Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm back in business in B.C.

Kathy and Gary Wikkerink are pleased to be able to sell cheese again after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency lifted the prohibition on their Gort's Gouda Cheese Farm.

Kathy and Gary Wikkerink are pleased to be able to sell cheese again after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency lifted the prohibition on their Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm.

Text and photo by Martha Wickett – Salmon Arm Observer

In the end, it came down to two wheels of cheese.

On Friday, Oct. 18, five weeks to the day that they learned their cheese was suspected in an E. coli outbreak, the Wikkerink family received good news.

Officials from both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) came to Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, on Friday morning to tell the owners that the prohibition had been lifted—the Wikkerinks could once again sell their cheese.

The owners were told “basically that no E. coli was found on the premises and that it was only found in two wheels of red pepper and black pepper (cheese),” a relieved Gary Wikkerink told the Observer.

He said some of the cheese found to be tainted had been cut up and repackaged into 250-gram weights and then returned.

“They took between two- and three-hundred samples, and almost all of them came back negative, except for the two wheels,” he said of the CFIA investigation.

The lifting of the prohibition on sales comes with a restriction. Any cheese made after Sept. 14 must be tested before it leaves the premises.

Despite the infamy the farm gained after the cheese recalls, he thinks the notifications were necessary.

“Although only two wheels were found to be contaminated, it’s better safe than sorry.”

Both Gary and his spouse Kathy say a huge weight has now been lifted off their shoulders.

“It was a very humbling experience, the whole thing,” remarked Kathy, explaining that it’s “because you feel how vulnerable you are. When you’re working in the food industry, working with real food, you’re very vulnerable.”

She said the community has been highly supportive, both with encouraging words and with stores placing orders again.

“It makes us more passionate about what we’re doing, and also the due diligence to make it effective.”

Lynn Willcott, acting program director of food protection services with BCCDC, said no major problems were discovered at the farm.

“We found some minor deficiencies throughout the process, no major deficiencies at all… We’re confident as they move forward their products will be safe to consume.”

He noted that cheeses produced before the recall are also fine.

“We’re very confident those cheeses are safe. There was extensive testing done with those.”

Asked how he can be sure the cheese will be safe if the source of contamination wasn’t pinpointed, he said the testing prior to the cheese leaving the plant will ensure it.

READ MORE: Salmon Arm Observer

Lamb/goat cheese combo aces sandwich contest

North African Lamb Sandwich with Chévre,  Harissa and Figs

North African Lamb Sandwich with Chévre, Harissa and Figs.

A Montréal bartender’s concoction of lamb with chévre, harissa and figs on ciabatta was judged the best of the best in ACE Bakery’s Canada’s Best Sandwich Contest that ended today with a sandwich showdown at Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

Along with the national title, Jean Émond won a $10,000 prize and $10,000 donation towards his charity of choice, World Wildlife Fund Canada. 

“I really wasn’t expecting this, but I’m so excited my recipe has earned the title of Canada’s Best Sandwich!” said Émond. “I love being adventurous in the kitchen and it’s so rewarding to know my creativity is paying off.”

Émond developed the recipe through a step-by-step process starting with his chosen protein, lamb.  From there, he layered on various ingredients and spices to create the perfect balance of flavours. See the recipe below.

Émond tends bar at Cabaret la Tulipe in Montreal. His favourite cocktail to make is Gin Fizz.

Close to 1,000 recipes were submitted from across Canada. Four regional finalists faced off this morning, creating their sandwiches in front of a judging panel and live audience at Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens.

After tasting each of the creations, Bob Blumer, host of Food Network Canada’s World’s Weirdest Restaurants, Julie Van Rosendaal, popular Calgary-based blogger behind DinnerWithJulie.com, and Marcus Mariathas, ACE Bakery’s master baker, evaluated each recipe based on taste appeal, creativity, innovation and originality in order to select a winner.

The other three finalists were Ashley Seely from Rothesay, New Brunswick, Meghan Légère from Toronto, and, Linh Huynh from Calgary. Each finalist received $1,000 cash prize and $1,000 to donate towards their charity of choice.

One of North America’s leading artisan bakeries, ACE Bakery opened in 1993 in Toronto creating hand-made, European-style rustic breads.  The gentle shaping of each loaf, long fermentation periods, and a stone deck oven all work to create exceptionally flavourful bread with a pleasing texture and crisp crust. The breads contain no preservatives and are made with the finest ingredients. ACE Bakery’s baguettes and artisan breads are available at hundreds of restaurants, hotels, caterers, grocery and gourmet food shops across Canada, throughout the United States and the Caribbean.

ACE Bakery Canada’s Best Sandwich Contest

Winner: North African Lamb Sandwich with Harissa and Figs
Creator: Jean Émond
Region: Québec
Serving: Serves 4
The seductive flavours of Morocco mingle in this tender lamb sandwich with the spicy heat of harissa, and the sweet temptation of honey and figs.

Ingredients:

12 oz. (340 g) lamb tenderloin, cut into thin strips, 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10 cm) long
4 ACE Bakery Ciabatta Buns, split

Lamb Marinade

2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. (5 mL) honey
1 Tbsp. (15 mL) olive oil
1 tsp. (5 mL) harissa paste
1 tsp. (5 mL) kosher salt
½ tsp. (2.5 mL) ras el hanout
½ tsp. (2.5 mL) cumin seeds
½ tsp. (2.5 mL) freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) pine nuts
¼ cup (60 mL) chopped Italian parsley

Spicy Mayo

¼ cup (60 mL) mayonnaise
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp. (5 mL) honey
1 tsp. (5 mL) harissa paste
pinch ras el hanout

Fig and Goat Cheese Salad

2 fresh figs, diced
2 oz. (56 g) soft goat cheese, crumbled
1 tsp. (5 mL) honey
1 tsp. (5 mL) olive oil
¼ tsp. (1.25 mL) cumin powder
¼ tsp. (1.25 mL) cumin seeds
¼ tsp. (1.25 mL) ras el hanout
6 fresh mint leaves, julienned
1 cup (240 mL) baby arugula

Instructions:

In a large bowl, mix together all the marinade ingredients except the pine nuts and parsley. Add the lamb strips and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour to allow the flavours to mingle. Stir fry the lamb in a large wok or a skillet over medium heat until just cooked through, about 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and parsley and toss to combine. To prepare the Spicy Mayo, combine all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Prepare the Fig and Goat Cheese Salad by gently tossing all the ingredients together in a small bowl until lightly coated. Add the mint and the arugula at the last moment. To assemble the sandwiches, lightly grill the ACE Bakery Ciabatta buns until warm and toasty. Spread the cut sides of each bun with some of the Spicy Mayo. On the bottom bun lay some of the seasoned lamb mixture and drizzle with some of the jus. Finish with the Fig and Goat Cheese Salad and the top bun.

Monforte to start cheese school with Premier’s Award

Ruth Klahsen of Monforte Dairy was honoured with the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne this week for implementing a Community Shared Agriculture micro-financing model to raise capital to build a new plant in Stratford, Ontario. The award comes with a cash prize of $75,000.

“I am so thrilled and so honoured.” Klahsen said in accepting the award. “We want to take that award and we want to give it back. So what we intend to do with the money is to set up a cheesemaking school here at Monforte and that’ll start in February next spring. Because what we really need in the industry is education and depth and understanding of regulations so that we can do safe, wonderful products that are as good as Europe. And so a school becomes so important.

“The school becomes the coolest thing that we can do and I’m so excited about the potential of that. And the potential for what that can do to Ontario as far as just making really, really good cheese . . .

In 2008, when rent at Monforte Dairy’s location skyrocketed, the artisanal cheesemaker faced the challenge of securing enough money to build a new facility. So Monforte turned to its biggest believers—its customers.

It sold shares in denominations of $200, $500 and $1,000, redeemable in cheese. While many farmers have turned to community-supported agriculture to finance their operations, this is the first time the model had been attempted by an Ontario food processor. Monforte customers came through, purchasing nearly 900 shares totaling more than $400,000. The money helped pay for one-and-a-half acre of land in Stratford and a new, purpose-built environmentally sustainable cheesemaking plant.

This year, Monforte is on target to reach $2 million in sales, with the help of cheese aficionados determined to keep their favourite producer in business.

If you ask Ruth Klahsen, how she got into making cheese, she’ll tell you, in that self-deprecating way she has: “I’m just an old broad who had a mid-life crisis!”

Click here to read more.

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Monforte Dairy’s Ruth Klahsen and Kathleen Wynne, Premier and Minister of Agriculture and Food.

In praise of raw-milk cheese

Gort's Gouda Cheese Farm produces a wonderful variety of cheeses, many of them goudas, some of them made with raw milk.

Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm produces a wonderful variety of cheeses, many of them goudas, some of them made with raw milk.

At the end of the day, we all have the responsibility to think about risk, and to manage it as we see fit (what we eat and drink). While it is simply not feasible to eliminate all food pathogens, it is possible to destroy a food culture, a way of life, and a delicious product, in a rush to placate all and sundry. Accidents will happen, even with right-thinking people doing their best to be safe. I am comfortable with that reality. If you’re not, don’t eat the cheese.

—Liane Faulder

Read more by Liane Faulder of the Edmonton Journal by clicking here. She captures perfectly our thinking on raw-milk cheese in light of the E. coli outbreak at Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm in Salmon Arm, B.C.

What are your thoughts on raw-milk cheese? Do you enjoy it? Do you avoid it?