visit CheeseFestival.ca.

—Rosalyn Gambhir

A food writer and photographer who calls Kingston home. She blogs about food, fashion and other good things life at www.rosalyngambhir.com.

 

 

 

Chefs compete to make 1,000 grilled-cheese sammies

Chefs Lili Sullivan, Jeff McCourt, Eric Brennan and Norm Airken.

Chefs Lili Sullivan, Jeff McCourt, Eric Brennan and Norm Aitken.

How can we possibly serve grilled-cheese sandwiches to the first 1,000 cheese lovers admitted to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on Sunday—without it taking forever?

Invite four leading chefs to compete to see who can grill 250 cheese sandwiches the quickest, that’s how. And that’s how Sunday’s Grilled Cheese Chowdown came to be.

CHOWDOWN partner logos smallWith much thanks to Stonemill Bakehouse, Stirling Creamery and these Cheddar & Ale Trail cheese producers:

The four chefs are:

Here’s how the showdown leading the Chowdown will unfold, starting at 12 noon Sunday near The County Pavilion right in the middle of the Cheese Festival.

Picture four support crews doing the prep in the banquet hall and adjacent commercial kitchen, buttering the bread, laying on the cheese slices, getting ready to swing into action. Picture four stations with flat tops set up in the food court area of the Festival.  At the appointed hour, we fire up the propane, bring the flat tops up to heat, the teams bring out the sandwiches.

Four chefs step forward, each at one station. The start signal sounds. The chefs swing into action, seeing who can cook 250 grilled-cheese sandwiches the quickest.

Team members serve the grilled cheese to attendees who find condiments at a dedicated station nearby. Picnic tables are all around for sitting and eating.

The winning chef has $1,000 donated to the charity of his or her choice.

Chefs will be using Prince Edward County Rye produced by Stonemill Bakehouse, pre-sliced at the bakery, and unsalted butter from Stirling Creamery, plus Ontario cheddar, of course.

Admission to the Chowdown is included in the ticket for Sunday’s Artisan Cheese & Fine Food Fair. Vouchers will be issued to the first 1,000 ticket holders admitted which can be turned in for grilled-cheese starting at noon.

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Makers+Mongers: Sausage shares stage with cheeseburgers

Michael McKenzie of Seed to Sausage in Sharbot Lake, Ontario. Photo by Ottawa Citizen.

Michael McKenzie of Seed to Sausage in Sharbot Lake, Ontario. Photo: Ottawa Citizen.

The Day of the Pig comes but once a year (usually mid-May, in case you’re wondering) but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy handcrafted cured meats at any time, thanks to Seed to Sausage. Joining the Makers+Mongers celebration at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival this Saturday, Seed to Sausage brings a commitment to ethically raised animals and a dedication to making things their own, sourcing products right back to the seed they began with.

Beyond that, the Seed to Sausage brand has also become an ambassador for Ontario’s artisan producers, offering venues for smaller businesses to begin sharing their products with urban markets.

If you’ve never ventured out to Sharbot Lake, Ontario, now is the time to do it. Begun by chef and entrepreneur Michael McKenzie only a few years ago, Seed to Sausage has quickly gained recognition, to the point where it’s now hard to believe we’ve ever sourced our bacon from anywhere else. The principles of “local. ethical. humble.” craft are at the core of the Seed to Sausage brand, where everything is handmade in small batches.

For Makers+Mongers, Seed to Sausage will

For Makers+Mongers, Seed to Sausage will grill Jalapeño cheese curd smokies. Photo: Laura Voskamp.

From sausages (don’t miss the Maple Walnut variety) to bacon (all varieties are made using real hickory smoke) to dry cured meats (McKenzie’s cuts are dry aged for 80 days), the S2S roster is extensive. Minimal added ingredients mean that the flavours of the meat shine through in McKenzie’s products, injecting a distinctly Canadian profile into traditional European styles.

Beyond his own products, the Sharbot Lake Seed to Sausage headquarters also boasts a gourmet grocery store, stocked with all manner of accoutrements to help you enjoy your salumi to the max. You’ll find crackers, salts, and preserves, all selected with the meats in mind.

This offering spills over into Seed to Sausage’s newest outpost: The S2S General Store, located on Gladstone Avenue in Ottawa. Born as a collaboration between multiple facets of Ottawa’s food scene, McKenzie has created a space where chefs, bloggers, and producers can come together to create a distribution point for small producers. The aim isn’t to be exclusive though: the S2S General Store wants its shoppers to love the products so much that they begin to ask for them at their local stores, opening up the scene for local producers to gain their own following.

Unauthorized photo of Mike McKenzie break dancing in the straw at Makers+Mongers last year.

Unauthorized photo of Mike McKenzie break dancing in the straw at Makers+Mongers last year. Photo: Vanessa Simmons.

And a following they’re sure to gain as McKenzie brings the local. ethical. humble. philosophy to the Cheeseburgers in Paradise soiree this Saturday. While we’ve yet to find a Jimmy Buffett song that sings the praises of bratwurst, it wouldn’t be a grill-up without sausages, and you’ll want to be sure to save room to try the Jalapeño cheese curd smokies McKenzie and his crew will serve alongside Burger Revolution’s gourmet cheeseburgers.

The fifth anniversary of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival—the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada—takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7, in Picton, Ontario, at the Fairgrounds. For complete information and tickets, please visit CheeseFestival.ca.

—Laura Voskamp
By night, Laura Voskamp is a cheese lover and freelance writer. By day, she’s Communications Coordinator for Bay of Quinte Tourism and Bay of Quinte Living.

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