Category Archives: Cheese/Cheese Related

Cheese Related news and reviews

The importance of the ACS–championing the ageing of cheese on wood

Volunteers help prep for the opening reception

Preparing for the Opening Reception of the 2014 American Cheese Society Awards

From Sue:  Another amazing and insightful entry into the world of Cheese–Kelsie Parsons was selected to be one of the TWO official cheese mongers for the American Cheese Society Awards–a huge honour- and here he reports back!  Go Kelsie!

For several years I have wanted to become involved with the American Cheese Society. It’s an organization that promotes and celebrates the work of cheesemakers (many of whom are also farmers and some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met). It supports the production of raw milk cheese, the aging of cheese on wood, and encourages its members to meet and exceed food safety standards. The American Cheese Society has existed as long as I have (since the summer of 1983) and has united the American cheese industry. The annual cheese conference is a great example of this unity – cheese people come together to learn, grow, cheer each other on, and celebrate each others wins.

The cheese spread at the New Member Reception, sponsored by Sartori

The cheese spread at the New Member Reception, sponsored by Sartori

Nearly 1000 people gathered in Sacramento, California at the end of July for the 2014 American Cheese Society conference. In attendance were cheese retailers, mongers, makers, affineurs, importers, distributors, scientists, educators, enthusiasts, government officials, and food service professionals. I’ll expand in more detail later, but throughout the five day event, the conference consisted of:

  • The annual Certified Cheese Professional exam
  • Several receptions
  • A pub crawl
  • A tradeshow area featuring manufacturers of bacteria, equipment, pasteurizers etc.
  • Presentations on topics such as food safety, genetically modified organisms, and microbiology
  • Tasting and pairing sessions
  • Scholar-in-residence sessions where cheesemakers met with experts to analyze and get feedback on their cheese
  • The Meet the Cheesemaker event where 75 producers from across North America sampled their cheese with attendees
  • Cheese themed breakfasts and a brunch
  • A cheese competition with 1,685 entrants and an awards ceremony
  • The HUGE Festival of Cheese where attendees could sample most of the products entered in the competition

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There was never a dull moment. Last year I attended the conference for only one day (to write my Certified Cheese Professional test) so 2014 was the first time I truly attended the conference. Saying it was a memorable experience would be an understatement. Randall Felts (from Whole Foods in Birmingham, Alabama) and I were selected as this year’s two Official Conference Cheesemongers.

Kelsie and Randall pose with Winnimere, the 2013 Best of Show cheese

Kelsie and Randall pose with Jasper Hill’s Winnimere, which was awarded Best of Show in 2013.

Randall and I were in touch over conference calls and email for several months prior to meeting in person. One email from Randall prior to the conference really stood out. It stated, “Any nervousness I feel is just that we live up to the great products that we are showcasing.  I’m sure we will showcase them great, but I have such a great respect for the producers for whom we will be plating that I want everything to be top tier just like the cheese.” Even before we met in person, we had connected. We understood that we were incredibly lucky to work with so many amazing cheeses and our aim was to ensure that each cheese was handled and presented as best it could be. We shared a great respect for the hard work of the cheesemakers and we knew every time we served a cheese, we would also be serving it to the people who laboured to create it.

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ACS Conference; inside our half-full/half-empty reefer truck

Behind the scenes at the conference there were five reefer trucks full of cheese. Four were home to cheese for the judging and competition and one truck was for all the events that Randall and I were responsible for. Every rack in our reefer truck was organized by day, by event, time, and cheesemaker. The first rack in the truck contained everything we’d need for the first event and furthest rack inside the truck was the last one we needed. Every cheese was in its place and there was no searching necessary to find it. We simply brought a rack out, cut and plated all the cheese, and arranged the tables for each session.

This is only about a quarter of the volunteers who helped set up the Festival of Cheese

This is only about a quarter of the volunteers who helped set up the Festival of Cheese

Besides all the wonderful cheese, the real highlight of the conference was the people I met and had the privilege of working with – Randall, the ACS staff, the presenters, and, most notably, everyone who wore a red “Cheese Guard” shirt – the volunteers. Roughly 70 volunteers helped Randall and I prepare cheese for tasting sessions, breakfasts, and receptions. Add in those who helped with the judging and competition, the cheese sale, and the incredible number of volunteers who helped set up the Festival of Cheese and it’s astounding how many people came together to make the conference a success.

I could never imagine working with a more talented and delightful group of people. All the volunteers were amazing, and together they made the conference possible.

Jess, one of the awesome volunteers, posing with a beautifully spun ball of Oaxaca cheese

Jess, one of the awesome volunteers, posing with a beautifully spun ball of Oaxaca cheese

Many volunteers were professional cheese mongers, some were students at a local culinary school, and some were locals who wanted to join in on the fun, but all loved cheese and worked together so efficiently and professionally that the whole process was absolutely seamless. It was a real pleasure working with so many colleagues in cheese who I have such an incredible respect and admiration for. I sincerely hope we meet again soon so we can relax and enjoy some cheese and a pint together.

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Jeremy Stephenson of Farms-for-City-Kids-Foundation accepting the Best of Show Award for Tarentaise Reserve

I’m planning to volunteer at next year’s conference in Providence, Rhode Island and, if you attend in the future, I encourage you to consider volunteering as well. It’s a ton of fun, a great way to meet some kick-ass cheese people, and the conference truly can’t run without the volunteers.

There’s much more that I’d love to share with you about the conference. This is just the start. Look for part two soon.

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The Cheesiry’s Pecorino- one of Calgary’s Top 25 Foods

Pecorino from Alberta's The Cheesiry

Pecorino from Alberta’s The Cheesiry

A few months ago I was fortunate enough to taste some amazing pecorino from Alberta and speak to Rhonda Headon the cheese maker who trained in Tuscany to bring the recipe back home where she began her business The Cheesiry.

If you’d like to try some of the cheese you can have it shipped from the Cheesiry by contacting them and for now–read my piece about Rhonda for the Globe and Mail.  Enjoy!

 

 

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So that was an unplanned 4 month hiatus…but back with SALADS!

Ally's Thai Noodle Salad Recipe in bowls brought home from Thailand

Ally’s Thai Noodle Salad Recipe in bowls brought home from Thailand

So the last post on this blog was October 9, 2013 and had I realized it would remain so until the new year I probably would have posted a “GONE FISHING” sign or something.   Which is all to say had I been realistic I would have scratched Cheese and Toast off the TO DO list for a bit and sent it on holiday to the south of France instead of letting it languish, unrefreshed for so many months.  We have made up– and the blog has accepted, grudgingly, my apology.  (Though has threatened to  crash without saving my content over the next little while as payback….)

Setting up to shoot Pancetta and Fingerling Potato Salad with Horseradish Creme Fraiche

Setting up to shoot Pancetta and Fingerling Potato Salad with Horseradish Creme Fraiche

In a nutshell; we were reno’ing our bathroom and the kitchen ceiling (yes just the kitchen ceiling) and that was going swimmingly until a house up the street popped onto the market–and we loved the house–and then we thought maybe we should just put in an offer…and then we had this new house and needed to sell old house which still had hole in kitchen ceiling….and my job situation changed and everything was topsy-turvy.  Including my kitchen as we did a few upgrades for the sale–so no cooking for a while.

Shredded Brussel Sprout, Kle and Green Apple with Lemon-Agave Dressing

Shredded Brussel Sprout, Kale and Green Apple with Lemon-Agave Dressing

Anyway–we moved, I was teary saying good-bye to the old home but the people that bought it seem to love it just as much (and they don’t have the mauve bathroom we had for 11 years!) and we have a great new house that has a great backyard that tad has already built a luge track in this winter (you know a sled-luge track).  AND……..

Putting counter space to excellent use during the salad shoot day

Putting counter space to excellent use during the salad shoot day

Counter Space! My kitchen feels humongous compared to the 1.5 feet of counter space I had before.  It’s like a dream, really.  Plus it came with a dishwasher (I’ve never had one since I left home for university, I was addicted after the first time I pressed SMART CYCLE)….and an old stove that broke and we had no choice but to replace–so now I have a new gas stove and went with the double oven (GE).  Just starting to experiment but think I will love it.

Trying to make your mouth water--steak for the steak salad (rember Chevy Chase ordering that in Fletch?)

MMMMMMMM! Sirloin.  (Remember Chevy Chase ordering the Steak Sandwich(es) in Fletch?)

But that is way too much about me.  Let me start with a few salad recipes from the “Month of Salads” project that Tad and I have been shooting and creating for the Globe.  Each weekday is February we have teamed up with the Life section to create a salad (he shoots them).  The link for last week’s five is here….and you can even photograph and submit your own faves…

Ally--co-salad conspirator and partner in cheese

Ally–co-salad conspirator and partner in cheese

I could not have done the project without my friend Ally–truthfully a full month of salads after last Fall/Winter’s shenanigans was an amazing opportunity but was somewhat overwhelming– but Ally came over and helped me prep (and offered a couple great recipes) like Asian Noodle Salad and Fennel Pomegranate Salad  (coming up for Valentine’s Day!)

Pasta with Browned Butter and Sage- Quick Fix in the Globe Feb 10

Pasta with Browned Butter and Sage- Quick Fix in the Globe Feb 10

And I owe a huge THANK YOU and apology to my friends and contributors Kelsie Parsons (Curds and Eh!) and Joahnne DuRocher (who was also moving yet managed to keep blogging and working full-time!) who have each written an amazing post for me (Kelsie on Grilled Cheese and Johanne sharing her spaghetti sauce recipe) and gave them to me in the fall and so I will FINALLY be posting them still in the midst of winter when we need comfort food.  Thank you guys for being so understanding (I think they were understanding, I would be understanding if they were not).

Arugula and Sirloin with a squeeze of lemon and olive oil

Arugula and Sirloin with a squeeze of lemon and olive oil

And congrats to Kelsie who has been chose to be one of the two cheesemongers for the American Cheese Society Competition taking place in Sacremento this year.  Huge honour.

So in other news, Ally and I have a brand new website in the works for The Cheese Table and we love our new logo–it is pretty exciting–let me know what you think!

Our new Cheese Table Logo-- LOVE--guess what it is!

Our new Cheese Table Logo in three colours– LOVE–guess what it is!

We are also testing out a first run at a monthly cheese club, if you would like some more info you can shoot us an email.  We have about two spaces left.

Otherwise we are continuing our series of Cheese Talks at McEwans and doing some private events.

And last but not least I’d like to start sharing some articles about food that I find interesting and maybe you would too.  Here are a couple pieces from WIRED magazine to get you thinking—first is about PEAK UMAMI

The first piece is on UMAMI

The first piece is on UMAMI

And the second– well— read and see what you think about Monsanto Perfect veggies– and don’t judge yet–its quite interesting  read.

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So, hopefully we’re kind of caught up–thanks to everyone who emailed to kick my butt into blogging again.  It is a pleasure to be back!

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Pan Con Tomate– it just SOUNDS good

photo by Tad Seaborn

photo by Tad Seaborn

It’s getting close to Friday which at our house means we’re running out of food, and I’m running out of ideas and energy.

Enter tomatoes on toast–which sounds much nicer being called Pan Con Tomate.  Thanks to the Spanish for this recipe–you literally toast some buns, rub with a garlic cloves and add some tomato pulp.  But the sum of the parts…….oh boy!!

Recipe details here at the Globe and Mail, Quick Fix.

YUM!  (and with Manchego– even more so)

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I will surrender counter space for a Panini Press

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The Hamilton Beach Panini Press

It just hit me–I really would use a panini press!  I mean I would right?  I love grilled panini, when I’m out and about and hungry, what is a better crisp, oozy and portable meal that a panini?  You can easily sneak them into movies–or keep them in your purse in a pinch (just while you text or create genius Instagram photos).  Even Tim Horton’s can do a half-decent job (I discovered this after finding only chip and burger stands to eat from when driving around PEI).

So I’m wondering-anyone have one and use it?? Or perhaps you can tell me I’m disillusioned, it will have the same fate as my George Forman grill…which wait a second–couldn’t that press panini?   Excuse while I go dig around in my basement.

Meanwhile check out these “18 Surprising Things You Can Make in a Panini Press” from BuzzFeed.

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Curds and Eh: Is it cheating to make cheese with pre-pasteurized milk?

Harvest Moon, Tiger Blue, Naramata Bench Blue and Okanagan Double Cream

Harvest Moon, Tiger Blue, Naramata Bench Blue and Okanagan Double Cream

CHEESE FOR THOUGHT–ANOTHER POST FROM KELSIE.  PLEASE LEAVE YOUR THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS!

One of my favourite blogs that I follow is Much To Do About Cheese. It’s written by Ian Treuer a home-cheesemaker from Edmonton, Alberta who maintains an honest and uncommon look into the world of a DIY cheesemaker. Recently he posed a question on his Facebook  page.  He asked, “Can a Cheese Maker be considered an Artisan Cheese Maker if they use pre-pasteurised milk? Why or Why Not?”

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Purchasing pre-pasteurized milk is a cost saving option for many small producers as High-Temperature Short-Time (HTST) pasteurizers cost a ton of money and even vat pasteurizers can be time consuming. Heating milk to 162F and holding it there for 16 seconds (or 145F for 30min) isn’t where the art of cheesemaking comes into play.

There are three small-scale professional cheesemakers that I know of in Canada that use pre-pasteurized milk. The cheesemaker at each factory produces every cheese by hand, adjusts the recipe according to the weather, the feel of the curds, and the taste and smell of the milk. Their cheeses are all unique. Not only do I consider them all to be artisans but they are also some of this country’s best.

The Stove-top where magic happens at Five Brothers

The Stove-top where magic happens at Five Brothers

Surrounded by vineyards in Penticton’s wine region are two cheese companies – Poplar Grove Cheese and Upper Bench Creamery. Both purchase jugs of pre-pasteurized milk and also cream from D Dutchmen Dairy, which is located 190km north in Sicamous on Shuswap Lake.  This isn’t a secret – Upper Bench proudly states the source of their milk on their website. D Dutchmen Dairy is known for their high-quality milk, flavoured cheeses, and their ice cream, which causes lineups that extend to the parking lot on a hot day. Their milk comes from their own herd of cows.

Adam Blanchard of Five Brothers

Adam Blanchard of Five Brothers

Five Brothers Artisan Cheese is the only artisan cheese company in Newfoundland. Cheesemaker Adam Blanchard actually purchases cartons of milk from his local Sobeys grocery store and then transforms it into cheese in stock pots on the stove-top. He started by making cheese in a friend’s kitchen but then decided to make a living doing it. He rented a commercial kitchen and the rest is history. There’s no way he could have afforded a pasteurizer when he started. Why give up on a dream if you can’t afford a $12,000 piece of equipment?

Perhaps several decades ago we could have asked whether cheese makers that use commercially available cultures instead of a mother culture could be artisanal. The industry has changed so much and now using mass produced culture is the norm. The basic ingredients have changed over the years too but as long as the figurative ‘hand of the cheesemaker’ is present in the cheese then I believe they deserve the title of artisan.

I’m not fond of debating the semantics of a term but I feel that labelling a producer as an artisan or not also suggests level of respect for producing a handmade product. Cheesemakers that use pre-pasteurized milk work incredibly hard, just like those that pasteurize on-site. I believe both deserve respect for labouring for long hours and transforming milk into my favourite food.

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For some reason I feel many people also associate a certain level of quality with the term artisan. That’s one aspect that is usually not debated when it comes to defining the term but it is just as possible for ‘artisan’ cheese makers to produce poor quality products as much as it’s possible for them to create extraordinary ones. What really matters, is not the label ‘artisan’ but the story of the cheese company (is it something that excites the customer and the owner is proud of?) and the quality of the products.

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Easy Pickled Cherries for Your Charcuterie Board

Home made pickled cherries in a jiff!  Photo by tad Seaborn

Home made pickled cherries in a jiff! Photo by Tad Seaborn

Why pickle pickles when you can pickle cherries? I know, I know you pickle cucumbers but it flowed better.  Anyway, this jar of pickled cherries has disappeared fast—with pate, with cheese, on burgers—-and so simple to make.  Pitting the 2 cups of cherries will be a slight pain in the butt, yet still speedy.  Honest.

And they’re ready to serve once chilled.  So you can enjoy them the same day–the same afternoon even.  After your workout that you didn’t want to do,  or once you’ve finished reading the last chapter in your book club novel (that being a reminder that I need to read some novels).

Ingredients  (recipe from my Quick Fix piece in the Globe)

2 cups (about 350g) pitted cherries

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3/4 cups water

1/8 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

pinch of chili flakes

sprig of rosemary

Method

Prepare 2 cups (about 350g) pitted cherries. In a small pot combine 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 3/4 cups water, 1/8 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds and 1 teaspoon black peppercorns. Add a pinch of chili flakes if desired. Bring to a boil. Add in the cherries and a sprig of rosemary and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Scoop the cherries into a sealable container (they will fit a 500 ml mason jar) and top up with the pickling liquid. Allow to cool slightly and refrigerate. They’re ready to serve once cold and will last in the fridge for a few weeks.

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