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.

 

Empire Cheese in strong showing at Royal Winter Fair

Cheesemaker Mark Erwin with two first-place cheddars. (Photo by Rebecca Crosgrey.

Cheesemaker Mark Erwin with two first-place cheddars. (Photo by Rebecca Crosgrey.

Even though it was up against Canadian cheese giant Agropur, Empire Cheese & Butter Co-op won two firsts, two seconds and two thirds in the cheddar competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair—the best showing by an artisan producer. In fact, Empire’s Mild Cheddar was named Reserve Grand Champion in the judging, runner-up to Agropur Grand Cheddar 2 Year.

The Campbellford, Ontario, cheese producer, where Mark Erwin is the cheesemaker, took the following honours:

  • Empire Mild Cheddar – Reserve Grand Champion
  • Empire Mild Cheddar – First in class, Mild Cheddar 2-4 months
  • Empire Extra Mature Cheddar – First in class, Extra Mature Cheddar
  • Empire Medium Cheddar – Second in class, Medium Cheddar 6-8 months
  • Empire Extra Mild Cheddar – Second in class, Extra Mild Cheddar 1-2 months
  • Empire Marble Cheddar – Third in class, Marble Cheddar any age
  • Empire Stilton Shaped Cheddar – Third in class, Stilton Shapped Cheddar.

Maple Dale Cheese of Plainfield, Ontario, won the following:

  • Maple Dale Stilton Shaped Cheddar – Second in class, Stilton Shapped Cheddar
  • Maple Dale 2 year – Third in class, Extra Mature Cheddar.

Ivanhoe Cheese of Madoc, Ontario, won second in the Extra Mature Cheddar class with Ivanhoe Classic Cheddar made May 15, 2011.

Four of the seven cheddar classes were won by Agropur, one of Canada’s biggest co-operatives owned by 3,400 dairy farmers. Among its 15 dairy divisions is Oka, Canada’s iconic cheese brand that dates back to 1893 when Trappists made it.

Two cheese tours to tempt your palate

Lori Smith with one of her 200 charges at the Ontario Water Buffalo Company in Stirling.

Lori Smith with one of her 200 charges at the Ontario Water Buffalo Company in Stirling.

For cheese lovers interested in an extra day of cheese-learning and cheese-tasting, a second itinerary has been added to the guided cheese tours offered on the Friday before the third annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

The new Quinte Cheese Tour will visit two award-winning cheese producers, Empire Cheese and Maple Dale Cheese, with a lunch stop and tour of Ontario Water Buffalo Company, a pioneering water-buffalo dairy farm. A craft brewery, Church-Key Brewing, and a chocolate maker are also on the itinerary.

The popular County Cheese Tour continues, with stops at Black River Cheese, in operation since 1901, and the new County Cheese Company where cheesemaking will start this summer. Fifth Town Artisan Cheese will be added, if it has re-opened by May 31.

The third annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 1-2, in Crystal Palace on the Prince Edward Fairgrounds in Picton, in the heart of Prince Edward County in Ontario’s Bay of Quinte Region. Cheese tours and a class on cooking with artisan cheese are offered on Friday, May 31.

The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is a multi-faceted event that annually attracts thousands of consumers to meet, learn, taste and buy the best in artisan cheese and fine foods and sample fine wine, craft beer and crisp cider.

Dairy Farmers of Canada is the lead sponsor, presenting seminars throughout the day in the All You Need Is Cheese® Annex.

Bay of Quinte Region is a major sponsor. It will host a guided tasting of Quinte cheeses paired with local wines and beers to help promote the Bay of Quinte Cheese Route.

Taste and buy artisan and farmstead cheese at the biggest cheese show in Canada.

Taste and buy artisan and farmstead cheese at the biggest cheese show in Canada.

The Artisan Cheese & Fine Food Fair features a Dairy Farm display for the enjoyment of young and old. Also on the program are Tutored Tastings where experts offer guidance on a variety of cheese topics. At From the Farm Cooking School, Cynthia Peters leads a hands-on class in cooking with artisan cheese.

Outstanding wine and-dine-with-cheese experiences are offered on Saturday evening. Winners of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix are on the menu as the cheese course at Gastronomy on the Farm with Jamie Kennedy. Cheesemaker Ruth Klahsen is paired with Chef Michael Hoy for Wine & Dine at Huff Estates Winery. Additional chef-driven events are still to be announced.

Advance ticket sales are under way at www.cheesefestival.ca.

Last year, close to 100 exhibitors and vendors and more than 3,000 consumers made the event the biggest cheese show in Canada representing producers from coast to coast. One-third of the participating cheese producers come from Québec, the leading artisan cheese region in Canada.

Pulled-pork parfait a fabulous find at Gourmet Expo

Giovanni Le Brasso shows a guest how easy it is to cut an 80-kilo wheel of Emmentaler at the Switzerland Cheese display at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo in Toronto this week.

There are more wines to taste than is humanly possible in one evening and all kinds of fancy food to sample, but pulled pork was the clear winner in our hearts  and stomachs at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo in Toronto this week. Not just any pulled pork but a perfect parfait served up at Hank Daddy’s Barbecue stand.

Pulled-Pork Parfait made by Hank Daddy's Barbecue, pictured with Hank's nephew Gordie.

Here are the ingredients: pulled pork, Hank Daddy’s Original Barbecue Sauce, mashed potatoes, more sauce, another layer of pork, sauce, potatoes, more pork and a topping of baked beans. Talk about an ultimate take on comfort food! No wonder Jennifer Bain raved about it in the Toronto Star after sampling the dish at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair last week.

For cheese lovers, there is a diverse selection of tastes to be had at the Gourmet Expo which runs till Sunday:

  • Cypress Grove Cheese from Northern California and Sobeys Ontario team up to present a divine plate of four goat cheeses made by Mary Keehn, one of the founders of the artisan-cheese movement in the U.S.
  • A delicious selection of classic and contemporary goat cheeses is available at the stand operated by Ontario Goat Cheese.
  • Devil’s Rock, a creamy blue cheese from Northern Ontario, and squeaky cheese curds are front and center at the Thornloe Cheese stand.
  • Major Craig’s Chutney is partering with two new artisan producers, Primeridge Pure and Seed to Sausage, to present a dynamite charcuterie platter.

Dairy Farmers of Canada is presenting winners of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix in tasting seminars at the All You need Is Cheese stage.

Also participating in the Expo: Finica Food Specialties with Mariposa Dairy and other products,  Ivanhoe Cheese and Switzerland Cheese.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca and founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

Agropur cheddars win Grand Champion and Reserve at Royal

Agropur's two-year Grand Cheddar was crowned Grand Champion.

Agropur, the giant co-operative owned by 3,459 dairy farmers in Canada, United States and Argentina, dominated the cheddar competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair this week. Agropur cheddars won or placed in six of seven categories with its two-year Grand Cheddar being crowned Grand Champion while the Reserve title went to its one-year Grand Cheddar.

Both cheddars are made at the Longueuil plant in the village of Bon Conseil near Drummondville, Quebec.

Aged cheddar is made with unpasteurized milk. The milk is lightly heated in a process called thermization, which preserves the microorganisms and enzymes in raw milk that give cheddar its characteristic flavor. To prevent pathogenic organisms from proliferating, this type of cheddar undergoes a minimum 60-day aging period from the start of production. The resulting cheese retains all its flavour characteristics and gives the cheddar its distinct flavour.

Here are the top three cheeses in each category of the cheddar competition. Unfortunately, the results provided by the Royal do not name the actual cheddar, only the location of the plant, which is not particularly useful for consumers.

Extra Mature Cheddar 24 Months or Longer

  1. Saint-Prime, Fromagerie Perron
  2. Winchester, Balderson
  3. Longueuil, Agropur

Mature Cheddar 12-24 Months

  1. Grand Cheddar aged for 2 years, Agropur
  2. Winchester, Balderson
  3. Saint-Prime, Fromagerie Perron

Medium Cheddar 6-8 Months

  1. Longueuil, Agropur
  2. Saint-Prime, Fromagerie Perron
  3. Madoc, Ivanhoe

Mild Cheddar 2-4 Months

  1. Longueuil, Agropur
  2. Winchester, Black Diamond
  3. Campbellford, Empire Cheese & Butter

Extra Mild Cheddar 1-2 Months

  1. Winchester, Black Diamond
  2. Longueuil, Agropur
  3. Madoc, Ivanhoe

Marble Cheddar Any Age

  1. Campbellford, Empire Cheese & Butter
  2. Winchester, Balderson
  3. Thornloe, Thornloe Cheese

Stilton-Shape Cheddar, coloured or white, made from ordinary Cheddar curd

  1. Longueuil, Agropur
  2. Plainield, Maple Dale Cheese
  3. Campbellford, Empire Cheese & Butter

Blocks of cheddar await scrutiny by judges at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

Judges in the variety class: Norm Matte and Gilles Sabourin.

Sponsors: Gay Lea Foods Co-operative, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Canadian Cheese Society, Cargill, Central Ontario Cheese Makers, Parmalat, Jersey Canada, Continental Ingredients Canada, Ecolab, Empire Cheese.

Aged Lankaaster crowned Grand Champion at the Royal

Aged Lankaaster created by Margaret Peters-Morris of Glengarry Fine Cheese is the 2011 Grand Champion in its class at the Royal Winter Fair.

Aged Lankaaster was named Grand Champion in the variety cheese competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair this week, continuing a streak of awards won by Eastern Ontario’s Glengarry Fine Cheese.

Cendre de Lune made by Quebec cheesemaker La Fromagerie du Village 1860 was named Reserve Champion.

Despite multiple entries from large cheese producers such as Saputo and Agropur, Quality Cheese of Vaughan, Ontario, collected the most first-place ribbons—four in all—with Zerto Fresh Mozzarella, Ricotta, Borgonzola and Burrata.

Perhaps as an indication of things to come, a new artisan cheesemaker, Primeridge Pure of Markdale, Ontario, won a second and a third with Grey Rush, a creamy dessert cheese.

The Grand Champion, Aged Lankaaster, is matured to a minimum of 10 months. Margaret Peters-Morris tells CheeseLover.ca. The cheese entered in the competition was made in June, 2010, therefore, it was 16 months mature.

Aged Lankaaster is a firm cheese, traditional rind, characteristic gouda “eyes” present,  paste is dark, laden with crystals, with lovely butterscotch, pineapple and lactic notes, the veteran cheesemakers says. This cheese lingers in one’s mouth and is very suitable to use as cheese to make any “gratin” in culinary preparations.

Here are the top three in the variety class of the annual competition:

Hard Parmesan, Grana, Romano, etc

  1. Lankaaster – Aged,  Glengarry Fine Cheese
  2. Quinte Crest, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
  3. Baby Parmesan, Silani

Pasta, Filata Mozzarella, Provolone, Scarmorze, etc

  1. Zerto Fresh Mozzarella, Quality Cheese
  2. Fior de latte, Quality Cheese
  3. Tre Stelle Fiordi Latte, Arla Foods

Firm Brick, Colby, etc

  1. Monterey Jack, Parmalat
  2. Anco Creamy Havarti, Agropur Fine Cheese
  3. Colby, Ivanhoe

Interior Ripened Edam, Gouda, Asiago

  1. North Heaven,  Thornloe Cheese
  2. Riviere Rouge, Agropur Fine Cheese

Surface Ripened Fontina, Oka, Munster, St. Paulin

  1. La Sauvagine, Alexis de Portneuf
  2. Cantolait, Fromagerie St Guillaume
  3. Oka Raclette, Agropur Fine Cheese

Mold Ripened Brie, Camembert

  1. Cendre de Lune, La Fromagerie du Village 1860
  2. Rondoux Triple Creme, Agropur Fine Cheese
  3. Camembert L’Extra, Agropur Fine Cheese

Unflavoured Fresh Cheese

  1. Ricotta, Quality Cheese
  2. Grey Rush,  Primeridge Pure
  3. Anco plain, Agropur Fine Cheese

Flavoured Fresh Cheese

  1. Delicreme Five Peppers, Agropur Fine Cheese
  2. Delicreme Herbs and Garlic, Agropur Fine Cheese
  3. Grey Rush – Herb Blend, Primeridge Pure

Blue Veined Cheese

  1. Borgonzola, Quality Cheese
  2. Castello Gorgonzola Cheese, Arla Foods
  3. La Roche Noire, Alexis de Portneuf

Swiss Ementhal Cheese

  1. Swiss Cheese, Fromagerie St Guillaume
  2. Oka L’Artisan, Agropur Fine Cheese
  3. Swiss Cheese, Farmers Dairy

Flavoured Cheese

  1. Oka Mushrooms, Agropur Fine Cheese
  2. Lankaaster Cumin Flavoured, Glengarry Fine Cheese
  3. Chevalier Fine Herbs, Agropur Fine Cheese

Open Class

  1. Burrata, Quality Cheese
  2. La Tentation de Laurier, La Fromagerie du Village 1860
  3. Allegro Camembert 16%, Agropur Fine Cheese

Any Cheese made with Sheep’s Milk

  1. Wishing Tree, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
  2. Bonnie & Floyd, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
  3. Mouton Rouge, Best Baa Dairy

Feta

  1. Feta in Brine, Black Diamond
  2. Tre Stella Feta, Arla Foods
  3. Anco Feta, Agropur Fine Cheese

Cendre de Lune by La Fromagerie du Village 1860 was named Reserve Champion in the variety cheese class.

Judges in the variety class: Thierry Martin and Jean-Jacques Turgeon

Sponsors: Gay Lea Foods Co-operative, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Canadian Cheese Society, Cargill, Central Ontario Cheese Makers, Parmalat, Jersey Canada, Continental Ingredients Canada, Ecolab, Empire Cheese.