This post is part of a guest blog series by Kelsie Parsons.
The purpose of this trip was to learn the ways of the locals and to visit Newfoundland’s two cheese factories. Both Central Dairies and Five Brothers began production within the past 2 years and from talking with residents, no one can remember any commercial cheese factories ever existing in Newfoundland before.
Central Dairies mainly produces fluid milk but they recently decided to create value added products by making cheese. Their cheesemaker, Brad Quaile has an impressive resume with 21 years of experience split between St. Albert, Skotidakis, and Pine River cheese companies. Brad has developed their Edam, Gouda, and Swiss, which is Central’s specialty. The recipe calls for the Swiss to be aged for 50-80 days at 20˚C and flipped often. This creates an even eye (hole) formation and develops the nutty flavour typical of this style. To me, the Central Dairies Swiss is a decent cheese because it’s firmer and more flavourful than other commercial Swiss style cheeses, which too often seem to be flavourless and full of water.
Despite the name, Five Brothers Artisan Cheese, the company consists of only one guy making cheese (cheesemaker Adam Blanchard does have four brothers though). After my visit to Central Dairies, Adam and I met up at Yellowbelly brew pub to enjoy some of the best brews produced in Newfoundland. That was followed by dinner at Duke of Duckworth (as seen on Republic of Doyle), Adam’s pick for the best fish and chips.
The fish was served with fries covered in dressing (stuffing) and gravy; a classic Newfie dish.
There are many things that are awesome about Five Brothers Artisan Cheese. Adam is a trained chef but when it comes to cheesemaking he’s totally self-taught. Not only is Five Brothers the only artisanal cheesemaker in Newfoundland but it’s also North America’s Easternmost cheese factory and perhaps the smallest. Adam actually buys up to 150L of milk per week in 2L cartons from Sobeys grocery store and makes cheeses on a stove top. Wait, what? Is that even possible? It sure is but due to the small batch size it requires a lot of work. Adam began making cheese at home it was a huge hit with his family and friends. With their support, Adam built a commercial kitchen in a rented space where he hand crafts the cheeses and ages them in a series of fridges.
Adam Blanchard and I finally sat down to try his cheese a mere two hours before my flight off the island. On Adam’s desk sat a jar of bottled moose given to him by his Grandma, which he explained was a Newfoundlander specialty. I was eager to try it but due to the time constraint we skipped it and headed right for the cheese.
Handstretched mozzarella is one of Five Brothers’ most popular products. It’s firmer than Italian mozzarella but has a lovely layered texture and a flavour of cream. This is a cheese that I could just keep eating. Up next we tried the Latin-American style Queso Fresco, which has a taste of cream with a citrus tang and can be crumbled in salads or fried in oil. Five Brothers also produces goat and cow milk cheddars aged in yellow wax. I tried the goat cheddar and was amazed at the intensity of the flavour that developed after only 2 months. You sure can’t compare this cheese to your typical mild cheddar! The flavour lingers on your palate and would be perfect in pesto or grated in savoury dishes.
Adam has a loyal following and sells out of all his cheese every week at the farmers market. His cheeses can also be found on the plates of the finest restaurants in St. John’s such as Aqua Kitchen|Bar and Chiched Bistro. I think it’s awesome that Brad and Adam are producing cheese for the Newfoundland market but the real thanks go to the people of Newfoundland for supporting these ventures.
I fell in love with St. John’s. It is at the top of my list of cities to return to. With new restaurants popping up, a relatively new farmers market (this is its 5th summer) and 2 cheese companies the food scene seems to be blooming. One of my favourite foodie spots is Rocket Food, a café and bakery with delicious food and friendly staff (though I really didn’t meet anyone in St. John’s that I’d consider unfriendly). Downtown St. John’s is full of young people, hip shops, hangouts and of course the legendary George St. which boasts the most bars per square foot on any street in North America. I spent a couple of nights out on George St. but details are still a little hazy and best not recorded.
The cheese movement in St. John’s is very much still in its infancy. The local cheeses aren’t perfect and the producers are continuing to learn and experiment with new products. Customers are vital to the development of a food community and local products so please give your cheesemaker feedback and ask for local cheese where you shop and eat. There’s something special happening in St. John’s right now and I can’t wait to return. To all those supporting local cheese I raise a pint of Yellowbelly Pale Ale in your honour!