Thea: Stunning new bandaged sheep cheddar from Mariposa Dairy

Award-wining Thea Bandaged Sheep Cheddar made at Mariposa Dairy.

The voicemail was brief and to the point: “Georgs, you must come and sample the new cheese from Pieter.”

The caller was Tammy Miller at Country Cheese in Ajax, my neighbourhood cheesemonger in Durham outside Toronto. I stopped by a few days later, and right away sent an email to Pieter van Oudenaren at Mariposa Dairy in Lindsay, Ontario:

“Wow, Pieter, Thea is a stunner! Tell me more so I can spread the word to Canadian cheese lovers.”

To the point, Thea is an outstanding bandaged cheddar made with Ontario sheep’s milk by the Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve division of Mariposa Dairy where Pieter has had a hand in developing aged cheese like Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar and Tania Toscano Sheep Cheese over the last nine years.

Hand-crafted in small batches using premium sheep’s milk from Miklin Farms near Georgina, Thea Bandaged Cheddar is made in the old world way by wrapping the cheddar wheel with cheesecloth which helps to age the cheese and preserve the flavour.

Cheesemaker Pieter van Oudenaren with young wheels of Thea in the aging room.

Aged nine months in a humidity-controlled aging room, the cheese yields a woody and buttery aroma, a sharp nutty profile with subtle caramel undertones. It has the sought after crystallization of a well-aged cheddar with a firm but creamy texture.

As Roxanne Renwick, a cheese specialist in Toronto, puts it: “Thea is rich and creamy yet full of tyrosine crystals. Sweet, salty and slightly tangy.”

The name Thea (along with the names Luuk, Taavi and Zander of truckles made at Mariposa Dairy) is a common Dutch name. It reflects the Dutch heritage of the VandenBerg family, Mariposa founders and owners, and the Dutch reputation for great cheese.

Cheesemaker Pieter van Oudenaren was born and raised in Bobcaygeon, a short drive from Lindsay. His parents emigrated from the Netherlands in the 1950s. The family name comes from Oudenaarde, a Flemish city in Belgium. Pieter’s father, Harry van Oudenaren, who is turning 95 this month, owned and operated an auto repair garage in Bobcaygeon for many years. Pieter took over the business and operated it for 27 years before the cheesemaking bug took hold nine years ago.

Since then, it has been one award after another for Lenberg Farms cheeses, including Grand Champion honours for Thea at this week’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

“What’s your secret in making such fabulous cheese?” we asked Pieter.

“A secret is a secret. In the words of Monty Python, ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers.’ I have been blessed with a great company and owners to work for and with. Good components, co-workers, a wife that supports and prompts me, and consultants that have helped me along the way to help me to tweak the recipes.”

Pieter describes himself as a learner: In recent years, he’s learned to sail a boat, drive a horse and carriage, and make maple syrup, in addition to making award-winning cheese.

He and his wife, Grace, who is executive secretary at Mariposa, have two daughters.

The Thompson family in the milking barn at Miklin Farms in Georgina.

Miklin Farms in Georgina is owned by Mike and Linda Thompson and operated with their children, Anna, Laura and Joe. The Thompsons have been farming sheep for 29 years. They currently have 1,000 breeding/milking ewes, milking 500 at a time year round. The breed of sheep is Rideau crossed with East Friesian.

Anna Thompson holds a lamb in her arms at Miklin Farms.

Thea is hand-made in relatively small quantities and thus is in limited distribution. Here are cheese retailers in Ontario that carry Thea:

Ask your cheesemonger to order Thea if she doesn’t carry it.

Distributors are Finica Food Specialties, Fromages CDA, Glen Echo Fine Foods, La Ferme Black River and Worldwide Specialty Foods.

He’s been stretching fresh mozzarella for more than 50 years

Mozzarella Master Angelo Pelosi has been stretching fresh mozza for 50 years. Click to watch him in action.

Have you ever seen how fresh mozzarella is made and stretched until it is butter-soft, milky and velvety? Have you inhaled the creamy aroma?

At the upcoming Artisan Cheese Night Market, Mozzarella Master Angelo Pelosi will demonstrate the ancient craft that he first learned more than 50 years ago in his native Puglia, the capital of fresh Mozzarella in Italy.

Angelo came to Canada to make cheese for the Borgo family at Quality Cheese in Vaughan, Ontario, a half-century ago. Now retired, he still enjoys coming to Quality Cheese to help train the next generation of Pasta Filata specialists and help out when things get busy.

Angelo will be stretching Mozzarella with cow’s milk. He also makes Trecche with fresh arugula, a classic recipe from Puglia. Angelo does private hand-stretching functions for weddings and food events as a side business.

At the Night Market, Angelo will demonstrate the craft at 2:00 p.m. during Session 1 and at 3:30 p.m. during Session 2, in booth space adjacent to Quality Cheese where the freshly made mozzarella will be sold to consumers.

Quality Cheese website: http://www.qualitycheese.com/#/

Night Market information and tickets: https://artisan-cheese-night-market-2019-tickets.eventbrite.ca

Pasta filata (Italian: “spun paste”) is a technique in the manufacture of a family of Italian cheeses also known in English as stretched-curd, pulled-curd, and plastic-curd cheeses.

Trecche or Treccia is a traditional braided shape made from fresh Mozzarella.

 

Le Pizy: Truly outstanding Québec farmstead cheese

Le Pizy: Outstanding farmstead cheese from Fromagerie La Suisse Normande.

We’ll go for months without Pizy, and then, when we taste it again, we fall in love all over again.

There is no question Le Pizy, created by Cheesemaker Fabienne Mathieu at Fromagerie La Suisse Normande in St.-Roch-de-L’Achigan, Québec, is one of Canada’s best farmstead cheeses. When it comes to aroma, flavour and texture, Pizy is simply outstanding, and pretty in appearance, too.

We were first introduced to Pizy while spending too much money on cheese one afternoon years ago at Marché Jean Talon in Montréal in the company of Vanessa Simmons, arguably Canada’s leading cheese sommelier.

Try and buy Le Pizy at the upcoming Artisan Cheese Night Market in Toronto.

Vanessa’s tasting notes tell all:

Pizy has and remains one of my favourite top 10 Canadian cheeses, for sure. It’s even better if you keep it past the best-before date on the package by at least a week or two or more.

The cheese has more yeasty notes when it’s young which develops into more of a mushroomy, slightly nutty flavour as it ages. It’s very pretty, with the most delicate hue of champagne.

This small, soft, surface-ripened pasteurized cow’s milk cheese is fashioned after the Swiss Tomme Vaudoise, due to its shape (small wheel) and size (only ½-inch thick). Le Pizy has a thick bloomy ivory rind, with a rich, dense, paste coloring between ivory and pearl. Experience big milky, fresh field mushroom aromas and a fresh lactic taste with a sweet tang when it’s young, softening out as it ages.

The hand-crafted cheese produced at Fromagerie La Suisse Normande represents the marriage of two cultures, Swiss and French. Cheesemaker Fabienne Mathieu comes from Switzerland, husband Frédérick Guitel who manages the farm comes from Normandy in France.

Their resulting cow, goat and sheep’s milk products are a marriage made in heaven. Cheeses are made from animals raised on the farm, in true “fermier” (farmstead) fashion.

Meet the Suisse Normande family, left to right : Fabienne (mother), Magaly, Bénédicte (both daughters work at the fromagerie), Freddy (father) and Thibaut (son who works at the farm).

Of their five children, three want to ensure the continuity of their parents’ work: Bénédicte and Magaly at the fromagerie and Thibault on the farm.

The fromagerie began its activities in 1995 on the farm 50 kilometres north of Montréal.

Fromagerie La Suisse Normande will be represented by Plaisirs Gourmets at Canada’s Artisan Cheese Night Market on June 6 in historic St. Lawrence Market’s Temporary North Hall in Toronto.

 —Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheesehead-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, is chairman of Canadian Cheese Awards and director of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. He’s hardly ever met a cheese he didn’t like.

Artisan Cheese Night Market returns to Toronto on June 6

TICKETS ARE SELLING QUICKLY, SO DON’T DELAY ORDERING YOURS!

Canada’s only Artisan Cheese Night Market is a unique sampling show where you try before you buy, located in Toronto’s historic St. Lawrence Market Complex, one day only, Thursday, June 6.

  • Try and buy the best artisan and farmstead cheeses in Canada
  • Meet cheesemakers from coast to coast
  • Try and buy artisan foods, charcuterie, chocolate and more
  • Sample Ontario wine, craft beer and cider, and spirits
  • Purchase and enjoy tasty eats from specialty food vendors
  • Live entertainment will keep the celebration going all night long.

Order your tickets right away as the event is sure to sell out!

To avoid overcrowding, the Night Market runs in three three-hour sessions, 12 noon to 3:00 p.m., 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Strictly 19+.

Admission to the Early-Bird Session 12 noon to 3:00 p.m. is $30.00 per person. Regular admission is $40.00 per person for Session 2 or Session 3. Click on the Eventbrite button to begin your order.

Eventbrite - Canada's Artisan Cheese Night Market 2019

 

 

Many of Quebec’s outstanding cheesemakers will be represented at this year’s Artisan Cheese Night Market in Toronto, appearing under the Amour & Tradition umbrella of Fromages CDA, a leading distributor of fine cheeses.

Your ticket covers sampling of award-winning Canadian cheese, charcuterie, chocolate,  artisan foods, olive oil, plus Ontario wine, craft beer and cider, and spirits. That’s correct, sampling is included in the price of admission. PLUS: Also included is an insulated souvenir tote bag for your purchases.

Order tickets in advance online, avoid having to line up to buy a ticket at the event and quickly access all the deliciousness via the Night Market’s Express Entrance.

Click here for information on attending as a group, having more fun and saving money!

Stonetown Artisan Cheese of St. Mary’s, Ontario, will be sampling and selling its many delicious cheeses inspired by centuries of cheesemaking in Switzerland.

HOW TO GET TO ST. LAWRENCE MARKET

For the Artisan Cheese Night Market, historic St. Lawrence Market’s Temporary North Hall at 125 The Esplanade will transform into a celebration of the best in Canadian cheese and other deliciousness.

Using public transit to get to St. Lawrence Market is a snap. Union Station, with GO, Via Rail and TTC subway stops, is an 11-minute walk. The Yonge subway stop at King is a 12-minute walk. The Market is mere minutes from TTC streetcar stops at Jarvis on the King and Queen lines. There also is a Jarvis bus that stops steps from the Market.

Taxi and Uber will get you there even quicker.

If you’re coming by car, designate a driver for a safe trip home as there will sampling of alcoholic beverages at the Night Market, if you’re so inclined. There will also be a cash bar.

In its debut in 2018, Canada’s only Artisan Cheese Night Market was a sell-out success—and a huge hit with cheese lovers.

If you’re driving, best place to park is the Green P parking garage with entrances at south end of Church Street and south end of Market Street:

Carpark 43 ~ St. Lawrence Garage ~ 2 Church Street
Also enter from Market Street just south of St. Lawrence Market
Rate: $2.50 / Half Hour
Capacity: 2,008 spaces (Yes, 2,008!)
Payment Options: Auto Express Pay Stations, Credit Card at Entry & Exit, Customer Assistance Booth
Accepted Forms of Payment: Bills, Coins, Charge (Visa / Mastercard / American Express Only)

OVERNIGHT ACCOMMODATIONS

Available at all price levels within walking distance of St. Lawrence Market.

WHO WE ARE

Canada’s only Artisan Cheese Night Market is produced by Cheese Lover Productions Inc. which also produces Canadian Cheese Awards and The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. In 2018, Artisan Cheese Night Market was first held in conjunction with Canadian Cheese Awards. Given the enthusiastic response from cheese lovers, the Night Market returns in 2019 as a stand-alone event.

Eventbrite - Canada's Artisan Cheese Night Market 2019

 

Best Bites: Ten most memorable Canadian cheeses of 2018

It’s time to bring the curtain down on another year and to recall the memorable Canadian cheese tasted during 2018—with the help of friends in fromage.

Plus an outstanding butter, one of several grass-fed butters that have appeared on the market this year.

Vanessa Simmons, cheese sommelier at Savvy Company and Savvy Cool Curds, the first artisan cheese-of-the-month club featuring hard-to-come-by cheese made across Canada, selected five very different cheeses:

Hatley Road – Fromagerie La Station, Compton, Québec

Hatley has been showing beautifully in 2018 on cheeseboards as a rich, full flavour washed-rind cheese made with organic farmstead milk. A blend of milky, fruity and nutty flavours balanced with salt. As far as award winners go, it’s not hard to see why!

Fleuron – Fromagerie de la Table Ronde, Sainte-Sophie, Québec

A natural, rustic, salt and pepper looking rind covers this elegant, tall column-shaped organic cow’s milk blue cheese. Inside hides a soft, often oozy, pale ivory paste with slate-grey veining, concentrated closer to the centre of the cheese. Earthy, woody and fungal aromas blend nicely with vegetal, creamy and slight salty flavours, making it the perfect mid-range blue for tasting pleasure.

Figaro – Glengarry Fine Cheese, Lancaster, Ontario

Ever since I started in the Canadian cheese industry, Figaro has made and remained on my Top 10 list.  Yeasty and rich, lactic, full of creamy, tangy flavour, it’s always a crowd-pleaser, disappearing in minutes!

Cranberry Chèvre – Mariposa Dairy, Lindsay, Ontario 

Cranberry Chèvre is nothing short of “wow” as a perfect blend of both sweet and savoury flavours where fruity goodness meets tarty tang rounded off by the mild spicy hint of cinnamon. As a final step in making the cheese, plump cranberries are hand-rolled onto the fresh chèvre logs to ensure full coverage and less damage to the fruit—guaranteeing a gorgeous display for your holiday cheese board.

Maggie’s Cheese Ball – Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères, Saint-Sixte, Québec

This holiday treasure is only available locally, and seasonally at Christmas time—made with love by Maggie Paradis. A blend of her local cow, goat and sheep milk cheeses, it’s a savoury sensation rolled in crushed pecans, rich and velvety in texture and sharp with a mild onion flavour.

Here are two picks from Jackie Armet, cheese co-ordinator at Canadian Cheese Awards and The Great Canadian Cheese Festival:

Grey Owl – Fromagerie Le Détour, Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac, Québec

At every meeting of the Awards and Cheese Festival organizing committee, I’m asked to bring a selection of Canadian cheeses for us to graze on while planning our cheese events. One cheese that stopped the discussion was Grey Owl. It was in perfect condition, with its beautiful contrast in paste and rind, and a dazzling flavour of lemon and tang in your month. It took us 20 minutes to get back to our meeting. It is cheese that always starts a conversation.

Mountainoak Farmstead 2-year Aged Gouda – Mountainoak Cheese, New Hamburg, Ontario

Everyone needs a go-to cheese. With a texture like parmesan, the subtle crunch, quality milk and consistency, you can’t help snacking on this cheese. Well done, Mountainoak!

For Janice Beaton of Janice Beaton Cheese Partners, there is only a single highlight:

Big Momma – Monforte Dairy, Stratford, Ontario

Hands down for me this year’s Best Bite was Big Momma, from Ruth Khlasen and Monforte Dairy. It blew me away. Perhaps I had the good fortune of tasting from a sublime piece—lucky me! The combination of pillowy, creamy smooth texture and the outstanding flavour of water buffalo milk, it t was all sweetness and light. With a good measure of enduring flavour underpinning the whole experience: gently lactic and subtly earthy. Wowza! It’s been a while since I’ve been transported when cheese hits my palate. Big Momma took me there!

Whenever we visit La Belle Province, we seek out outstanding cheese that we cannot find in Ontario, fromage that is provincially licensed and thus not available outside Québec. At Yannick Fromagerie, in the Vieux Limoilou neighbourhood of Québec City, Nathalie Filion, introduced us to one such cheese:

Kénogami – Fromagerie Lehmann, Hébertville, Québec

Kénogami, a soft washed-rind beauty made by Fromagerie Lehmann with thermized milk from Brown Swiss cows in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. It presents a wonderful soft, herbal aroma and tastes of cream, butter and nut.

The Lehmann family is very conscientious about the care they provide both to their animals and to their pasture. The farm uses no GMOs, no pesticides and no chemical fertilizer. They rely on a variety of wild plants to feed the small herd in the summer and in the winter they feed them hay and grain produced on the farm.

Curé-Hébert – Fromagerie l’Autre Versant, Hébertville, Québec

There is something special about the climate and the soil in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region as the final outstanding cheese of the 2018 Top 10 comes from a fromagerie a few kilometres from Fromagerie Lehmann.

Curé-Hébert is semi-soft, washed-rind farm cheese made with raw milk drawn from the Fromagerie l’Autre Versant’s herd of Ayrshire cows. Its orange-brown rind is partially covered by a fluffy white coat. Curé-Hébert features a mild aroma of cream, butter, mushroom and a hint of sweetness (honey or caramel). It tastes very slightly rustic and sweet.

Andy Shay, a long-time friend in fromage who recently moved from Sobeys Ontario to oversee cheese and charcuterie at Jan K Overweel Ltd., threw us a curve, albeit a welcome one:

Can-Dairy founders Mitch Yurkiw and Drew McIver.

Actually, mine is not cheese, but butter, and a tiny amount of cheese. Emerald Grasslands sets a new benchmark in the fast-growing Canadian butter category. Clarksburg-based Can-Dairy founders Mitch Yurkiw and Drew McIver are trying to make the world a better place, one delicious pat of butter at a time!

They contract milk only with Jersey cow farmers, known for their extra thick and yellow cream. But these are not just ordinary Jersey cows, they are certified grass fed on regenerative (sustainable) organic farms. With this amazing milk, Emerald Grasslands churns, a more gentle process on the fat structure, the butter and produces 84% MF butter—perfect for baking pastries.  For their salted version they sourced hand-harvested sea salt from Vancouver Island Salt Company, near Courtenay, British Columbia.

The result of all this care in sourcing and production is a mind-blowing, super-creamy butter that is rich and with floral notes, a rusticity of cows and just the right hint of salt. Truly. the way to make the most of an artisan crusty bread.  We rarely have a chance to taste the wonders of Echire or Isigny St. Mere, but now, maybe that is OK.

Rich and Drew are next using some of their milk for making Cheddar. I had the chance to taste an early prototype and as a guy who buys Iles aux Grues 2-year cheddar by the 40 lb block, I can tell you we should all hope to see this cheese in a store one day soon!

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

Video Wednesday: Brief history of cheese

Award-winning cheese board for holidays, or any occasion

Here are five sure bets for an outstanding cheese board at Christmas. They are the five highest-scoring cheeses in the final round of judging at the 2018 Canadian Cheese Awards, the biggest cheese judging and competition in the land.

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