Good cheese hunting: Day 10, at the Canadian Grand Prix

Significant Other and I are so excited at the prospect of Formula 1 racing starting in 20 minutes that we wolf down most of our Hercule de Charlevoix before we think of taking a photo for the blog. Which explains the only image (above) we have of this wonderful Quebec cheese.

L’Hercule de Charlevoix was named after Jean-Baptiste Grenon from Baie-Saint-Paul whose physical strength was said to be phenomenal. Made prisoner by General Wolfe’s troops during the summer of 1759, Grenon was released by the English soldiers who were incapable of controlling the Charlevoix strongman. So the legend goes.

Steve Essiembre and Stéphanie Simard of Ferme Stessi with one of their 30 Jersey cows.

L’Hercule is a classic firm cheese made with raw milk from the 30 Jersey cows of the Ferme Stessi, a mere hundred yards from cheesemaker Laiterie Charlevoix, The curds are cooked, pressed and ripened, normally, for 6 to 18 months. Our Hercule had been aged a full 24 months and showed it in complexity.

The result is a cheese that is somewhat reminiscent of Swiss Gruyere but much more earthy, with a nice nutty finish. Writing in The Globe and Mail, Sue Riedl had this to say about Hercule:

The flavour and supple texture of the cheese gives a nod to such greats as French Comté and Swiss Gruyère. The younger cheese is mild with a fruity aroma and sweet flavour, followed by a tangy finish. By 18 months the aroma is creamier and more complex, and the sharper finish has mellowed to a full, nutty finale that is enhanced by the earthy, toasted flavour of the rind. These traits and its larger wheel size (12-14 kilograms) make L’Hercule de Charlevoix a unique style of cheese in Canada.

Laiterie Charlevoix also produces Le Fleurmier, Le Vieux Charlevoix, available in Ontario, as is L’Hercule, and Le Cheddar Charlevoix, sold only in Charlevoix. Our Hercule came from Fromagerie Atwater in Montreal. ($4.10/100g)

Our plan was to make the Hercule the only of cheese of this day, but after Lewis Hamilton, boyfriend of Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, won the Grand Prix we feel the urge to celebrate. Off to Montreal’s Latin Quarter we go where, at La Brioche Lyonnaise, Significant Other has a delightful vegetarian crepe—nicely layered with Emmentaler.

After a long day at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, she is famished and, again, we forget to take a photo.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca.

Canadian Swiss cheese made the Old Order Amish way

Millbank Cheese started operations in 1908 in the old foundry building in the village of Millbank in Southwestern Ontario.

Caseus Helveticus—Swiss cheese to me and you—was first mentioned in recorded history by Pliny, the first century Roman historian. Doubtless, it was more like cottage cheese than what we’re familiar with in modern times. The type of Swiss cheese we eat today first appeared in the 15th century when the technique of using rennet to firm up cheese was introduced.

In the 17th century, the Amish religion was founded in Switzerland. By the 18th century, the first Amish arrived in Ontario, bringing with them the old ways—including making cheese.

And that‘s how, three centuries later, I’m enjoying a chunk of mild and creamy Swiss made by Millbank Cheese Factory, but there is a twist in the history.

Millbank Cheese and Cold Storage in the village of Millbank in Southwestern Ontario was founded in 1908 by Old Order Amish dairy farmers. Over the years, Millbank Cheese grew and grew. By the 1980s, it employed 35 full-time employees and sold $12 million worth of cheese and butter annually. Then started a revolving door of owners: First, Schneiders, then Ault Foods, and finally Parmalat—which shut down production in 1999 but kept the retail store open.

Millbank’s pioneering past flowered again when 90 traditional farm families purchased the factory from Parmalat in 2003 and again began to make cheese the Old Order Amish way. Today, Millbank manufactures goat, sheep and cow-milk products.

And so it came to pass that when I walked into The Art of Cheese in the Beaches area of Toronto, owner Bill Miller suggested I try Millbank’s organic, unpasteurized Swiss cheese.

“This Swiss is very creamy,” Bill said. “When warmed up, it has a slight tangy bite. The real difference, though, is in the after-taste. In mass-produced Swiss, you get a metallic taste—some would say tinny—from the chemical residue that comes from the use of additives to speed up the maturing process.” As Swiss is such a light-tasting cheese, there is nowhere for the additive residue to hide.

The cream content level of the Millbank Swiss is 33% milk fat, which is high, yet that’s what makes this a rich Swiss and an excellent snack.

Bill suggested I try it in scalloped potato as the cheese helps bring out other flavours without dominating. Alas, my chunk was long gone by supper time.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca. He grew up eating Swiss, Havarti and Limburger, and a Latvian cheese called Janu siers.