Cheese recommendations to enhance the holidays

Looking for last-minute ideas for delicious cheese to give as special gifts during the holidays—or to create an appealing cheese board?

Here are recommendations from the cheese lovers who work behind the scenes to make the Canadian Cheese Awards, the biggest cheese competition and judging in the country, happen every two years.

Awards Co-ordinator Jackie Armet picks Laliberté “because it is simply delicious. It has so many rich qualities for a soft bloomy rind cheese. Delicate but bold in flavour with a lovely creamy finish and always the first to go on a cheese board.”

Laliberté is made by Fromagerie du Presbytère in Sainte-Élizabeth de Warwick, Québec, by Cheesemaker Jean Morin and his équipe.

Awards Registrar Heather Robertson goes with Vacherin Mont d’ Or from Switzerland: “It’s a Christmas tradition! Pair it with some bubbly and fresh bread and you are ready for hibernation.”

Vacherin Mont d’Or is a seasonal cheese of Switzerland that delivers an amazing explosion of aroma and taste.

Nathalie Rollet Schofield, who serves as liaison with cheese producers in Québec, selects La Madelaine made by Fromagerie Nouvelle France.

“La Madelaine is an easy to love cheese. Rich and creamy, its mild taste will appeal to many. The unusual shape makes it readily identifiable. Made from sheep’s milk, it has a smooth and alluring taste.”

La Madelaine made by Fromagerie Nouvelle France of Racine, Québec, where Marie-Chantal Houde is cheesemaker.

Cheese Ambassador Roxanne Renwick has been sampling cheese at Eataly Toronto, the luxury Italian food hall that recently opened in Yorkville.

She recommends Northern Italy’s La Tur: “A lush rich cream dream with a three-dimensional complexity of the cow, sheep, goat milk mix. Sweet grass and funky tang. A heavenly cloud of a cheese that transports me every time I have it.”

Click here to read more about La Tur.

Georgs Kolesnikovs, founder and chair of Canadian Cheese Awards, is currently enamored with some of the finest examples of made-in-Ontario cheese.

—Waltzing Matilda, Monforte Dairy, Stratford, Ontario:

As Cheesemaker Ruth Khlasen puts it, “This Water Buffalo Camembert will make you decide where your loyalties to the name Matilda lay. Tom Waits’ gravelly rasp, or a patriotic love of Australia? For an elegant dinner party, choose the Waltzing Matilda with a delicate layer of ash under its bloomy rind.”

Pair it with a drizzle of honey to elevate the taste experience a notch.

—Abondance, Monforte Dairy, Stratford, Ontario:

Another delicious cheese from Ruth Khlasen, this one made with Ontario water buffalo milk. It offers a strong aroma and distinct, complex flavours. You might catch a hint of hazelnut as the cheese melts in your mouth.

We conclude with two seasonal stunners from Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese near Woodstock, Ontario.

—Handeck Reserve and 5 Brothers Reserve:

Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese is a small artisan cheese dairy nestled within the rolling hills of Gunn’s Hill Road in Oxford County in Southwestern Ontario. The cheeses produced at Gunn’s Hill are truly unique, although you can taste the Swiss influence from techniques and recipes Cheesemaker Shep Ysselstein learned while making cheese in the Swiss Alps. Handeck is a handcrafted, washed-rind cow’s milk cheese that is produced using the same methods as a typical Swiss mountain-style cheese. Handeck Reserve is delicately aged for 36 months on cedar planks, adding robust quality to the cheese. It is a drier hard cheese with rich and complex flavours and nutty overtones. Available only at Christmas.

If your cheesemonger doesn’t carry Handeck Reserve, go with 5 Brothers Reserve. It doesn’t quite have the heft of Handeck but is delicious just the same.

Thea: Stunning new bandaged sheep cheddar from Mariposa Dairy

Award-wining Thea Bandaged Sheep Cheddar made at Mariposa Dairy.

The voicemail was brief and to the point: “Georgs, you must come and sample the new cheese from Pieter.”

The caller was Tammy Miller at Country Cheese in Ajax, my neighbourhood cheesemonger in Durham outside Toronto. I stopped by a few days later, and right away sent an email to Pieter van Oudenaren at Mariposa Dairy in Lindsay, Ontario:

“Wow, Pieter, Thea is a stunner! Tell me more so I can spread the word to Canadian cheese lovers.”

To the point, Thea is an outstanding bandaged cheddar made with Ontario sheep’s milk by the Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve division of Mariposa Dairy where Pieter has had a hand in developing aged cheese like Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar and Tania Toscano Sheep Cheese over the last nine years.

Hand-crafted in small batches using premium sheep’s milk from Miklin Farms near Georgina, Thea Bandaged Cheddar is made in the old world way by wrapping the cheddar wheel with cheesecloth which helps to age the cheese and preserve the flavour.

Cheesemaker Pieter van Oudenaren with young wheels of Thea in the aging room.

Aged nine months in a humidity-controlled aging room, the cheese yields a woody and buttery aroma, a sharp nutty profile with subtle caramel undertones. It has the sought after crystallization of a well-aged cheddar with a firm but creamy texture.

As Roxanne Renwick, a cheese specialist in Toronto, puts it: “Thea is rich and creamy yet full of tyrosine crystals. Sweet, salty and slightly tangy.”

The name Thea (along with the names Luuk, Taavi and Zander of truckles made at Mariposa Dairy) is a common Dutch name. It reflects the Dutch heritage of the VandenBerg family, Mariposa founders and owners, and the Dutch reputation for great cheese.

Cheesemaker Pieter van Oudenaren was born and raised in Bobcaygeon, a short drive from Lindsay. His parents emigrated from the Netherlands in the 1950s. The family name comes from Oudenaarde, a Flemish city in Belgium. Pieter’s father, Harry van Oudenaren, who is turning 95 this month, owned and operated an auto repair garage in Bobcaygeon for many years. Pieter took over the business and operated it for 27 years before the cheesemaking bug took hold nine years ago.

Since then, it has been one award after another for Lenberg Farms cheeses, including Grand Champion honours for Thea at this week’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

“What’s your secret in making such fabulous cheese?” we asked Pieter.

“A secret is a secret. In the words of Monty Python, ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers.’ I have been blessed with a great company and owners to work for and with. Good components, co-workers, a wife that supports and prompts me, and consultants that have helped me along the way to help me to tweak the recipes.”

Pieter describes himself as a learner: In recent years, he’s learned to sail a boat, drive a horse and carriage, and make maple syrup, in addition to making award-winning cheese.

He and his wife, Grace, who is executive secretary at Mariposa, have two daughters.

The Thompson family in the milking barn at Miklin Farms in Georgina.

Miklin Farms in Georgina is owned by Mike and Linda Thompson and operated with their children, Anna, Laura and Joe. The Thompsons have been farming sheep for 29 years. They currently have 1,000 breeding/milking ewes, milking 500 at a time year round. The breed of sheep is Rideau crossed with East Friesian.

Anna Thompson holds a lamb in her arms at Miklin Farms.

Thea is hand-made in relatively small quantities and thus is in limited distribution. Here are cheese retailers in Ontario that carry Thea:

Ask your cheesemonger to order Thea if she doesn’t carry it.

Distributors are Finica Food Specialties, Fromages CDA, Glen Echo Fine Foods, La Ferme Black River and Worldwide Specialty Foods.

Cheesemaker Jean Morin strikes gold again at Caseus

Jean Morin of Fromagerie du Presbytère, always joking, always winning.

Jean Morin has been the winningest cheesemaker in Sélection Caseus, the prestigious annual competition for Québec cheese producers, for the past decade.

Fromagerie du Prebystère won Caseus Gold with Bleu d’Élizabeth in 2018, 2013 and 2009, with Louis d’Or in 2012 and 2010, with Taliah in 2016, and with Pionnier, in collaboration with Fromagerie Nouvelle France, in 2017.

This year he struck gold again with Religieuse, a marvelous washed-rind cheese ideally suited for raclette or just plain eating.

Here are winners in the top six categories announced last night in a ceremony in Quebec City:

CASEUS GOLD

CASEUS SILVER

CASEUS BRONZE

BEST AGED CHEESE

BEST RAW MILK CHEESE

BEST ORGANIC CHEESE

La Tommette de Chèvre made by L’Atelier Fromagerie is distributed by Aux Terroirs. The other five big winners are distributed by Plaisirs Gourmets.

Zacharie Cloutier, the wonderful sheep’s milk cheese made by Marie Chantal Houde, won Caseus Gold in 2014 and 2011.

Click here for 2019 Caseus winners in all categories: https://www.caseus.ca/laureats

Taste and buy the best in Canadian cheese at Night Market

Canada’s Artisan Cheese Night Market will be a veritable showcase for the best in Canadian cheese. Among the 150 artisan and farmstead cheeses to sample and purchase on June 6 will be the three most recent winners of Canadian Cheese of the Year honours at Canadian Cheese Awards/Les Concours des fromages fins canadien:

Baluchon: 2014 Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Le Baluchon, Fromagerie Baluchon, Québec, 2014 Cheese of the Year

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: 2016 Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, Cows Creamery, Prince Edward Island, 2016 Cheese of the Year

Louis d’Or: 2018 Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Louis d’Or, Fromagerie du Presbytère, Québec, 2018 Cheese of the Year.

 

Here’s the list of cheese producers who have confirmed to date. More are expected by show time on June 6.

Cows Creamery

Fromages CDA

   Fromage au Village

   Fromagerie Baluchon

   Fromagerie de L’Abbaye Saint-Benoît

   Fromagerie Domaine Féodal

   Fromagerie du Champ à la Meule

   Fromagerie du Terroir de Bellechasse

   Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser

   Fromagerie La vache à Maillotte

   Fromagerie L’Ancêtre

   Fromagerie Le Détour

   Fromagerie Rang 9

Fromage au Village

Fromagerie du Presbytère

Plaisirs Gourmets

   Fromagiers de la Table Ronde

   Fromagerie de l’Ile-aux-Grues

   Fromagerie Médard

   Fromagerie Nouvelle France

   Fromagerie Suisse Normande

   Fromagerie La Station de Compton

Aux Terroirs

   Laiterie Charlevoix

Blyth Farm Cheese

Ferrante Cheese

Fifth Town Artisan Cheese

Fromagerie Kapuskoise

Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese

Mariposa Dairy

   Lenberg Farms

Monforte Dairy

Mountainoak Cheese

Stonetown Artisan Cheese

Thornloe Cheese

   Sabana Canada

Quality Cheese

   Bella Casara

   Albert’s Leap

 

Canada’s Artisan Cheese Night Market is a unique sampling show where consumers can taste and buy cheese, charcuterie, chocolate, roasted nuts, shortbread, olive oil, drunken jams, gourmet butter, ginger tonic, chutney, and small-batch wine and craft beer and cider, and spirits, and much more. 19+

Tickets are still available for Session 1 (12 noon to 3 pm) and Session 2 (3:30 to 6:30 pm). Session 3 (7 to 10 pm) has SOLD OUT.

It’s all happening at historic St. Lawrence Market’s Temporary North Hall at 125 The Esplanade in downtown Toronto.

Information and tickets: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/canadas-artisan-cheese-night-market-2019-tickets-56463973264?ref=ebtnebtckt

Let a fanatic and a poet deepen your passion for cheese

WARNING: Her passion for cheese is contagious!

Vanessa Simmons is crazy about cheese. The Toronto Star described her as being “openly fanatical about artisan cheese.”

She’ll demonstrate her passion during a Tutored Tasting on how best to pair artisan cheese with craft beer at Canada’s Artisan Cheese Night Market. It’s much more of a natural pairing than, say, wine and cheese.

Read more here: http://www.cheeseawards.ca/night-market-tutored-tastings/

Thousands follow The Cheese Poet on Instagram

Chef and Cheesemonger Erin Harris.

 

Learn to appreciate cheese, don’t just eat it! All you need to know about buying, storing and presenting cheese—and enjoying it to the max.

Your tutor will be Chef and Cheesemonger Erin Harris. Erin is a Red Seal Chef turned Cheese Specialist and Culture Magazine contributor with a huge following of curd nerds on Instagram @thecheesepoet.

Read more here: http://www.cheeseawards.ca/night-market-tutored-tastings/

Cheese experts to inform and entertain you

They’re informative, they’re entertaining—and you get to taste the very best in Canadian cheese at Artisan Cheese Night Market Tutored Tastings.

Each presentation features six to eight fabulous Canadian artisan and farmstead cheeses, selected artisan condiments, plus offerings of Ontario wine, craft beer or cider, all from Artisan Cheese Night Market vendors and exhibitors.

The two topics run concurrently from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., so pick the one topic that appeals to you most. Admission is $45 per person, 19+.

ORDER YOUR TICKETS TODAY!

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/canadas-artisan-cheese-night-market-2019-tickets-56463973264

He’s been stretching fresh mozzarella for more than 50 years

Mozzarella Master Angelo Pelosi has been stretching fresh mozza for 50 years. Click to watch him in action.

Have you ever seen how fresh mozzarella is made and stretched until it is butter-soft, milky and velvety? Have you inhaled the creamy aroma?

At the upcoming Artisan Cheese Night Market, Mozzarella Master Angelo Pelosi will demonstrate the ancient craft that he first learned more than 50 years ago in his native Puglia, the capital of fresh Mozzarella in Italy.

Angelo came to Canada to make cheese for the Borgo family at Quality Cheese in Vaughan, Ontario, a half-century ago. Now retired, he still enjoys coming to Quality Cheese to help train the next generation of Pasta Filata specialists and help out when things get busy.

Angelo will be stretching Mozzarella with cow’s milk. He also makes Trecche with fresh arugula, a classic recipe from Puglia. Angelo does private hand-stretching functions for weddings and food events as a side business.

At the Night Market, Angelo will demonstrate the craft at 2:00 p.m. during Session 1 and at 3:30 p.m. during Session 2, in booth space adjacent to Quality Cheese where the freshly made mozzarella will be sold to consumers.

Quality Cheese website: http://www.qualitycheese.com/#/

Night Market information and tickets: https://artisan-cheese-night-market-2019-tickets.eventbrite.ca

Pasta filata (Italian: “spun paste”) is a technique in the manufacture of a family of Italian cheeses also known in English as stretched-curd, pulled-curd, and plastic-curd cheeses.

Trecche or Treccia is a traditional braided shape made from fresh Mozzarella.

 

Grand Trunk: Savour the aroma and flavour of the Swiss Alps

Grand Trunk wheel and wedge

Try and buy Grand Trunk and other award-winning cheeses from Stonetown Artisan Cheese at Canada’s Artisan Cheese Night Market in Toronto on June 6.

Grand Trunk is a best-seller for good reason: It tastes great, it really does!

Grand Trunk, the most popular cheese made by Stonetown Artisan Cheese in St. Marys, Ontario, is named after the historic railway bridge of the former Grand Trunk Railway in St. Marys.

On the outside of the cheese, the rind does have an old rustic look, just like the historic bridge.

But cut open a wheel and inhale the aroma. You’re immediately transported to the Swiss Alps where the fragrance of alpine meadows fills the air, mingling with a robust aroma of dairy.

Place a piece in your mouth and let it melt. It’s so rich and creamy, so packed with layers of flavour, with a nice balance of salt.

Grand Trunk is aged six to nine months and more. The older the better the taste, we say.

That’s award-winning Grand Trunk, the pride of cheesemakers Jolanda and Hans Weber who came to Canada in 1996 from their native Switzerland, with three children in tow, to begin a new life in St. Marys on their own dairy farm.

“Having previously worked in the Swiss Alps, it was always our dream to produce delicious, high quality cheese reminiscent of the renowned Swiss mountains and made from our own milk,” the Webers explain. “With a profound commitment to creating cheese of the highest quality, and the support of our family, as well as Ramon Eberle, a Master Cheesemaker from Switzerland, our humble dream became a reality.”

Fresh milk comes from 250 Holstein cows—who sleep on beach sand all year round. Two sons, together with their families, look after the cows while Jolanda and Hans handcraft the farmstead cheese: “In order to obtain a great taste, the milk is unpasteurized and has no additives. This ensures the cheese is pure and natural.”

The milk is thermized, which means its heated to reduce spoilage bacteria with minimum collateral heat damage to milk components. Artisan cheesemakers prefer thermization to pasteurization as the former does not cause changes in flavour.

The taste of place is definitely the Swiss Alps, although the cheese is made in Southwestern Ontario.

You’ll have a chance to meet Jolanda and Hans and sample their delicious cheese at Canada’s Artisan Cheese Night Market at historic St. Lawrence Market’s Temporary North Hall in Toronto on June 6.

“We will bring our award-winning cheeses like Wildwood, Homecoming, Farmstead Fontina, Farmstead Emmental and, of course, our most famous cheese, our Grand Trunk. We also make some goat milk cheeses and we will bring our Amazing Grey. The recipe for Amazing Grey is the same as for the Grand Trunk but with goat milk.”

Grand Trunk, which is aged six to nine months, was crowned Grand Champion in Specialty Cheese at the 2018 British Empire Cheese Competition.

Jolanda and Hans Weber with Master Cheesemaker Ramon Eberle.

Grand Trunk tastes excellent in sandwiches or just on a cheese platter with fruits, dried meat and rustic bread. It is a great cheese for fondue or grilled cheese sandwiches. Due to its unique flavor, the cheese pairs well with both red and white wines.

 —Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheesehead-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, is chairman of Canadian Cheese Awards and director of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. He’s hardly ever met a cheese he didn’t like.