Best Bites: Outstanding cheeses of 2016

Bibi, made by Fromagerie Domaine Féodale in Berthierville, Québec.

OMG! Bibi made by Fromagerie Domaine Féodale in Berthierville, Québec.

We bring the curtain down on 2016 with friends in fromage recalling the memorable cheeses that crossed their palates during the past 12 months. In alphabetical order, here is a baker’s dozen of outstanding cheeses of the year—plus a special mention for the 2016 Canadian Cheese of the Year and a word of advice for producers of non-dairy cheeses.

Check out the tasting notes and make up your shopping list for the next visit to a cheese shop or, better yet, right to the cheesemaker.

Bibi – Fromagerie Domaine Féodale, Québec

Bibi is a delicious, oozy, creamy, finger-licking good Camembert-style cheese made by Guy Dessureault and Lise Mercier at Fromagerie Domaine Féodale. This cheese ranks in my very selective OMG! category. It is best enjoyed and savoured with a very special person. Make the experience part of a road trip as you will have to drive to the fromagerie, halfway between Montréal and Trois-Rivières, to buy it. It is a regional treasure! The warm hospitality of the two cheesemakers and their staff, at their recently expanded facility north of Berthierville, will make you feel like you are part of their family.

—Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese, Loblaw Companies

Blossom Blue, made by Moonstruck Organic Cheese on Vancouver Island.

Blossom Blue made by Moonstruck Organic Cheese on Vancouver Island.

Blossom’s Blue – Moonstruck Organic Cheese, British Columbia

Blossom’s Blue is an aged blue cheese made entirely with the unpasteurised, organic milk of Moonstruck Dairy’s own Jersey herd. Its texture is firm and dense, yet slightly crumbly. It is a touch sweet with the rich flavor of Jersey milk and a has great balance of salt and strength.

—Jonah Benton, Co-owner, Benton Brothers Fine Cheese, Vancouver

Fromagerie Au Fond Des Bois near Rexton, New Brunswick.

Goats at Fromagerie Au Fond Des Bois near Rexton, New Brunswick.

Cabrie – Au Fond des Bois, New Brunswick

Belgium-born Didier Laurent is cheesemaker and owner at Fromagerie Au Fond Des Bois located, as its French name implies, “deep in the woods” near Rexton, New Brunswick, on 267 acres of land bordered by the St. Nicholas River. All of Didier’s cheeses are made exclusively from the milk of his own goats with no additives. The 98 dairy goats raised in his goat house include Nubians, Alpines and Saanens. This is a goat’s milk bloomy-rind cheese that could easily pass for cow’s milk cheese with a soft and flowing texture with a rich, salty, earthy flavour. I love this cheese with Pinot Noir or a bubbly.

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

Cheesemaker Lyndell Findlay at Blue Harbour Cheese in Halifax.

Cheesemaker Lyndell Findlay at Blue Harbour Cheese in Halifax.

Electric Blue – Blue Harbour Cheese, Nova Scotia

This cheese is a relatively new blue from urban cheesemaker Lyndell Findlay. She is one of the few sheep’s milk cheese producers in Nova Scotia. She purchases her milk from a farm in Stewiack and makes the cheese at her facility on Robie Street in Halifax’s North End—the first of its kind here in the city. The cheese reminds me of a mild Roquefort with a creamy, chalky texture, delicate bite and slightly sweet finish. Perfect for the “blue-fearful” cheeselover, it’s very accessible. It pairs really well with our local, aromatic whites like Tidal Bay, especially those with a touch of balanced sweetness.

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

Fuoco made by Fromagerie Fuoco north of Montréal, Québec.

Fuoco made by Fromagerie Fuoco north of Montréal, Québec.

Fuoco – Fromagerie Fuoco, Québec

We don’t see much water buffalo milk cheese in Nova Scotia, so this is a real treat. It’s made without rennet (perhaps coagulated with an acid instead) so it is suitable for strict vegetarians. It’s a semi-soft soft, washed rind cheese with a friendlier “fetor” than some washed-rinds! At peak ripeness it is totally decadent, rich and oozy with hazelnut and salted butter notes. Superb with a full, fruity white wine or Saison (beer).

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

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Cheesemaker Shep Ysselstein of Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese near Woodstock, Ontario.

Five Brothers Reserve – Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, Ontario

It’s a rarity, but there might be some of the 2016 stock left if folks move fast. Available at Gunn’s Hill, it’s a coveted 18-month batch, released only in December of every year. Ripened for an additional 10 months, Five Brothers Reserve becomes more rustic in appearance, almost “leathered,” with its rind developing shades of darker brown. The “eyes” in the paste are more pronounced and tiny crystals are present, a result of the aging process, a sign of a good cheese! Enjoy its fruity and malty aroma on the nose. This cheese is complex while keeping its smooth and creamy texture and finishes with a subtle bite. Waves of scotch-y, malt-y and caramel flavours ride over your palate and linger for a long time.

—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company, Ottawa

Ile-aux-Grues, 2-year cheddar, takes its name from its island home in the St. Lawrence River near Québec City.

Ile-aux-Grues, 2-year cheddar, takes its name from its island home in the St. Lawrence River near Québec City.

Ile-aux-Grues, 2-year cheddar – Société Coopérative Agricole de l’Île-aux-Grues, Québec

At home, my personal favourite, everyday go-to cheese continues to be Ile-aux-Grues 2-year cheddar. I am never without at least 10 kg on hand. Enough flavor for character, not too much to overpower cooking or more sensitive palates. Perfect for grilled cheese, baguette and cheese, plowman’s lunch, omelettes, host gifts and drop-in entertaining.

—Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario

Maasdammer made by Triple Island Cheese in Cherryville, B.C.

Maasdammer – Triple Island Cheese Farm, British Columbia

The Tuijtels family up in Cherryville, B.C., has been producing this and many other cheeses according to their generations-old family recipes. They prefer to focus on high quality milk, and not an overly large production. This gives the Maasdammer its deep, buttery, sweet taste. Great as a base for fondue and with a crisp dry Reisling.

—Jonah Benton, Co-owner, Benton Brothers Fine Cheese, Vancouver

Margaret Peters-Morris of Glengarry Fine Cheese near Cornwall, Ontario.

Margaret Peters-Morris of Glengarry Fine Cheese near Cornwall, Ontario.

Nevis – Glengarry Fine Cheese, Ontario

Another rarity to find in stores. We featured it in Savvy Cool Curds for November and it was nothing short of knock-your-socks-off yummy! Nevis comes in a larger format wheel as a washed rind cow milk cheese. A dark gold basket weave exterior compliments a golden straw interior which is cheddar-like in texture. Nevis is all buttery goodness with a tangy finish.

—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company, Ottawa

Rathtrevor made by Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville on Vancouver Island.

Rathtrevor made by Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville on Vancouver Island.

Rathtrevor – Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, British Columbia

From Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville on Vancouver Island, Rathtrevor has quickly become one of our favorite local cheeses. Made with the unpasturised milk from their own mixed herd of Ayrshire, Brown and Canadienne cows, this Alpine-style cheese is nutty, sweet and delicious. Great on its own with a glass of wine, but also a fantastic melter.

—Jonah Benton, Co-owner, Benton Brothers Fine Cheese, Vancouver

Glasgow Glen Farm is a family affair for Jeff MCourt, his wife and two children.

Glasgow Glen Farm is a family affair for Jeff MCourt, his wife and two children.

The Ewesual – Glasgow Glen Farm, Prince Edward Island

This is a hard, 18-month, sheep’s milk Gouda made by Jeff McCourt at Glasgow Glen. Jeff bought Martina TerBeek’s business “The Cheeselady” in 2012 which was one of PEI’s only artisanal cheese business operating for 25 years specializing in Gouda. The farm is a 12-acre lot, overlooking Hunter River and Rustico Bay. This cheese has a parmesan-like flavour and texture—sharp, buttery, herbaceous, nutty,and a touch crumbly. Perfect with a hearty glass of Red.

—Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee, a Wine Bar, Halifax

Note to dairy-free cheese producers

As Canadians continue to re-examine their diets and understand that diet is a key measure in controlling health, there is rising interest in alternatives to traditional cheese.

I tried cheeses from Fauxmagerie Zengarry (Glengarry, Ontario) and Nuts For Cheese (London, Ontario) and while several of these are very good (Zengary Gruyere with cumin and Nuts for Cheese Chipotle Cheddar and Super Blue) they are not to be compared to traditional cheeses. My advice to these cheesemakers is to learn from the traditional techniques, embrace their creations for what they are, because they are good, but avoid the copy of traditional names and the implied similarity of flavor and texture experience. I can see lots of people finding this interesting.

—Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Canadian Cheese of the Year

For most of 2016—until the last of it disappeared in a shrimp bake a few days ago, there was always a kilo or more of Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar in the cheese fridge at CheeseLover.ca.

Crowned Cheese of the Year in the 2016 Canadian Cheese Awards, the old-style cheddar, made according to an Orkney island recipe, is truly a Canadian classic. Now generally available across Canada, it’s a must-try cheese, if you’ve not sampled it already.

A highlight of 2016 for us was a visit to Cows Creamery in Charlottetown, P.E. I., home of Avonlea, several other outstanding cheeses, fabulous ice cream and awesome chocolates—not to mention a huge selection of T-shirts featuring cows in many different settings.

The warm hospitality shown to us by Scott Linkletter, proprietor, and Armand Bernard, cheesemaker, only made the visit more memorable.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheesehead-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca and founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens.

Biggest selection of best cheeses in Canada at #TGCCF

cheese awards logo nodate english 3000 curves

What a huge selection of artisan cheese!

Twenty-two category winners at the recent Canadian Cheese Awards, and the Canadian Cheese of the Year, Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, will be in the spotlight. Plus another 100 more artisan and farmstead cheeses from coast to coast.

Clearly, the biggest selection of the best cheeses ever available for sampling and purchase in one place, that’s what cheese lovers will find at the sixth annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton on June 4-5.

Close to 40 Canadian cheese producers, including the crème of the crème of Quebec, will be on hand to share their passion and their stories with thousands of cheese lovers. There’s even an opportunity to socialize with cheesemakers at Raclette Rave, the Saturday evening social highlight of the Festival.

Is there anything better than fresh cheese curds?

Is there anything better than fresh cheese curds?

Thanks to St. Albert Cheese Co-op, the first 1,000 ticket holders admitted on Saturday will enjoy a sample package of freshly made cheese curds. Soft and creamy, St. Albert curds have a delightful squeaky sound when chewed. On Sunday, the first 1,000 ticket holders will chowdown on grilled-cheese sandwiches freshly made by competing chefs using a blend of 14 award-winning cheeses. Yes, 14!

Also on Sunday, there is free admission to watch County chefs compete in the Road to Royal Chef Challenge being hosted by Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in conjunction with the Festival.

But there is more to #TGCCF than cheese, in fact, more than 500 foods and beverages are on offer. Included in price of admission: informative cheese seminars presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada, artisan foods galore, fine wine, craft beer, crisp cider, plus a souvenir tote, a souvenir glass, live music, dairy farm animals, food court and FREE parking.

Tickets are sold at the door but buying them online in advance means speedy access to all the deliciousness via the Express Entrance. Admission is $50 per person, seniors, $45. Children under 15 admitted free. Click to order tickets online.

Want to save a pile of money? Come as a group!

Here are the award-winning cheeses you will be able to sample and purchase on June 4-5:

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: 2016 Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: 2016 Canadian Cheese of the Year.

CHEESE OF THE YEAR — FROMAGE D’EXCEPTION
Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar

Cows Creamery

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island/L’Île-du-Prince-Édouard

MAIN CATEGORIES — CATÉGORIES PRINCIPALES

FRESH CHEESE – FROMAGE FRAIS

 
SEMI-SOFT CHEESE – FROMAGE À PÂTE SEMI-FERME
FIRM CHEESE – FROMAGE À PÂTE FERME
FIRM CHEESE WITH HOLES – FROMAGE À PÂTE FERME AVEC OUVERTURES
·      Oka l’Artisan – Agropur, Saint-Hubert, Québec
 
MIXED RIND CHEESE – FROMAGE À CROÛTE MIXTE
  • Zoey, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
BLOOMY RIND CHEESE – PÂTE MOLLE À CROÛTE FLEURIE

 

OLD CHEDDAR (aged from 9 to 18 months) – CHEDDAR FORT (entre 9 et 18 mois d’affinage)
  • Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
 

AGED CHEDDAR (aged more than 18 months) – CHEDDAR VIEILLI (plus de 18 mois d’affinage)

  • Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
GOUDA CHEESE – FROMAGE GOUDA
BLUE CHEESE –  FROMAGE À PÂTE PERSILLÉE
FLAVOURED CHEESE – FROMAGE AROMATISÉ
SPECIAL AWARDS — PRIX SPÉCIAUX
BEST COW CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE VACHE
·      Appletree Smoked Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
BEST GOAT CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE CHÈVRE
  • Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
BEST SHEEP CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE BREBIS
BEST BLENDED-MILK CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT MIXTE
  • Zoey, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
BEST FARMSTEAD CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE FERMIER
BEST ORGANIC CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE BIOLOGIQUE
BEST RAW-MILK CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT CRU
BEST NEW CHEESE – MEILLEUR NOUVEAU FROMAGE (Introduced to market in 2015/Mis en marché en 2015)
  • Zoey, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
REGIONAL AWARDS — PRIX RÉGIONAUX
BEST ONTARIO CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE L’ONTARIO
  • Tania, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
BEST QUEBEC CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DU QUÉBEC
BEST ATLANTIC CANADA CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DES PROVINCES ATLANTIQUES
  • Appletree Smoked Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Fromage-AmourTradition_4coul-e1419193019649The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is produced by Cheese Lover Productions with the generous support of Celebrate Ontario. Dairy Farmers of Canada is Diamond Sponsor, Prince Edward County is Gold Sponsor, Bay of Quinte Region is Principal Partner.

Picton Fairgrounds is located in the heart of Prince Edward County, south of Belleville in Bay of Quinte Region. One hour from Kingston, two hours from Toronto, three hours from Ottawa and New York State, and less than four hours from Montreal.

 

Cheese of the Year : Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: 2016 Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar: 2016 Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar made by Cows Creamery in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, was proclaimed Cheese of the Year at the conclusion of the 2016 Canadian Cheese Awards in Montréal on Thursday.

Awards were also presented to 31 category winners during the Awards Ceremony at glittering Time Supper Club to bring to a climax the biennial cheese judging and competition that is open to all milks—cow, goat, sheep and water Buffalo—used in cheesemaking in Canada.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar was also honoured as Best Aged Cheddar (aged more than 18 months).

Appletree Smoked Cheddar, also made by Cows Creamery, also won big :

  • Best Smoked Cheese
  • Best Cow’s Milk Cheese
  • Best Atlantic Canada Cheese.
Happy winners: Andrea White and Armand Bertrand of Cows Creamery.

Happy winners: Andrea White and Armand Bertrand of Cows Creamery.

Here are the complete results of what has become the biggest cheese competition in Canada. It is sponsored by Loblaw Companies and Provigo, with support from Dairy Farmers of Canada and Desjardins Group.

The presenting sponsor is The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario, where the Cheese of the Year and other award winners will be in the spotlight on June 4-5.

FROMAGE D’EXCEPTION – CHEESE OF THE YEAR
·      Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar

·      Cows Creamery

·      Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

MAIN CATEGORIES (17) CATÉGORIES PRINCIPALES

FRESH CHEESE – FROMAGE FRAIS

·      Bella Casara Mascarpone – Quality Cheese, Vaughan, Ontario
FRESH PASTA FILATA – FROMAGE À PÂTE FILÉE
·      President’s Choice® Formaggio di Bufala – Loblaw Companies, Brampton, Ontario
 SEMI-SOFT CHEESE – FROMAGE À PÂTE SEMI-FERME
·      Baluchon – Fromagerie F.X. Pichet, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec
FIRM CHEESE – FROMAGE À PÂTE FERME
·      Pionnier – Fromagerie Nouvelle France, Racine, Québec
FIRM CHEESE WITH HOLES – FROMAGE À PÂTE FERME AVEC OUVERTURES
·      Oka l’Artisan – Agropur, Saint-Hubert, Québec
WASHED RIND CHEESE – FROMAGE À CROÛTE LAVÉE
·      Chemin Hatley – Fromagerie la Station de Compton, Compton, Québec
 
MIXED RIND CHEESE – FROMAGE À CROÛTE MIXTE
·      Zoey, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
BLOOMY RIND CHEESE – PÂTE MOLLE À CROÛTE FLEURIE
·      Le Sabot de Blanchette – Fromagerie La Suisse Normande, Saint-Roch-Ouest, Québec
MILD & MEDIUM CHEDDAR (aged up to 9 months) – CHEDDAR DOUX & MOYEN (maximum de 9 mois d’affinage)
·      Cheddar moyen – Fromagerie Perron, Saint-Prime, Québec
OLD CHEDDAR (aged from 9 to 18 months) – CHEDDAR FORT (entre 9 et 18 mois d’affinage)
·      Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
 AGED CHEDDAR (aged more than 18 months) – CHEDDAR VIEILLI (plus de 18 mois d’affinage)
·      Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
GOUDA CHEESE – FROMAGE GOUDA
·      Old Growler – That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm, Upper Economy, Nova Scotia
BLUE CHEESE – FROMAGE À PÂTE PERSILLÉE
·      Dragon’s Breath Blue – That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm, Upper Economy, Nova Scotia
FLAVOURED CHEESE – FROMAGE AROMATISÉ
·      Le Fréchette – Ail & Fines Herbes – Fromagerie Nouvelle France, Racine, Québec
SMOKED CHEESE -FROMAGE FUMÉ
·      Appletree Smoked Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
FETA / CHEESE IN BRINE – FETA / FROMAGE EN SAUMURE
·      President’s Choice® Feta Light – Loblaw Companies, Brampton, Ontario
 GRILLING CHEESE – FROMAGE À GRILLER
·      Le Paillasson de l’isle d’Orléans – Les Fromages de l’isle d’Orléans, Sainte-Famille, Île d’Orléans, Québec
 

The biennial competition attracted 301 entriers from across Canada.

The biennial competition attracted 301 entries from across Canada.

SPECIAL AWARDS (9) PRIX SPÉCIAUX

BEST COW CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE VACHE
·      Appletree Smoked Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
BEST GOAT CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE CHÈVRE
·      Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
 BEST SHEEP CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE BREBIS
·      Zacharie Cloutier – Fromagerie Nouvelle France, Racine, Québec
BEST WATER BUFFALO CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT DE BUFFLONNE
·      Fuoco – Fromagerie Fuoco, Saint-Lin-Laurentides, Québec
BEST BLENDED-MILK CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT MIXTE
·      Zoey, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
BEST FARMSTEAD CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE FERMIER
·      Baluchon – Fromagerie F.X. Pichet, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec
BEST ORGANIC CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE BIOLOGIQUE
·      Baluchon – Fromagerie F.X. Pichet, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec
 BEST RAW-MILK CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LAIT CRU
·      Le Pionnier – Fromagerie Nouvelle France, Racine, Québec
BEST NEW CHEESE – MEILLEUR NOUVEAU FROMAGE (Introduced to market in 2015/Mis en marché en 2015)
·      Zoey, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
REGIONAL AWARDS (5) PRIX RÉGIONAUX

BEST B.C. CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE LA COLOMBIE BRITANNIQUE

·      Traditional Clothbound Cheddar – The Farm House Natural Cheeses, Agassiz, British Columbia
BEST ALBERTA CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE L’OUEST
·      Natural Smoked Gouda Medium – Sylvan Star Cheese, Red Deer, Alberta
BEST ONTARIO CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DE L’ONTARIO
·      Tania, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
BEST QUEBEC CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DU QUÉBEC
·      Le Pionnier – Fromagerie Nouvelle France, Racine, Québec
BEST ATLANTIC CANADA CHEESE – MEILLEUR FROMAGE DES PROVINCES ATLANTIQUES
·      Appletree Smoked Cheddar – Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

The Canadian Cheese Awards is the first cheese competition in Canada open to all milks used in cheese making – cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo – with only pure natural cheese accepted for judging. That means with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, and no modified milk ingredients.

http://www.cheeseawards.ca

Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens est le premier et le plus grand au Canada ouvert à tous les fromages produits au Canada à partir du lait pur de vaches, de chèvres, de brebis ou de bufflonnes canadiennes – sans colorant artificiel, parfum, agent de conservation  ni substance laitière modifiée.

http://www.cheeseawards.ca/accueil/

Awards Tasting Gala at Time Supper Club in Montréal drew 460 fans of Canadian cheese.

Awards Tasting Gala at Time Supper Club in Montréal drew 460 fans of Canadian cheese. Photo: Anne Munro.

How many Cheese Grand Prix finalists have you tasted?

canadian-cheese-grand-prix_halfpagewidthThe 81 finalists in the 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix have been announced. The prestigious biennial competition sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada saw 268 cheeses submitted in 27 categories.

The winners will be announced April 22 at a Gala of Champions in Toronto.

Quebec, home to the majority of Canada’s cheese producers, dominates the list of 81 finalists with 31 cheeses. Naturally, some of the larger producers have the most finalists: Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, 7 finalists, Sylvan Star Cheese, 6, and Natural Pastures Cheese Company and Fromagerie du Presbytère, 5.

The competition, open to cheese made exclusively with Canadian cow’s milk, first started in 1998 to promote achievement and innovation in cheesemaking and to spotlight the quality of Canadian milk.

Here are the 2015 finalists:category 1 fresh ch#196C2DE

Fresh Cheese

category 2 fresh pa#196C2EAFresh Pasta Filata

category 3 cheese w#196C2E9Fresh Cheese with grilling properties

category 4 soft che#196C307Soft Cheese with bloomy rind

category 5 soft che#196C2F8Cream-enriched Soft Cheese with bloomy rind

category 6 semi-sof#196C2EFSemi-soft Cheese

category 7 soft wit#196C2F0Washed- or Mixed-Rind Soft Cheese

category 8 semi-sof#196C305Washed- or Mixed-Rind Semi-soft Cheese

category 9 firm che#196C2F2Washed- or Mixed-Rind Firm Cheese

category 10 firm in#196C2DBFirm Cheese (except Cheddar and Gouda)

category 11 swiss 1#196C2ECSwiss-type Cheese

category 12 mozzare#196C2FFMozzarella (Ball, Brick or Cylinder) or Pasta Filata

category 13 ripened#196C2FBBrine-ripened Cheese

category 14 gouda 1#196C302Gouda (aged 1 to 6 months)

category 16 gouda 9#196C308Aged Gouda

category 17 extra g#196C2F9Extra Aged Gouda

category 18 blue ch#196C2E7Blue Cheese

category 19 flavour#196C2E4Flavoured Cheese with added non-particulate flavourings (except smoked cheese)

category 20 smoked #196C313Smoked Cheese

category 21 flavour#196C2F5Flavoured Cheese with added particulate solids and flavourings

category 20 smoked #196C313Mild Cheddar (aged 3 months)

category 23 medium #196C2F6Medium Cheddar (aged 4 to 9 months)

category 24 cheddar#196C2F3Old Cheddar (aged from 9 months to a year)

category 25 cheddar#196C2FCAged Cheddar (1 to 3 years)

category 26 cheddar#196C304Aged Cheddar (more than 3 years)

category 27 fromage#196C2DDFarmhouse Cheese

category 28 fromage#196C301Organic Cheese

Typically, many of the finalists and winners are available for sampling and purchase at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, this year taking place June 6-7 at Picton Fairgrounds in the heart of Ontario’s Prince Edward County, just south of Belleville in Bay of Quinte Region, near spectacular Sandbanks Provincial Park.

 

A delish potato gratin made with five artisan cheeses

Five-cheese Potato Gratin: Scalloped potatoes never tasted so good.

Five-cheese Potato Gratin: Scalloped potatoes never tasted so good.

If you like cheese and if you like potatoes, this Five-Cheese Potato Gratin is the dish for you. This Christmas, we served it with roasted turkey at a Boxing Day family gathering and it was a hit.

Our gratin is based on a recipe developed by Kelly Jaggers who runs the mouth-watering blog Evil Shenanigans, subtitled “Sometimes it’s good to be bad.” Her’s is a four-cheese gratin. We go the extra step with five cheeses, four of them made by Canadian artisans.

Kelly Jagger's dish looks better than ours.

Kelly Jagger’s dish looks better than ours.

The main cheese is Pionnier, a wonderful collaboration by Marie-Chantal Houde of Fromagerie Nouvelle France and Jean Morin of Fromagerie du Presbytère, made in the Jura style with a blend of sheep’s milk and cow’s milk.

The supporting cast includes two cheddars, Avonlea Clothbound and Pine River Aged, and for creaminess, the delicious Laliberté, a triple-cream cheese made by Jean Morin.

The final touch, as the topping, is 30-month Parmigiano-Reggiano, imported simply because no one in Canada comes close to matching the Italian classic.

Bon appétit!