Black River Cheese: Making real cheddar for 110 years

Black River Cheese Company is one of the oldest cheesemaking operations in Eastern Ontario. In fact, it will celebrate it’s 110th birthday on June 4-5 while The Great Canadian Cheese Festival takes place nearby.

Black River Cheese is one of four stops on the Cheese Tour taking place on June 3, the day before the Festival.

When it was started in 1901 by a group of local farmers, it was one of 60 cheesemakers operating in Prince Edward County. Now, it is one of only two, joined by newcomer Fifth Town Artisan Cheese in 2008.

The fact that Black River Cheese has been around for so long means they are clearly doing something right, yet the other 59 cheesemakers who have since vanished prove that this isn’t always an easy business. In 2001, shortly after celebrating their 100th anniversary, an electrical fire devastated the historic facility. In the spirit of Black River Cheese Company’s resilient founders, the 6,000-square-foot creamery was rebuilt, and opened again for business just one year later.

Situated on the banks of Black Creek near the village of Milford, a stop at Black River Cheese is a popular destination for visitors to the area. The location is stunning, the river teeming with birds and wildlife, but it’s really the cheese that makes the crowds come calling. And the ice cream!

Black River Cheese is still a small co-operative, controlled by local farmers and dedicated to preserving a tradition of making superior cheese. They pride themselves on old-world craftsmanship, producing 100% natural cheeses with no artificial ingredients. Rennet-free and naturally aged, Black River Cheese only uses locally produced milk, opts for vegetable dyes, and never uses modified milk ingredients (MMI).

Black River’s cheesemaker is Brad Reid, a second-generation cheesemaker. County-born, he’s been at the company for six years, and in 2010 landed Black River a 3rd place prize at the British Empire Cheese Show with its Mild Cheddar. Reid is currently developing a few new recipes, so keep a lookout for some new cheeses that he’s keeping secret for now.

In the meantime, Black River has an excellent selection of cheeses to choose from:

  • Maple Cheddar – produced with real Maple syrup and sugar from local Fosterholm farm
  • Fresh – newly pressed and squeaky
  • Marble – a blend of pasteurized cheddar and mozzarella
  • Mozzarella – a washed style of American mozzarella
  • Skim Mozzarella
  • Mozzarrella specialties – Dill, Garlic, Horseradish, Hot Pepper, Jalapeno, Monterey Jack, Onion & Parsley, Salsa, Pepper Jack (Monterey Jack with chili peppers)
  • Cheddar – available in coloured or white, made in traditional ways, it gets sharper as it ages
  • Mild and medium cheddars — finalists in the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix
  • Old Cheddar – aged 1 to 6 years
  • Curd – coloured, white or garlic, and makes a popular snack for visitors.

Lucky for me, Black River Cheese is just a short drive from my home, so I stopped in and tried a few samples. The Maple Cheddar has a golden hue and is crumbly, rich and sweet. It’s no surprise that this unique variety is one of their top-sellers, especially in an area so renowned for maple syrup production. The Six-Year-Old Cheddar I tried was ivory in colour, and was hard and crumbly. It had an intense bite and a slight crunch to it. One of the other best-selling cheeses is the Marble Cheddar. With its typical mottled colouring, it was firm and chewy with a mild tanginess.

BLACK RIVER CHEESE COMPANY

913 County Road 13, R.R. # 2, Milford, Ontario K0K 2P0   Telephone 613-476-2575, 1-888-252-5787

Black River Cheese is for sale at its scenically located factory outlet, as well as at health food stores and specialty sections of supermarkets.

Black River Cheese will be a Featured Cheesemaker at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival taking place June 4-5 at Crystal Palace in Picton, in the heart of Prince Edward County, Ontario’s booming new wine region and fastest-growing culinary destination.

—Krista Dalby

A writer living in Prince Edward County, Krista Dalby runs Small Pond Arts with her husband. Read their blog at smallpondarts.blogspot.com.

Louis d’Or: Best of the best in Canadian Cheese Grand Prix

The smiling-cow tie worn by Grand Champion Jean Morin breaks up TV personalities Anne-Marie Withenshaw and Ben Mulroney at the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Gala of Champions.

It was an unforgettable evening for cheesemaker Jean Morin, his brother, Dominic, and associate cheesemaker Dany Grimard.

Louis d’Or, the extraordinary cheese they make at Fromagerie du Presbytère, was declared Grand Champion—the best of the best—at the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix last night.

Additionally, in an unprecedented awards sweep, Louis d’Or was named champion in three different categories:

  • Firm cheese
  • Farmstead cheese
  • Organic cheese

On top of that, their fabulous Bleu d’Élizabeth was selected champion in the blue-cheese category!

Clearly, Jean Morin was the happiest and proudest cheese producer in Canada last night as the Gala of Champions unfolded at Palais Royale in Toronto, scene of a lavish awards ceremony cum cheese-tasting organized by Dairy Farmers of Canada, sponsors of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.

Dominic Morin, Dany Grimard and Jean Morin are flanked by Phil Bélanger, Grand Prix jury chair, and Ben Mulroney, TV personality and co-MC at the Gala of Champions.

In his acceptance speech, Jean was quick to give credit to his brother, Dominic, who looks after their herd of cows, and to Dany Grimard, who runs the make room in the former rectory that serves as the creamery across the street from their farm in Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick two hours east of Montréal.

Jean and Dominic are fourth-generation dairy farmers who have found amazing success as first-generation cheese producers in a few short years. What’s the secret of their success?

“Happy, healthy cows,” Jean says. “It all starts with the milk, and the care we show the cheese as we make it.”

Appropriately, smiling cows adorned the tie Jean wore to the awards gala.

Quadruple-award-winner Louis dOr from Fromagerie du Presbytère.

Phil Bélanger, chair of the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Jury and president of the New Brunswick Chapter of La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, had this to say about Louis d’Or:

“The milky richness of this cheese is a tribute to the organic milk with which it is made. The cheese has a smooth texture, warm nutty and floral notes in aroma and taste. Inspired by the traditional cheesemaking know-how from the Jura region, the cheesemaker created an amazing cheese.”

Louis d’Or is truly a magnificent cheese, with fine, complex flavours, eloquently expressed after nine months of ripening. The Louis d’Or cheese gets its name from the Louis d’Or Farm, which produces the organic milk used to make it. The name of the cheese also refers to the French currency of the same name used under the reign of Louis XIII in 1640.

The first opportunity for the public to taste Grand Prix winners in one place—and meet the makers such as Jean Morin—will be at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 4-5 in Picton in Prince Edward County, Ontario’s newest wine region and fastest-growing culinary destination.

At the Festival, cheese expert and author Gurth Pretty, one of the Grand Prix judges, will lead a tutored tasting on cheese of Western Canada. Grand Prix champion Margaret Peters-Morris will conduct a demonstration of cheesemaking at home.

Here is the complete list of 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix winners, with asterisks indicating those already committed to taking part in The Great Canadian Cheese Festival:

Fresh cheese:

Soft cheese with bloomy rind:

Semi-soft cheese:

Washed-rind soft and semi-soft cheese:

Firm cheese:

Swiss-type cheese:

Mozzarella:

Blue cheese:

Flavoured cheese with added non-particulate flavouring:

Flavoured cheese with added particulate solids and flavouring:

Mild cheddar:

Medium cheddar:

Old and extra old cheddar:

Aged Cheddar (1-3 years):

  • Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, Cows Creamery, Prince Edward Island*

Aged Cheddar (4 years +):

Farmhouse cheese:

Organic cheese:

The Canadian Cheese Grand Prix is a competition sponsored and hosted by Dairy Farmers of Canada, celebrating the high quality and proud tradition of Canadian cheese made from 100% Canadian cow’s milk.

For the 2011 competition, a record-breaking total of 203 cheeses from six provinces was submitted for judging in the competition.

A panel of Canada’s top cheese experts spent two days in Montréal rigorously tasting and evaluating the best cow-milk cheeses this country has to offer as they narrowed the field down to 51 cheeses in 17 categories.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheesehead-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, couldn’t believe his ears when Jean Morin mentioned him and the upcoming Great Canadian Cheese Festival in his acceptance remarks.

Time for a maple-syrup celebration in Prince Edward County

Making maple syrup at Honey Wagon Farms in Prince Edward County.

Days get longer, ice and snow begin to melt, maple syrup starts to run. It must be spring in Canada!

This weekend, you can enjoy one of the oldest agricultural traditions in Canada at the 10th annual Maple in the County Festival in Prince Edward County, Ontario’s newest wine region and fastest-growing culinary destination. Cheese is part of the celebration.

At Black River Cheese, you’ll be able to sample Black River Maple Cheddar and maple ice cream. At Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, the new County Quark—flavoured with maple and natural—and delicious Maple Chevre Tarts will tempt you.

Presented by The Waring House and the Prince Edward County Maple Syrup Producers, Maple in the County was named a Top 100 Festival by Festivals & Events Ontario. Featuring 40 local businesses and organizations, it is a program jam-packed with activities for young and old with trips to sugar bushes, farms, wineries, restaurants and shops across the area on Saturday, March 26, and Sunday, March 27.

Every year, more than 8,000 visitors and locals enjoy a trip to one of our sugar bushes to experience everything from lip-smacking pancake breakfasts, sugar shack demonstrations, sugar bush tours, taffy on snow, maple kettle corn, wagon rides, lumberjack shows, baby animals or an antique tractor display. When your belly is full, head out to the wineries and breweries to try some maple-inspired wine, or Barley Days Brewery’s new Sugar Shack Ale, using Fosterholm Farms maple syrup.

Kick up your heels and bring your sweetie to the Sugar Shack Soirée for a beavertail in Waring Hall on Saturday night and enjoy the sounds of The Reasons. Join indie song writing duo The Family Creative Workshop on Friday night and hear storytelling and song writing at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Take the whole family to a special performance and workshop for children on “music building” at the Bloomfield United Church with David and Kimberly Maracle from the Tyendinaga Reserve.

The 10th anniversary Maple in the County Family Event will be taking place on Saturday at the Wellington Arena hall from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Join old-time performers Sheesham and Lotus in an interactive performance and workshop, hear live music from Andy Forgie and Jeannette Arsenault, and be amazed at the papier mache building, stilt walking and puppet show from Small Pond Arts. Make maple-themed crafts with Spark Box studio, and enjoy a celebratory free 10th anniversary cupcake from Just Sweets Retro Bakery.

A full list of activities, events and locations can be found at the Maple in the County website, www.mapleinthecounty.ca, by calling 613-393-2796 or in the brochure and map available at any one of the Maple in the County participating locations.

Best cheeses of the “British Empire” in 2010

Lori Legacey, cheesemaker at Mariposa Dairy, has a sniff of a 19-kilo wheel of cheddar. The dairy's Lindsay Bandage Cheddar beat out 40 other goat-milk cheeses in the British Empire Cheese Competition. Photo by Lisa Gervais/The Lindsay Post.

Here are the results of the cheese competition at the 83rd annual British Empire Cheese Show organized by Central Ontario Cheesemakers Association:

The Alexis De Portneuf division of cheese giant Saputo was crowned Grand Champion.

Quebec cheesemaker Fromagerie La Vache à Maillotte was named Reserve Champion.

Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, an artisan cheesemaker  in Ontario’s Prince Edward County, was honoured with the Finica Food Specialties Award.

In the cheddar class, Parmalat Canada was recognized as Grand Champion. Reserve Champion honours went to Fromagerie Isle-aux-Grues.

Glengarry Fine Cheese, after an excellent showing at Royal Winter Fair, picked up several more awards at British Empire, as reported in Eastern Ontario AgriNews.

Here are the top three in each class of the competition:

ARTISAN

Goat Milk Cheese

  1. Lindsay Bandage Cheddar, Mariposa Dairy (Finica Food Specialties)
  2. Cape Vessey, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
  3. Operetta, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese

Sheep Milk Cheese

  1. Bonnie and Floyd, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
  2. Toscano, Monforte Dairy
  3. Wishing Tree, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese

SPECIALTY CLASS

Hard Cheese Type

  1. Glengarry Fen, Glengarry Fine Cheese
  2. Lankaaster Aged, Glengarry Fine Cheese
  3. Romano, St. Albert Cheese Co-Operative

Firm Cheese Type

  1. Lankaaster Medium, Glengarry Fine Cheese
  2. Nouvelle France, Agropur
  3. Fondue Prestigio, Agropur

Swiss Cheese Type

  1. Artisan, Agropur
  2. Swiss, Fromagerie Lemaire
  3. Mont Gleason, Saputo/Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage

Semi-Firm Cheese Type

  1. Raclette du Village, Saputo/Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage
  2. Le Cabouron, Fromagerie Blackburn (Fromages CDA)
  3. Le Cendre, Saputo/Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage

Fresh Cheese Type

  1. Mascarpone, Arla Foods
  2. Ricotta, Quality Cheese
  3. Prestigio Ricotta, Agropur

Soft Rind Cheese Type

  1. St. Honoré, Saputo/Alexis De Portneuf
  2. Triple Crème du Village, Saputo/Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage
  3. Cendre de Lune, Saputo/Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage

Smear Ripened Type

  1. Mamirolle, Fromagerie Eco Delices (Fromages CDA)
  2. Mont Jacob, Fromagerie Blackburn (Fromages CDA)
  3. Raclette, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser (Fromages CDA)

Flavoured Soft Type

  1. Lady Laurier d’Arthabaska, Saputo/Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage
  2. Raclette Oka, Agropur
  3. Chevalier Tomato Basil, Agropur

Flavoured Firm Type

  1. Lankaaster Chive, Glengarry Fine Cheese
  2. Smoked Cheddar, Parmalat Canada
  3. Lankaaster Cumin, Glengarry Fine Cheese

Blue Veined Cheese

  1. Celtic Blue, Glengarry Fine Cheese
  2. La Roche Noire, Saputo/Alexis De Portneuf
  3. Bleubry, Saputo/Alexis De Portneuf

American Style Type

  1. Brick, St. Albert Cheese Co-Operative
  2. Monterey Jack, Bothwell Cheese
  3. American Mozzarella, Parmalat Canada

Pasta Filata Type

  1. Bocconcini, International Cheese
  2. Burrata, Quality Cheese
  3. Fresh Mozzarella, Quality Cheese

Goat Milk Cheese

  1. Le Paillot de Chevre, Saputo/Alexis De Portneuf
  2. Rondoux Chevre, Agropur
  3. Chevrita, Agropur

Sheep Milk Cheese

  1. Allegretto, Fromagerie La Vache a Maillotte
  2. Bedda Fedda, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
  3. Blossom, Monforte Dairy

Process Cheese

  1. Spreadable Cream Cheese Product, Parmalat Canada
  2. Spreadable Cream Cheese Product, Parmalat Canada
  3. Spreadable Cream Cheese Product, Parmalat Canada

CHEDDAR

Mild White or Coloured Cheddar – Less than 2 months of age, 40 lb. or more

  1. Parmalat Canada
  2. Empire Cheese & Butter Coop
  3. Black River Cheese

Medium White Cheddar – 3 to 6 months of age, 40 lb. or more

  1. Parmalat Canada
  2. Fromagerie Isle-aux-Grues
  3. Amalgamated Dairies

Medium Coloured Cheddar – 3 to 6 months of age, 40 lb. or more

  1. Parmalat Canada
  2. Bothwell Cheese
  3. Empire Cheese & Butter Co-op

Marbled Cheddar – any age, 40 lb. or more

  1. Bothwell Cheese
  2. Empire Cheese & Butter Co-Op
  3. St. Albert Cheese Co-Operative

Mature Cheddar – 12 to 15 months of age, 40 lb. or more

  1. Parmalat Canada
  2. St. Albert Cheese
  3. Fromagerie Isle-aux-Grues

Extra Mature Cheddar – 24 to 36 months of age, 40 lb. or more

  1. Parmalat Canada
  2. Maple Dale Cheese
  3. St. Albert Cheese Co-Operative

Grilled cheese vs poutine: A great Canadian debate

The Big Cheese at Chesterfields, photographed by the Blackberry Queen aka @CreativeKarinD aka Karin Desveaux-Potters.

Beyond eating cheese straight, I cannot decide which cheese dish I prefer: a grilled-cheese sannich or poutine?

These deep thoughts come to me as I get ready to take my first big bite of the Big Cheese, the grilled-cheese sandwich served at Chesterfields Homegrown Cafe in Picton, in Ontario’s Prince Edward County. Graham Sayers, who owns and operates the funky joint with his wife, Vicky, creates the Big Cheese with three local cheeses, Black River Old Cheddar, Black River Horseradish Mozzarella and Fifth Town Chevre. Grilled on whole grain bread with a pickle on the side, it’s a winner.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, can’t wait for the results of the Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese Challenge next week.