Hobby to business—Ian Treuer’s winding road in cheese

Cheese dreams come true for Ian Treuer of Winding Road Artisan Cheese.

Cheese dreams come true for Ian Treuer of Winding Road Artisan Cheese.

After almost a decade of research, learning and teaching about cheese, Ian Treuer is turning his passion into a career.

“I was looking for a hobby,” Treuer said. “I don’t really drink, so beer making was out. I made my first cheese at home eight years ago.”

As of February 15, Treuer is the owner of Winding Road Artisan Cheese in the County of Smoky Lake, Alberta. He purchased the existing Smoky Valley Artisan Cheese business after working there part-time in 2012-2013. It is located 20 minutes from the town of Smoky Lake and 90 minutes from Edmonton.

winding-road-logo

Treuer and his business partner/mentor, who works behind the scenes, have rebranded and changed the product line for the launch of Winding Road Artisan Cheese. Treuer is the cheesemaker, bringing his experience as home and professional cheesemaker, teaching cheese making classes and co-ordinating the first ever Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in 2015.

“I enjoy both the science and the art form,” Treuer said of cheesemaking. “There’s something about starting with a liquid and turning that liquid into a solid. I love working with the curds.”

When Treuer started his road to artisan cheese making, he followed Australian blogger Gavin Weber’s “Little Green Cheese” posts. Weber also creates cheese in his home kitchen. Now Treuer follows many cheesemakers on Instagram. Much To Do About Cheese is Treuer’s own popular blog about home cheesemaking.

Ian Treuer working part-time in the make room at Smoky Valley Artisan Cheese. Three years later, he's co-owner and the cheesemaker.

Ian Treuer working part-time in the make room at Smoky Valley Artisan Cheese. Three years later, he’s co-owner and the cheesemaker.

“I’m inspired on a daily basis,” he said. “I’m a fan of Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese in Woodstock, Ontario. It was a thrill to meet Shep Ysselstein, the cheesemaker, at last year’s Cheese Festival,” he said.

Pending licensing and inspections, Treuer hopes to start making cheese in March. His long-term goal is to obtain federal as well as provincial licenses.

Winding Road cheeses will be made using a thistle enzyme rather than traditional rennet.

“This will help give our cheeses unique flavors and hopefully set us apart from other cheeses produced in Alberta,” said Treuer.

To begin with, Treuer will be the cheesemaker with his business partner helping with administration, marketing and sales. Their initial market will be cheese enthusiasts in Alberta and eventually across Canada. The cheeses will be cow-milk cheeses, but they hope to team up with local goat dairies as well.

The first cheeses ready for sale will be:

  • Queijo Fresco – A traditional Portuguese fresh cheese made using thistle (cardoon) enzyme.
  • Fromage Blanc – A lovely light, spreadable cheese that is a perfect substitute for Chevre, for those who don’t like goat cheese, and cream cheese.
  • Lactic Bloomy Rind Cheeses – A washed rind cheese to be ready two to three months after they start production, and a firm cheese to be ready in six to seven months.
Cardoon.

Cardoon: unique enzyme.

The partners hope to process between 1,000-2,000 litres of milk per week. They have a 300-litre vat, so Treuer said he is focusing on quality over quantity.

This quality Treuer believes will come from the unique enzyme found in the Cardoon plant, allowing him to make unique “Made in Alberta” cheeses. One of his long term goals is to get licensed Federally so he and his partner can help put Alberta in the minds of cheese lovers when people talk about Canadian cheese.

Follow Ian Treuer’s progress on Instagram at @MTDACheese. A company website, http://www.windingroadcheese.com, should be up and running by May.

—By Joanne Fralick

Joanne Fralick is a cheese lover and freelance writer who lives with husband and son in Prince Edward County. She’s also Promotions Specialist for The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

Savvy Cool Curds: Canadian Cheese-of-the-Month Club

The Cool Curds graphic says it all: Cheese has been delivered at your door.

Savvy Cool Curds graphic says it all: Cheese has been delivered go your door.

Just in time for Christmas, Debbie Trenholm and I are thrilled to announce the first all-Canadian artisan cheese-of-the-month club in Canada: Savvy Cool Curds.

Savvy Cool Curds is our “whey” of strengthening the bond between Canadian cheese producers and consumers, sharing the stories behind the uber-talented, passionate, creative and often eclectic individuals who give so much of themselves for the enjoyment of others through one of the world’s favourite foods.

image001Over close to ten years of working with cheesemakers, distributors, industry associations, cheesemongers, retailers and sommeliers across our nation, never has it been so important to support local. Even in the face of increased competition from imports, Canadian cheesemakers are shining on a world culinary stage, trending big wins in major competitions such as the American Cheese Society Competition and the World Cheese Awards. Proof positive that we don’t have to look farther than our own backyard for a wide variety of tasty artisan cheese that rivals any across the globe.

For $55/month ($60 after December 30), your Savvy Cool Curds subscription brings all this cheesy goodness right to your front door.

Each month, a different Canadian artisan producer will take the spotlight and you’ll receive a package to delight: 4-5 hand-selected delicious cheeses (just less than 1 kg), plus my tasting notes, tips and tricks, along with cheese-laden recipes in our Curd On The Street eZine. Plus, you’ll become a VIP member of the Savvy Company family, giving you VIP invitations and special discounts to Savvy Events featuring Canadian artisan cheese, wines, and craft beer, too!

Our first months feature delicious Canadian artisan cheeses from Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, Cow’s Creamery, Back Forty Artisan Cheese, Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères, and new on the scene Lighthall Vineyards & Dairy.

Canadian artisan cheese brings joy to my life everyday. Cow, sheep, goat and buffalo milk cheeses. Cheddar, aged and sharp, washed rind, soft and delicate, fresh, fruity, blue and bold or rustic and vegetal, they’re all so delicious.

Through Savvy Cool Curds, you, too, can experience the same cheesy pleasure. It’s the gift that keeps on giving (for others or yourself). Sign up today and spread the curd!

                                 —Guest blog by Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Curator, Savvy Cool Curds, Savvy Company

Pharmacology to fermentation to wine to cheese at Lighthall

Cheesemaker Heather Robertson and three of the first cheeses made at Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy.

Cheesemaker Heather Robertson and three of the first cheeses made at Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy.

How does a pharmacist become Ontario’s first small-batch winemaker/artisan cheesemaker? Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy owner and winemaker Glenn Symons can explain:

He has been making cheese for personal use for the past two years, discovering new recipes and perfecting techniques along with Heather Robertson. She is a longtime friend and a 15-year cheese industry veteran. She has worked in cheese retail and cheesemaking at another cheese producer.

Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy will be one of 40 artisan cheese producers sampling and selling cheese at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 6-7 in Picton, Ontario.

Glen Symons, winemaker and cheesemaker, too.

Glenn Symons, winemaker and cheesemaker.

Symons had been a home winemaker since age 19. He started in pharmacy in 1993, taking over the Lighthall vineyard in 2008. Lighthall produces three still wines, two sparkling, including 2014 Lighthall The Fence Rosé, and and one dessert wine. The Fence the first rosé from its own vineyards. It is 100% Pinot Noir, refermented using the Charmat method.

All the wines are produced in a non-interventionist manner. Non-interventionist winemaking consists of doing as little as possible to the grapes from their growth to their eventual vinification.

Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy endeavours to produce the highest quality wines, primarily from their own grapes, with all employees and family members involved in every step of production, including vineyard work through to final bottling, said Symons. With the tasting bar inside the production area, they aspire to share this enriching experience with every customer who comes to visit.

“It’s much like making home vintage, but on a larger scale,” said Symons. “In some ways the commercial equipment makes the process easier.”

Cheesemaking has proven to be so much fun and the cheese so delicious that Symons and Robertson are sharing their talents with the public. They sell their three sheep’s milk cheeses at a farmers’ market in Kingston and at the winery. They produce three varieties:

  • Runner – a soft ripened cheese, the rind washed in Lighthall Chardonnay,
  • Cocotte – a rustic, earthy unpasteurized blue,
  • Brie de Milford – a soft, surface-ripened cheese with a hint of Prince Edward County terroir flavours.
Glen Symons and Heather Robertson toast they first cheese creations.

Glenn Symons and Heather Robertson toast their first cheese creations with his wine creations.

Symons is planning to expand his facility. For now, he and Robertson make the cheese off-site, but hope to soon have an on-site commercial kitchen. They will keep to the three current varieties, said Symons, producing in quantities sufficient to sell at the winery and in Kingston. They may try some seasonal cheeses or a more aged cheese in the future, said Robertson.

The winery is located at 308 Lighthall Road, Milford, in Prince Edward County, Ontario, and is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on Ontario’s newest artisan cheese producer, please visit Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy’s website www.lighthallvineyards.com

The fifth anniversary Great Canadian Cheese Festival—the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada—takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7, in Picton, Ontario, at the Fairgrounds. For complete information and tickets, please visit CheeseFestival.ca.

—Joanne Fralick

Joanne Fralick is a cheese lover and freelance writer who lives with husband and son in Prince Edward County.

 

Cheesemaking technology rescheduled to June 8-12

A student in the Cheesemaking Technology course at University of Guelph learns how to pour Camembert-style cheese into forms.

A student in the Cheesemaking Technology course at University of Guelph learns how to pour Camembert-style cheese into forms.

Here’s your chance to get real cheese smarts.

The University of Guelph has been offering some version of its cheesemaking course since 1893, though its present professor, Art Hill, began teaching his Cheesemaking Technology Short Course with the Food Sciences department in 1986.

The  acclaimed course—designed for artisan and commercial cheesemakers, cheese hobbyists, and government and sales personnel who work with cheesemakers—focuses on the science and technology of cheesemaking. Students attend lectures and apply the principles learned in a cheesemaking laboratory.

“The focus is on understanding the manufacturing principles of technological families of cheese, rather than becoming expert in the manufacture of particular cheese varieties,” says Professor Hill. The program is offered annually in the spring and runs for five days. The next course offering runs from June 8-12, 2015. Those interested can visit the course website.

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Baluchon: A love story

Childhood sweethearts Michel Pichet and Marie-Claude Harvey.

Childhood sweethearts Michel Pichet and Marie-Claude Harvey of award-winning Fromagerie F.X. Pichet. (Click on any image in the blog for an enlarged view.)

Baluchon is the story of a love lost and, two decades later, found again.

Marie-Claude Harvey and Michel Pichet were childhood sweethearts in the village of Champlain, Québec, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River near Québec City. But by the time they graduated from high school, they had drifted apart. She found a husband, he found a wife, they both had families before their marriages ended.

Twenty years later they met again. He owned an organic dairy farm. She wanted to make cheese. Obviously, their love was still there, now fired by a common passion for dairy farming and cheesemaking. Thus, they married and 10 years ago, Fromagerie F.X. Pichet came to be in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec. Baluchon was their first-born cheese.

Baluchon: Canadian Cheese of the Year.

Le Baluchon: Canadian Cheese of the Year.

The name in French refers to the small bundle of belongings travelers carried before the advent of mass transportation. Such a traveler, as a mouse character called Hapi, appears on all packaging for cheeses produced at the fromagerie on the 260-acre farm called La Ferme F.X. Pichet, after Michel’s father.

Michel and Marie-Claude are devoted to organic farming and cheesemaking. In Québec, the certification process is rigorous, but they cannot see proceeding otherwise. Michel says: “It’s our way of life.”

Their way of life lead them to dominate the 2014 Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens with Baluchon being named Canadian Cheese of the Year in addition to Best Organic Cheese and Best Semi-Soft Cheese.

In Sélection Caseus 2014, the prestigious competition for Québec cheese, Baluchon was awarded Prix du Public in the semi-soft category. Even five years ago, in the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, Baluchon was declared best organize cheese.

Even as Baluchon begins to curdle, already the sweet dairy taste is there.

Even as Baluchon begins to curdle, already the sweet dairy taste is there.

Baluchon is exquisite, exemplifying the best in an organic, semi-soft cheese with a washed rind. It is made with thermized cow’s milk and ripened for a minimum of two months. In Québec, thermized milk—heated to 60 degrees Celsius for 15 seconds—is considered raw milk.

Baluchon is a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth cheese that tastes of hazelnut, cream, butter and leaves a slight clover aftertaste, so you really do taste the terroir.

Tour the terroir at La Ferme F.X. Pichet and meet Michel Pichet and his cows in a pictorial we posted on Facebook after a visit in August.

The compact cheese plant is located on the farm in Champlain steps from the family home. Affinage rooms and the retail store are 20 kilometres away in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade.

Now is the time.

Fromagerie F.X. Pichet in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec.

When they were getting started more than a decade ago, Marie-Claude and Michel consulted André Fouillet, a cheese expert from France, who recommended they use a cheesemaking process he developed when working with Oka, the Canadian classic. Fouillet consulted with a number of Québec fromageries, witness the many semi-soft, washed-rind cheeses produced in the region. Jonathan Portelance, a collaborator at the time, was inspired by the fruity aroma and floral taste of the French Comté.

“But Balachon is unique,” says Marie-Claude, “because of our milk and our way of making cheese. Right from the start, we wanted to use non-pasteurized milk—for the taste. Good cheese starts with good milk. We prefer to use pure, organic milk because the integrity of milk is important to us. With conventional milk, you just don’t know what’s all in the milk.”

An organic milk producer and cheesemaker (who, incidentally, works at giant Saputo) suggested the name Baluchon as the cheese could be served on tables around the world. She still supplies some milk and remains a good friend.

Michel Pichet's talents as an artist are visible at the fromagerie.

Michel Pichet’s talents as an artist are visible at the fromagerie.

Why has Baluchon been so successful?

“Because of the distinctive aroma and taste that’s stems from a certain synergy,” says Marie-Claude. “Our milk comes from a mix of breeds, Holsteins, Swiss Browns and the Canadienne. In our pastures, we have a mix of five or six different plants, grasses, clover, sweat peas and so on. In the plant, we have a mix of talented people. All that ‘team work’ comes together in le Baluchon.”

Cheesemaker Remi Gélinas starts a new batch of Baluchon.

Cheesemaker Remi Gélinas starts a new batch of Baluchon.

Cheesemaker Remi Gélinas is a key member of the team. He’s been with the fromagerie less than two years but has 25 years of experience in cheese and milk production.

Click here for a pictorial of cheesemaking at Fromagerie F.X. Pichet.

What pairs well with Baluchon?

“Any tasty wine, red or white, that has a lot of aroma,” Marie-Claude says, expressing a preference for shiraz. In beer, she suggests a good amber or red.

Where is Baluchon available outside of Québec?

Baluchon now is widely available in cheese shops and Loblaws stores, especially since it was named Cheese of the Year in the spring. Baluchon and F.X. Pichet’s other cheeses are distributed by Fromages CDA which represents members of the Québec Artisan Cheese Guild. Telephone 1-866-448-7997 or 514-648-7997, email info@fromagescda.com.

Now is the time

Marie-Claude Harvey and Michel Pichet: poster children for organic dairy farming and cheesemaking in Québec.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheese-head-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca is founder and director of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival

Erin Harris: Passion for cheese drives her career

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By ERIN HARRIS

Three years ago, I made a significant change in my 20-year career in the food and beverage industry. I was looking for a career in the area of greatest passion in my life: food. But I also wanted to do something more entrepreneurial and more fulfilling than I had been doing at the university where I had worked. Out of my passion for food and my desire for individuality and creativity came my own cheesemonger business: The Cheese Poet.

But let’s start at the beginning: I’ve always loved cheese. Cheese was always around, on the dinner table, in my sandwiches, in the cheese drawer. My Dad loves a really good nippy cheddar cheese, and also a nice stinky blue. My mom, she is equally a lover of cheddar, but also brie, especially when baked and served with something sweet. My sister loves a good goat cheese . . . fresh chevre, gouda, tomme.   And then there was me: I love them all. I always wanted to learn more, going to the local market to try something new each week. Cheese parties with my friends, cheeses abroad while traveling, cheeses every day, if I could!

My love of cheese really came alive the year that I took La Cucina Italiana: Italian Culinary Diploma at George Brown College in Toronto. While living in such a great metropolitan area I had a huge variety of food shops to choose from so, nearly every day I would walk the five blocks down to St. Lawrence Market and check out all three cheese shops. I would pick up little 2-ounce pieces of cheese that looked different and interesting to me, take them home, and savour them.   I spent most of my grocery money on cheese!

As part of the diploma, I was required to do a work term in Italy, home of the King of Cheeses! For six months I worked in Italy, and fell in love with a country that truly celebrates food—especially cheese (and wine, and pasta!). The first cheese that really made an impression on me was the Stracchino, a cheese that the lady of the house where I worked, would eat every day at the end of her meals with a piece of fruit. She would share her cheese with me in the early days, but then my own container started to show up on the table. “Get your own Stracchino!” was the clear message. And then there were all of the Pecorinos. Young, aged, rolled in herbs, soaked in wine, drenched in honey. I consumed more Pecorino than any other food in those six months.

Perhaps the birth of The Cheese Poet was inevitable. It has been operating for just over two years. Located in The Western Fair Farmers and Artisans Market in London, Ontario, The Cheese Poet is a one day per week (Saturday) business in which I sell predominantly local, all artisanal cheeses. I specialize in sheep milk cheeses, as we are fortunate to have some amazing local producers using good fresh local sheep milk. Many of my loyal customers who came to me with lactose intolerance issues, are now happily enjoying local sheep and goat milk cheeses in their regular diet. Working directly with my customers is truly the most enjoyable aspect of my job (next to always getting the first taste of a new wheel of cheese!). I have watched customers develop their own love of good cheese blossom. I have watched eyes light up and listened to excited voices as people experience the quality that Ontario cheesemakers are bringing to the table today. Without a doubt, the customers are the best part of my job. I am their Cheeselady!

In 2013, I attempted to expand The Cheese Poet to a six-day-per-week operation not once, but twice. The combination of high lease rates, and poor local economy, held me back from expanding my operation into a stand-alone shop.

Furthering my cheese industry awareness and education will allow me the confidence to move my business forward to its full potential. Attending the American Cheese Society (ACS) annual conference in Sacramento would afford me further insight into the cheese industry outside of Ontario. It will introduce me to the big world of cheese, and specifically, to all of the artisans in the USA who are producing award-winning cheeses that I read about but have not been able to experience for myself.

If I were given the opportunity to participate in the ACS conference in Sacramento—something that I cannot financially afford to do for myself at this time—I would expect to gain a level of awareness about the cheese industry in North America that would allow me to participate in and give back to this industry in a much larger way.

Not only am I passionate about the cheese industry, I am truly following my dream—something that John Crompton and I would have in common. I believe that Mr. Crompton would have appreciated my tenacity, and would have recognized the joy this industry brings me as something that it brought to his career as well. I have also not been able to afford the ACS individual membership, which I believe is an incredible resource for a small cheese business like mine. Additionally, I have applied for the 2014 Certified Professionals Exam. I will only be able to afford this invaluable certificate if I am awarded the 2014 John Crompton Memorial Scholarship. It would truly be an honour to be awarded this Scholarship, and I will do my best to honour his memory during my time at the ACS Conference in Sacramento, and with the energy and education that I take away from the experience.

Editor’s note:

Erin Harris is the second Canadian to be awarded the John Crompton Memorial Scholarship by American Cheese Society (ACS). The first was Nancy Peppler of Nancy’s Cheese in Toronto. The scholarship provides funding for travel and attendance at the annual ACS conference which this year was held in Sacramento, California, in August.

This essay—which earned the scholarship—was written prior to a new verse being added to Erin’s cheese poetry. She closed Cheese Poet in May 2014 to begin a new role as Cheese and Catering Manager for Sobey’s Urban Fresh, first to work in Toronto for the remainder of 2014, and then to help open the new Urban Fresh store in Ottawa, winter 2015.

Gunn’s Hill Shep Ysselstein claims $100,000 Grand Prize

Shep and Colleen Ysselstein of Gunn's Hill Artisan Cheese near Woodstock, Ontario.

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

MONTREAL, June 18, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ – The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) yesterday announced that Canadian voters have chosen the turning point project Cheese Champs, submitted by Shep Ysselstein, owner of Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese in Woodstock, Ontario, as the winner of the 2014 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award $100,000 Grand Prize.

Shep’s project involves the construction of a 2,000 square-foot, climate-controlled curing and aging extension to his current building that would allow him to double his annual production of cheese to 60,000 kilograms. His business needs to invest in this expansion to keep up with high consumer demand for his premium cheeses from grocery chains and specialty food shops across the province.

“Winning the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest means a lot to our business and to the local dairy economy,” says Shep. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the amazing public support and I want to thank everyone who voted for us. I also want to thank BDC for creating a contest that inspires entrepreneurs to take a hard look at their businesses and come up with concrete projects that will drive new growth.”

“I congratulate Shep on winning the 2014 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award,” says Michel Bergeron, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Public Affairs at BDC. “His business illustrates how an entrepreneurial vision can create real opportunities for any industry, anywhere in Canada. Gunn’s Hill is more than a cheese plant; it’s a rural enterprise that creates jobs and economic activity and drives a small community forward.”

“We plan to use the $100,000 Grand Prize to accelerate the growth of our business,” says Shep. “The new curing and aging rooms will allow us to double our workforce, meet demand for our current products, and create new premium aged cheeses that will further boost our revenue. We also hope this boost will put us on track for a future national expansion, so we can start selling our products across Canada.”

The contest runner-up, who will receive $25,000 in consulting services offered by BDC, is the project Bee Wrapped, submitted by Toni Desrosiers, owner of Abeego Designs, Inc. in Victoria, British Columbia.

About the 2014 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest
Created by the Business Development Bank of Canada in 1988, the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest pays tribute to remarkable Canadian entrepreneurs between 18 and 35. For the first time in 2014, a national committee evaluated the quality of the finalist projects and gave each finalist a ranking that was combined with the public vote. The national committee evaluation was weighted to account for 30% of each project’s final ranking and the public vote accounted for the remaining 70% of the ranking. Online voting in the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest took place between May 29 and June 12 at www.bdc.ca/yea.

About the 2014 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award finalists
Nine projects competed for Canada’s votes in the 2014 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest.  Each finalist described, via a video submission, a turning point their company had reached as well as their solution to achieve future growth and success:

  • Bee Wrapped, Toni Desrosiers, 34, Abeego Designs, Inc., Victoria, British Columbia
  • Waste with Purpose, Devin Goss, 29, BluPlanet Recycling Inc., Calgary, Alberta
  • Building Boom, Nathan Wilhelm, 30, Wilhelm Construction Services Inc., Estevan, Saskatchewan
  • Compost Kings, Dale Overton, 34, Overton Environmental Enterprises Inc. (OEE), Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Cheese Champs, Shep Ysselstein, 31, Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, Woodstock, Ontario
  • Room with a View, Louis-Philippe Noel, 34, Innvue, Quebec City, Quebec
  • Clear Waters, Pat Whalen, 33, LuminUltra Technologies Ltd., Fredericton, New Brunswick
  • Brighter Smiles, Paula MacPherson, 31, Southgate Dentistry, Bedford South, Nova Scotia
  • Northern Exposure, Nicole Redvers, 32, Gaia Integrative Clinic, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories