Biggest selection of best cheeses in Canada at #TGCCF

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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.

 

Who will win Canadian Cheese of the Year on Thursday?

Le Baluchon: Cheese of the Year in 2014.

Le Baluchon: Cheese of the Year at the previous Canadian Cheese Awards.

The anticipation is building toward the climax of the 2016 Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens this Thursday in Montréal.

  • Will a Quebec cheese again be crowned Canadian Cheese of the Year?
  • Which cheese will be named Best Quebec Cheese of 2016? There are seven Quebec finalists within a few points of each other.
  • What about Best Ontario Cheese? There are five finalists in a tight race.
  • Who will win Best Blue Cheese, Best Cheddar and Best Gouda and 14 other main categories?

All together, 32 different champions will be crowned on Thursday, April 14, at the Awards Ceremony and Reception at popular Time Supper Club in downtown Montréal. The public is invited to the Awards Tasting Gala starting at 6 p.m.

More than 100 cheeses will be in the spotlight at the Tasting Gala, finalists and winners in the biggest cheese competition in Canada. Many cheesemakers will be present to engage with cheese lovers.

Admission includes more than 100 different cheese to sample as often as you wish, plus crackers, charcuterie and condiments. All you can eat, really! Wine, beer, sparkling water and juices available for purchase.

Click here to order tickets online at $25 per person plus tax. A ticket purchased in advance will provide speedy access to all the deliciousness inside Time Supper Club at 997 rue Saint-Jacques in Montréal. Tickets will also be sold at the door.

Time Supper Club is a short walk west of Palais des Congrès in downtown Montreal, two blocks from Bonaventure Metro Station. Originally, Palais des Congrès was announced as the venue for the Awards.

At the previous Canadian Cheese Awards in 2014, Le Baluchon, made by Marie-Claude Harvey and her team at Fromagerie F.X. Pichet in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec, was honoured as Cheese of the Year. This year, Le Baluchon is a finalist in three categories. It is also in the running for Best Quebec Cheese and Cheese of the Year in all Canada.

Competition is extremely close for Best Québec Cheese honours. There are seven finalists, in alphabetical order:

Best Ontario Cheese is also tightly contested, with five finalists:

  • Bella Casara Mascarpone – Quality Cheese, Vaughan, Ontario
  • Castello Smoked Gorgonzola – Arla Foods Canada, Concord, Ontario
  • Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario
  • Mountainoak Chili Pepper Smoked – Mountainoak Cheese, New Hamburg, Ontario
  • Tania, Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario.

Finalists are equally divided between Québec and other cheese-producing regions in Canada. They include large and small producers from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

The Farm House Natural Cheeses, a small producer in Agassiz, British Columbia, and Quality Cheese in Vaughan, Ontario, each garnered the most nominations as finalists: eight.

The Farm House Natural Cheeses, a small producer in Agassiz, British Columbia, and Quality Cheese in Vaughan, Ontario, each garnered the most nominations as finalists: eight.

The Farm House Natural Cheeses, a small producer in Agassiz, British Columbia, and Quality Cheese in Vaughan, Ontario, each garnered the most nominations as finalists: eight. That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm of Upper Economy, Nova Scotia, has five nominations.

In Québec, Fromagerie du Presbytère of Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick has been named finalist in seven classes. Fromagerie F.X. Pichet of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Cheese of the Year in 2014 with Baluchon, is finalist in five classes. Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser of Noyan, one of the pioneers in artisan cheese in Québec, has three nominations.

The independent competition is open to all milks used in cheesemaking in Canada—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.

Loblaw Companies and Provigo are Marquee Sponsors. Additional support is provided by Dairy Farmers of Canada and Desjardins Group. Slow Food Montréal is the presenting partner, Yannick Fromagerie, the logistics partner.

The biennial Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fin canadiens is organized by The Great Canadian Cheese Festival as a service to the cheese industry and a guide for consumers. The Festival is the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada, held annually the first weekend in June in Picton, Prince Edward County, in Bay of Quinte Region near Belleville, Ontario.

The 2016 Cheese of the Year and other award-winners will be in the spotlight at #TGCCF on June 4-5.

 

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.

 

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

Baluchon: Give it as a tasty gift for Christmas

Baluchon is exquisite, exemplifying the best in an organic, semi-soft cheese with a washed rind.

Baluchon is exquisite, exemplifying the best in an organic, semi-soft cheese with a washed rind.

Most years, we make cheese at home to give as Christmas gifts. This year, we are giving Baluchon, Canadian Cheese of the Year.

It’s a simple way to make a cheese lover happy, or to introduce a non-believer to Canadian artisan cheese.

  • Buy the Baluchon.
  • Buy a small slate or board.
  • Wrap Baluchon in plastic wrap so the cheese visible, add a handful of walnuts and apricots, and possibly a Christmas decoration.
  • Wrap in cellophane.
  • Attach a bright ribbon.
  • If your budget permits, add a cheese knife.

To really impress, add a wine or beer.

“Any tasty wine, red or white, that has a lot of aroma,” recommends Marie-Claude Harvey of Fromagerie F.X. Pichet, expressing a personal preference for shiraz. In beer, she suggests a good amber or red.

Voila! A great Christmas gift—easy peasy—and it be tasty.

Voila! A great Christmas gift—easy peasy and it be tasty.

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