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.

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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.

Home cheesemaking showcased in first-ever competition

From left: Ian Treuer, Judge; ​Elis Ziegler, Best Fresh Cheese; Doreen and Pete Sullivan, Best Bloomy Rind Cheese; and Suzanne Lavoie, Best Blue Cheese. Missing John Michael Symmonds, Best Firm Cheese, and Mira Schenkel, Best Washed Rind Cheese and Best of Show. All photos by Jane Churchill. Click on any image for an enlarged view.

From left: Ian Treuer, Judge; ​Elis Ziegler, Best Fresh Cheese; Doreen and Pete Sullivan, Best Bloomy Rind Cheese; and Suzanne Lavoie, Best Blue Cheese. Missing John Michael Symmonds, Best Firm Cheese, and Mira Schenkel, Best Washed Rind Cheese and Best of Show. All photos by Jane Churchill. Click on any image for an enlarged view.

The eye-opener at the inaugural Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards—and the palate-shocker—was the high quality of cheese made in homes across Canada.

In appearance, aroma, texture and flavour, many of the entries were the equal of commercially made cheese. None so more than Clover, the entry that captured Best of Show honours and won the washed-rind category in the competition held in conjunction with The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario, on the first weekend of June.

Made by Mira Schenkel of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Clover was the clear favourite of anyone lucky enough to taste it.

Judges Ian Treuer and Stephanie Diamant.

Judges Ian Treuer and Stephanie Diamant.

There were 25 entries from three provinces accepted in five judging categories. The best in each category were judged a second time to determine Best in Show. Award-winning cheesemaker Stephanie Diamant, formerly of Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, now at Black River Cheese in Prince Edward Country, and Ian Treuer of Edmonton, longtime home cheesemaker and a popular blogger at Much To Do About Cheese, served as judges.

Category winners with tasting notes by Ian Treuer:

Best Fresh Cheese: Curious Goat Chèvre

—Elis Ziegler of Toronto and Jess Posgate of Milton, Ontario, hope to start a farmstead cheese business one day with this wonderful, light cream cheese, a classic example of what a Chèvre should be. Perfect salt with hints of citrus round out the mild goat flavour.

Best Bloomy Rind Cheese: Camembert Type Cheese

—Doreen and Pete Sullivan of Niagara Falls, Ontario, are retired educators who offer home cheesemaking instruction. They created this bloomy rind gem where a lovely white exterior gives way to a fudgy and creamy paste.

Best Blue Cheese: Feu

—Suzanne Lavoie of Plantagenet, Ontario, was given a Jersey heifer called Yoga for her birthday. Curiosity and love of cheese led her to cheesemaking. Feu, a creamy blue cheese that is perfectly balanced, was a close contender for Best In Show.

Best Firm Cheese: Smoked Caciocavallo

—John Michael Symmonds of Vancouver is a sous chef at West restaurant in Vancouver. He started his love affair with cheese and cheesemaking after a trip to Neil’s Yard Dairy in London, England. His Smoked Caciocavallo has a great balance of smoke and cheese, the smoke serving to accent the local B.C. milk used to make the cheese.

Best Washed Rind Cheese: Clover

—Mira Schenkel of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, was born in Switzerland and immigrated with her husband, Uli, to Canada 18 years ago to farm and to raise a family.   Click here to read more about Mira and her Best of Show cheese.

Entries in the inaugural Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards presented for sampling by the public.

Entries in the inaugural Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards presented for sampling by the public.

Competition co-ordinators were Ian Treuer and Jackie Armet, cheese co-ordinator of the annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival and the biennial Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens.

Fytozimus Bio Tech is Founding Sponsor of the Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards.

The mission of Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards is to provide encouragement to home cheesemakers, to offer expert feedback to all amateur cheesemakers, and to recognize the best in amateur cheesemaking in Canada.

The venue and logistical support were provided by Cheese Lover Productions, producers of the Cheese Festival and Cheese Awards/Le Concours.

The second annual Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards will be held June 4-5, 2016, again in conjunction with the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada.

Calling all home cheesemakers!

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There is no end to the variety of cheeses made at home by amateurs.

The cheese lovers who organize The Great Canadian Cheese Festival every June are planning to host Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards, the first-ever judging and competition for home cheesemakers.

The mission is to recognize and honour the best in amateur cheesemaking and to provide encouragement and feedback to home cheesemakers.

It’s possible the competition will be expanded to include home cheesemakers in the U.S.

Would you be interested in entering your cheese for judging? You won’t personally have be present to participate as you can safely ship cheese in a cooled box.

Please indicate your interest by emailing Ian Treuer at competition@cheesefestival.ca. Ian is acting as Competition Co-ordinator. He blogs about his adventures as a home cheesemaker at Much To Do About Cheese.

Jackie Armet, the Festival’s Cheese Co-ordinator, who also serves as Cheese Co-ordinator for Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens, will oversee the new competition.

Awards will be presented for best in each cheese category. Judging reports will be issued for each cheese entered. Subject to confirmation when rules are issued, the categories and awards will be as follows:

  • Fresh Cheese
  • Bloomy Rind Cheese
  • Washed Rind Cheese
  • Blue Cheese
  • Firm Cheese
  • Best of Canada
  • Best of U.S.
  • Best of Show.

The first-ever amateur cheesemaking competition takes place this June 6-7 in conjunction with the fifth anniversary Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario, two hours east of Toronto, three hours north of Syracuse, New York, four hours from Montréal.

If you’re interested in entering your cheese made at home, let us hear from you!

Photos by Ian Treuer/Much To Do About Cheese.