Marie Harel, I lust after your Camembert!

One of these days, I’ll have to spend time in Normandy, tasting my way through the 12 cheesemakers who produce Camembert under Apellation d’origine controlee standards (AOC). Tonight, however, I must be content with only one, Camembert d’Isigny, made by Isigny Ste-Mere, #3 on the map above.

And content I am! Although Camembert dates back only to the 18th century,  it is one of the most famous cheeses in France, and my d’Isigny is outstanding. Ten weeks after it was made, my small wheel has developed a deliciously strong creaminess, with the typical salty taste, and with the paste still white at its heart. Cheese Boutique, 250 grams, $16.99.

Camembert d'Isigny: Outstanding.

Camembert is named after a Norman village where there is a statue of its creator, Marie Harel. In 1855, legend has it, the cheese was presented to Napoleon, introduced as from the village of Camembert. He enjoyed it greatly and from that moment Camembert became known everywhere by this name.

As tradition and the AOC require, d’Isigny is made from raw cow’s milk cheese. Most of the Camembert we eat in Canada is made from pasteurized cow’s milk. When you first place a chunk of d’Isigny on your tongue, there is no doubt the source is a cow. Despite the aging, it tastes fresh, a testament to the quality of the milk from the herd that likely grazes overlooking the English Channel.

I had some bread at hand, and plenty of nuts and dried fruit, but, one hour later, I see I devoured most of the small wheel neat. As I’m in training for Lent, I washed the cheese down with San Benedetto, an Italian mineral water, splashed with cran juice.

For dessert, there were several slices of Lactantia on rustic white bread. Man, I love my unsalted cultured butter!

Artisanal food market opens at CBC

Cheese expert Gurth Pretty. Photo Keith Beaty of Toronto Star.

If you live in Toronto, here’s a new opportunity to support regional growers and artisanal food producers—and buy Canadian cheese.

Starting this Thursday, Regional ‘n’ Artisanal Food Market will be open from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Barbara Frumm Atrium at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre, 250 Front Street West at John Street.

It’s all thanks to Gurth Pretty, cheese guru and author and owner of Cheese of Canada, who lobbied the brass at CBC to obtain use of the indoor space. Other confirmed dates are February 25, March 25 and April 22.

“During the summer and early fall, the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is awash with outdoor farmers’ markets,” says Gurth. “There is at least one each day of the week. Consumers are able to purchase local ingredients directly from the growers or from their representatives. But once the leaves change colour and fall, the outdoor market season shrivels up until (the following) June.”

Vendors confirmed for opening day include:

  • Cheese of Canada (Canadian cheese/dried apple and pear crackers),
  • Kawartha Ecological Growers (vegetables/preserves/eggs/meat)
  • More than Pies Baking Co. (biscotti and bars)
  • Toorshi Foods (savoury pickled vegetables)
  • Warner Farm (Niagara fruit products)
  • ChocoSol Traders and Chocolatiers (cocoa and coffee)
  • Nieuwenhuis Meadows (frozen lamb)
  • From These Roots (flower & fruit jam/salsa)
  • St. John’s Bakery (sourdough organic breads)
  • Evelyn’s Crackers (organic crackers)

Parking is available at nearby parking lots.

Cheese of Canada will have a variety of cow, goat and sheep milk cheeses on sale, including Alpindon, an organic raw cow’s milk cheese from British Columbia, Smoked Gouda from Thunder Oak in Thunder Bay, and award-winning Isabella, a goat’s milk cheese aged for 12 months at Fifth Town in Prince Edward County yet still offering delicate flavours.

The photo of Gurth Pretty appeared in The Toronto Star when it interviewed him on the benefits of raw milk.

Performance enhancing cheddar

Generally, I would not post commercials for cheese but this one for Nolan’s Cheese is worth sharing. Click here to view it. Make sure you have the volume turned up. Watch it to the conclusion before reading further.

In case it did not dawn on you, the commercial is faux. There is no such cheese as Nolan’s and no animals were harmed in the production of the short film.

The film-maker is John Nolan, at the leading edge of animatronics, whose work has been utilized in Harry Potter, Where the Wild Things Are, and Clash of Titans.

He trained a mouse for the opening shots, then built a robotic mouse for the rest. You can see how Nolan works his magic in his showreel. Click here for stills.

Cheese Business News launched

Cheese Business News (CBN) is being launched today by Invest In Cheese, the economic development initiative of four counties in Eastern Ontario.

InvestInCheese.ca aims to become a clearing house for cheese news and the one-stop authority for start-ups in cheesemaking and other aspects of the cheese business. The long-term goal is to foster growth of the cheese industry in Frontenac, Hastings, Lennox and Addington, and Prince Edward counties which have united under the banner of Ontario’s Artisan Cheese Region.

Spearheaded by Dan Taylor, Prince Edward’s economic development officer, Invest In Cheese hopes to return Eastern and Central Ontario to its heyday as the chief cheese producing region in Canada. In the 1920s, there were more than 270 cheesemakers operating from Peterborough eastward in Ontario, producing a gazillion pounds of cheese, mainly cheddar, much of it for export to the United Kingdom.

Today, there are only 17 cheesemakers in the region—many of them, however, producing exceptional artisan cheese.

CheeseLover.ca was recently invited to a brainstormer hosted by Dan where the idea for CBN was hatched. Also participating was Gurth Pretty of Cheese of Canada, Andy Shay of Provincial Fine Foods, Malcolm Jolley of Good Food Revolution, and two associates of Dan’s in Prince Edward’s economic development, Karin Desveaux-Potters and Caitlin den Boer.

If you’re into cheese, these are heady times. All sorts of interesting projects are coagulating in many corners of Ontario. One way to stay current is to bookmark InvestInCheese.ca and check it regularly. Another way is to enter your email address in the upper right of this blog to subscribe to posts here. Your address will not be sold, traded or given away.

Cheese Lover’s Guide to Ontario Southwest

I’ll say it again: Quebec has a cheese trail to delight the senses. Why not Ontario?

Earlier, we mapped the cheesemakers in Ontario East. Here are the cheesemakers in Ontario Southwest, including the newest, Chanoki Cheese.

Click on “View Larger Map” for a legend showing the cheesemakers. Then start planning your tour to taste some of the finest cheese made in Ontario.

Here’s where to find the other Ontario cheesemakers:

When you visit a cheesemaker, in Ontario or elsewhere, share your experience by leaving a comment below.

Our cheese plate overfloweth

After I wrote about the Twelve Cheeses of Christmas, it dawned on me we may never ever again be as cheese rich as we are right now at our house. In addition to the delightful dozen, here’s what’s resting at 4C and high humidity in our fridge:

Parmigiano-Reggiano Vacche Rosse

People who know their cheese often say Parmigiano-Reggiano delle Vacche Rosse is the best Parmigiano-Reggiano there is.

Is this the red cow that makes the milk that makes the best Parmigiano-Reggiano?

Parmigiano-Reggiano from Red Cows, in English translation, is made from the exceptionally rich and creamy milk of the original milk source for Parmigiano-Reggiano, the Pezzata Rossa, a breed almost extinct by the by the late 1980s, writes Stephanie Zonis in The Nibble, an excellent online food magazine. Like the Jersey cow, its milk has a higher butterfat content and more milk proteins, but it isn’t a high-yielding cow. After the Second World War, as the old artisan ways began to succumb to efficiency, it was replaced by the higher-yielding Friesian. The result: a less-rich Parmigiano. The other result: The breed began to die out, since only a few committed farmers would keep less profitable herds. Over the last 25 years, some herds have been reestablished, thanks in part to the Slow Food Movement, and are now being used to produce small quantities of this high-end Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The combination of higher butterfat and more proteins allows for the production of a cheese that is better suited for a longer period of aging, producing a 30-month-old cheese instead of the 24-month aging period of most other Parmigianos. The extra aging yields a cheese that is uniquely nutty, fruity and grassy, with a flavor that is richer than most Parmigianos. The texture is more creamy, even though the cheese is aged for a much longer time (The rule of thumb is, the longer the cheese is aged, the drier the paste). This is a special-occasion cheese: Serve it as the cheese course, in chunks, drizzled with 25-year-old (or older) balsamic vinegar, The Nibble writer recommends.

We haven’t taken our first nibble yet, as other cheeses needed to be eaten first, but I’ll provide tasting notes when we do.

Here’s what else awaits us:

Chevrai

This soft, unripened goat cheese from Woolwich Dairy in Orangeville was given to us for Christmas with a goat-cheese baker that we’re eager to try.

Wilton Cheddar

I picked up this five-year-old cheddar during a quick visit to the Wilton Cheese Factory north of Kingston.

Black River Cheddar

A six-year-old cheddar from Black River Cheese in Prince Edward County that we’re in no rush to open.

American Cheese

A colleague of mine who loves to grill with American Cheese brought us a sample from her last visit to the U.S.

1000 Islands River Rat Cheese Curds

Cheese curds make such nice snacks, and these from River Rat are not as salty as those from La Belle Province.

Grand Camembert L’Extra

Where we live out in the boonies, the nearest cheesemonger is 45 minutes away. When the urge for cheese strikes, sometimes I’ll cruise Loblaws or Metro. That’s how I must have ended up with this Agropur product. Obviously, the urge was not that great as the Camembert is still with us, two weeks beyond its best-before date.

Rosenborg-Castello Traditional Blue Cheese

We always have some around for use in salads as it has bite and isn’t expensive for everyday use.

Bonnie & Floyd

So, why are we not eating any sheep’s milk cheese and have inventoried only one goat cheese?

Quite frankly, after I spent a day at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese in November, I brought home so much sheep and goat that by the holidays we had exceeded our quota. In other words, we over-ate.

But the best is still to come. As a bonus for learning to be a cheesemaker for the day, each participant in the program was allowed to pick a 2-kilogram wheel of any Fifth Town cheese to take home. As Bonnie & Floyd is a favorite of mine, my choice was easy. As a result, I’m doing my best, despite the cold in all storage spaces in our condo building, to age my wheel for a Valentine’s Day treat.