A Very Dairy Christmas to one and all!

From our house to yours, all the best of the holidays! May much cheese be with you in 2015!

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

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.

Give the gift of Cheese Festival tickets!

Cheese lovers in your life will appreciate a holiday gift of tickets to the 2015 Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

We will send you a personalized gift certificate for the ticket recipient, upon receipt of your ticket order. The certificate will be a PDF that you can forward by e-mail or print for giving in person with the gift tickets. If you prefer, we can e-mail, on your behalf, holiday greetings to the recipient with the gift tickets.

Tickets are $50 plus HST each. Admission includes 10 tasting tickets, glass for sampling wine, beer and cider, access to more than 125 exhibitors and vendors, cheese seminars and dairy farm, and an insulated Festival tote bag for your purchases. Rush seating for seminars and presentations. FREE parking.

Click here to place your order. Please allow five days for the arrival of gift certificates.

The fifth anniversary Cheese Festival takes place June 6-7, 2015, at Picton Fairgrounds in Ontario’s Prince Edward County, just south of Belleville in Bay of Quinte Region.

For more information, visit CheeseFestival.ca or telephone 1-866-865-2628 toll-free.

Click here to receive news about next year’s Festival and special offers.

The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is produced by Cheese Lover Productions with the generous support of Celebrate Ontario and our Diamond Sponsor, Dairy Farmers of Canada.

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

Jean Morin wins again with Louis d’Or and Pionnier

Louis d'Or.

Louis d’Or.

Jean Morin of Fromagerie du Presbytère is Grand Champion twice over at this year’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

His Louis d’Or is Grand Champion in the cow’s milk variety cheese class. Pionnier, made with a blend of cow’s and sheep’s milk in collaboration with Marie-Chantal Houde of Fromagerie Nouvelle France, is Grand Champion in the goat and sheep milk variety cheese class.

Marie-Chantal Houde and Jean Morin with Pionnier.

Marie-Chantal Houde and Jean Morin with Pionnier.

The 18-month Farmstead Gouda made by Adam van Bergejik of Mountainoak Cheese is Reserve Grand Champion in cow milk.

Adam van Bergejik.

Adam van Bergejik.

Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar made by Pieter van Oudenaren of Lenberg Farms/Mariposa Dairy is Reserve Grand Champion in goat and sheep milk.

Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar.

Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar.

Grand Champion in cheddar cheese is Black Diamond Mild Cheddar made by Parmalat Canada, now part of Groupe Lactalis, the world’s largest dairy producer. Parmalat dominated all cheddar categories except:

Click here for complete results.

 

 

 

 

Fresh: Water buffalo mozzarella at its best

Buffalo Mozzarella from Élevages Buffalo Maciocia.

Fresh mozzarella made in Québec with water buffalo milk—just like it has been made in Italy since the 12th century—is now available to cheese lovers in Ontario.

Élevages Buffalo Maciocia, home of the largest water-buffalo herd in Canada, has teamed with Fromagerie Polyethnique to make its Buffalo Mozzarella by hand and with Off The Bone Meat Products to distribute the cheese to retailers, such as Scheffler’s Delicatessen & Cheese at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, the same day or next day.

Mozzarella di bufala is at its best within two or three days of production. It’s soft and elastic and delicious from Day One but seems to gain buttery flavour by the second or third day.

Élevages Buffalo Maciocia first entered the Québec market and then Ontario with its Bufala Yogurt, a richer yogurt than what’s made with cow’s milk. It now also offers Bufala Majestic, a semi-firm ripened cheese with a mixed rind that’s made by Lucille Giroux at Fromagerie Moutonnière. We fell in love with Majestic when we sampled it at Rendez-vous Gourmet Québec in Toronto on Monday. Creamy, with lots of character and a pinch of saltiness.

Élevages Buffalo Maciocia, located in Saint Charles sur Richelieu one hour northeast of Montréal, imported 285 water buffalo from Vermont in 2009. Since then, the herd has grown to 500 head with 150 giving milk at any time.

Water buffalo at Élevages Buffalo Maciocia.

Water buffalo at Élevages Buffalo Maciocia.

Louis Hébert, who manages the cheese operation for the Maciocia family, points out that water buffalo produce milk “rich in fat and protein which is very tasty and can be tolerated by many lactose intolerant people.”

It took five years to develop the water buffalo herd and the process of making the mozzarella the way owner Mario Maciocia wanted it to taste. Much trial and error, experts and equipment from Italy, and $300,000 from the federal and Quebec government helped make it happen.

The Maciocia mozzarella is not the first produced in Québec—the vast majority of the milk produced is still bought by the giant Saputo for factory processing—but Maciocia offers a hand-crafted product. The cheese is stretched and spun by hand, delivered to the consumer within 24 to 48 hours. The production happens Wednesday to Friday, destined for sale in delicatessens, cheese shops and restaurants from Thursday to Sunday.

Louis Herbert of Élevages Buffalo Maciocia. is flanked by Rebecca Guida and Alfredo Santangelo of Off the Bone Meat Products.

Louis Herbert of Élevages Buffalo Maciocia is flanked by Rebecca Guida and Alfredo Santangelo of Off the Bone Meat Products.

As is the case with cheese curds, freshness is one of the best guarantees of quality.

“There is nothing like eating a mozzarella made ​​in the morning,” says Mario Maciocia, something that is not possible with even the fastest transport plane from Italy.

The challenge of immediate distribution was not insurmountable, according to Louis Hébert. After all, Québecers already have experience in the field of rapid distribution of fresh products, thanks to the popularity of cheese curds. For both curds and mozza, quality is directly proportional to the time that elapses between the moment the cheese is made and when it arrives on your table.

Sources:

 

 

Jamie Kennedy: Good food as a way of life

Jamie Kennedy's first cookbook in more than a decade.

Jamie Kennedy’s first cookbook in more than a decade.

J.K. The Jamie Kennedy Cookbook is much more than a cookbook. It’s a warm and personal memoir by one of Canada’s most influential chefs connecting a collection of 121 of his favourite recipes—with appealing reportage photography rather than the highly stylized photos usually seen in cookbooks.

The new book is very much like J.K. himself: Personable, down to earth, without a hint of ego or pretense, with a vision of good food as a way of life seasoned by four decades at the leading edge of gastronomy in Canada.

Like no one before him, Jamie Kennedy popularized eating and cooking with local, sustainable and seasonal ingredients, a theme that runs through the book.

Official launch party at Gilead Café & Wine Bar last night.

Official launch party at Gilead Café & Wine Bar last night.

For cheese lovers, there are two chapters on cheese featuring a dozen recipes that we cannot wait to try—all using Ontario cheese, of course. Here’s a sampling:

  • Pickled Vegetables with Niagara Gold Fondue
  • Sheep’s Milk Cheese-Filled Squash Flower with Fresh Tomato Sauce
  • Potato Gnocchi with Thunder Oak Gouda Sauce
  • Wild Rice Crackers that are always included in J.K. cheese plates.

J.K. makes special mention of the cheddars from Black River Cheese, the gouda from Thunder Oak Cheese Farm, and Niagara Gold from Upper Canada Cheese. Cape Vessey, a firm goat cheese made by the original Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, is also cited. He gives credit to Petra Kassun-Mutch of Fifth Town and Ruth Klahsen of Monforte Dairy for helping to reshape and revitalize the artisan cheese industry in Ontario.

Those who have been fortunate enough to attend the Gastronomy on the Farm dinners on the Chef’s own farm in Prince Edward County, held in conjunction with The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, will recognize many photos and the anecdote about a sudden summer rain filling champagne flutes before the reception started.

Those who attended the Cooks & Curds Gala at the first two Cheese Festivals will find the recipes for Chef’s famed frites and his braised beef and braised oxtail poutines in the book.

What would a Jamie Kennedy event be without his famous J.K. Fries?

What would a Jamie Kennedy event be without his famous J.K. Fries?

Scattered throughout the book are testimonials and comments by a broad range of J.K. alumni, food writers, family members and other chefs. Michael Stadtlander, with whom J.K. launched legendary Scaramouche, provides the foreword. Three quotes:

Much of the food we enjoy in Canadian restaurants today is the result of Jamie’s work in the local food movement, as he has influenced generations of chefs who share his pioneering spirit and love for real food.

—Chef Michael Stadtlander, Eigensinn Farm and Hai Sai

Now I realize that just about every major trend that would blow through Toronto in the next decade was already encapsulated in (Jamie Kennedy’s) Wine Bar: Small plates. Reasonable prices. Deliberately casual ambiance. Do-it-yourself chacuterie and preserves. Very serious cheese.

Food writer James Chatto

Nobody ever says it, so I will: Jamie Kennedy is possibly one of the most important chefs in Canada in the last fifty years. Period. Ever. You get what I’m saying? What was Canadian food until forty years ago?

—Chef David McMillan, Joe Beef, Liverpool House and Vin Papillon

We obtain the obligatory autograph from Chef.

We obtain the obligatory autograph from Chef.

Much of the credit for the success of the book belongs to Ivy Knight, who helped J.K. write the text, and to Jo Dickins for the marvelous photographs. Ivy Knight says of the experience: “Jamie has been lauded for years, ever since, at age 25, he took the reigns as head chef at Scaramouche. It absolutely boggles my mind that he has never turned into a raging egomaniac, but instead is kind and calm and has his feet firmly on the ground. I can’t think of any other chef who’s been in the game this long who can still be found working the line during a lunch rush. ”

J.K. says it was truly a collaboration that lead to the finished product published by HarperCollins Publishers and sold by Amazon and Indigo.

It’s must-read. Order it online, buy it in a book store . . . or have lunch at Gilead Café & Wine Bar, buy the book there and ask Chef to autograph it.

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

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