Tag Archives: Canada

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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Asparagus Season–make pesto with your spring veggies

photo by Tad Seaborn

photo by Tad Seaborn/ click to enlarge  (not to enrage)

Here’s a recent favourite for the Globe “Quick Fix” column.  The recipe is with the article HERE.

It’s so hard not eat a whole lot of pine nuts when making pesto–almost mindlessly–and then I keep reminding myself that they’re a kazillion dollars for a handful–probably worth more than Jack’s beanstalk seeds.  But so yummy.

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And a little reminder if anyone is thinking about attending the Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton June 1-2, you can get a discount through the blog.  Hope to see you there!

SR

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Curds and Eh: TGIF at Fromagerie du Presbytère (get the scoop in Kelsie’s video)

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Kelsie is back with an amazing video about the festivities at Fromagerie Presbytere and some cool viz of cheesemaking taking place.  If you want to read more search “Curds and Eh” in the sidebar.  Or focus on Kelsie’s favourite new Canadian cheesemakers from 2012.  -SR

People often ask me what my favourite cheese is and I find that it’s such a hard question to answer. I usually change the question and respond, “Oh there are so many, but right now I’m enjoying ___________” or “well, if you were to limit my choices to goat milk blue cheeses from the Gulf Islands in British Columbia then I’d have to choose_______.”

But I wouldn’t hesitate if someone restricted all my future cheese consumption to only one fromagerie (ie. cheese factory). Before the challenge left their mouth, I’d blurt out “Fromagerie du Presbytère!”

Making cheese at Fromagerie-du-presbytere

Making cheese at Fromagerie-du-Presbytere

The aptly named Fromagerie du Presbytère is based out of a renovated Presbyterian rectory in Ste-Élizabeth-de-Warwick in the Centre-du-Québec region. It is home to two cheese companies, Fromagerie du Presbytère, maker of the multi award-winning Louis d’Or (among others); and Fromagerie Nouvelle France, producer of the multi award-winning Zacharie Cloutier.

There are three main reasons why I’d choose this fromagerie: the passion of the cheesemakers, their extraordinary cheeses and the community that comes together to support them.

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Jean Morin serves samples of Louis d’Or at the party

The Cheesemakers

Jean Morin (Fromagerie du Presbytère) and Marie-Chantal Houde (Fromagerie Nouvelle France) are always smiling. They are welcoming and playful and their passion and love of cheese is obvious. Together, they are on a mission to make the best cheese in the world and seem to be having a great time doing it.

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Laliberte cheese  triple cream cheese

The Cheeses

Between the two cheese companies, they make every style of cheese that I need. There are fresh cheddar curds, a rich triple cream, a sweet and creamy blue, a raw alpine style cheese, and a raw sheep cheese similar to Manchego. Both companies make extraordinary cheeses, the names of which often evoke the rich local heritage and culture.

Laliberté is named after Alfred Laliberté, a sculptor from Ste-Elizabeth-de Warwick who became a founding member of the Sculptors Society of Canada. Unlike his sculptures which were typically made from marble or bronze, the cheese is soft and melts in the mouth like butter. Laliberté is a triple cream with a bloomy rind and boasts flavours of vegetables, fresh mushrooms and cream. It’s a truly indulgent cheese.

Louis d’Or is named after a French gold coin and shares its name with the Morin family farm. This cheese is made in 40kg wheels, has a nutty flavour similar to a Swiss Gruyere and seems to win every competition in which it’s entered. It was crowned the Grand Champion of the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, earned a 3rd Place (Best of Show) spot at the 2011 American Cheese Society competition, and won five awards at the 2012 Selection Caseus in Quebec.

Zacharie Cloutier

Zacharie Cloutier

Zacharie Cloutier has the same braided reed patterned rind as Manchego but lacks the wax coating of its Spanish ancestor. This washed rind cheese has flavours of nuts and hay and is one of my favourites (I have many favourites but sheep cheeses have a special place in my heart). Zacharie Cloutier shares its name with an early settler of New France who happens to be a distant relative of Marie-Chantal Houde (and other Canadian celebrities such as Alanis Morisette, Louis St Laurent, Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion and Shania Twain, seriously).

Marie-Chantal separates the curds and whey

Marie-Chantal separates the curds and whey

Recently, Jean and Marie-Chantal collaborated and released a cheese made from a combination of their milks, raw Holstein and Jersey milk from Presbytere and raw sheep milk from Nouvelle France. The resulting cheese is named Le Pioneer, weighs in at 40kg and has been aged for a year. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m anxious too. It promises to be another outstanding product from two of the very best cheesemakers in Canada.

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The Community

The population of Ste-Élizabeth-de-Warwick literally doubles on Friday evenings during the warmer months of the year. Hundreds of visitors set up tables and chairs on the yard of the rectory where they enjoy fresh cheese with wine and beer. A retired baker bakes breads and sweets on site, musicians play from the balcony of the rectory, and people make new friends and catch up with old ones.

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The Friday gatherings are, in a way, a celebration of fresh cheese. While visitors to the fromagerie eat, drink and are merry on the grounds of the rectory, Jean, Marie-Chantal and their team are busy making cheese inside. The fresh cheese is available at three stages during the production process:

4pm – Fromage de petit lait – curds in whey. To be eaten from a bowl with a spoon.

5pm – Slab cheese – unsalted, unmilled, slabs of cheese (this isn’t cheddar yet!). Customers can sprinkle salt to add extra flavour.

6pm – Fromage en grain – AKA cheddar curds. Straight from the vat to the customers! Warm curds are a real treat.

Louis D'Or at the American Cheese Society Competition

Louis D’Or at the American Cheese Society Competition

This past summer I spent a Friday evening at Fromagerie du Presbytère. Their Friday parties are, perhaps the most honest celebration of cheese I’ve witnessed. There’s no corporate sponsorship, no advertising, no pretension, and no need to buy tickets. It’s simply a bunch of cheese lovers coming together to celebrate the work of two talented cheesemakers.

Here’s a little video my buddy Ian Langohr and I put together about our experience.

Weather permitting, Fromagerie du Presbytère will host the first Friday fête of 2013 on April 19th and they will continue EVERY Friday afternoon until the autumn.

I seriously hope no one will actually restrict all my future cheese consumption to just one fromagerie but if they did I think Fromagerie du Presbytère would be a great pick.

Now, if you were challenged to only eat cheese from a single fromagerie (it doesn’t have to be French), who would you choose and why? (You can be sneaky like me and choose two if you want)

And seriously, how can you actually choose one cheese to be your favourite!?

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Canadian Cheese Grand Prix -Behind the Scenes as a Judge

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The Jury for the 2013 Cheese Grand Prix. Photo courtesy of Dairy Farmers of Canada.

There we are, all eight soft-lit happy cheese eaters.  I thought I would introduce you to my co-jury members from our Grand Prix judging last weekend and mention how proud I was to be a part of this team!

Left to right:  Moi, Chef Michael Howell, Allison Spurrell (owner Les Amies du Fromage in BC), Gurth Pretty (Cheese Buyer for Loblaw), Chef Danny St. Pierre, Reg Hendrickson(with Dairy Farmers of Canada), Ian Picard (VP of Fromagerie Hamel in Montreal) and Jury Chairman Phil Belanger who has been with the competition since its beginning in 1998.

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Can you guess what cheese I am about to taste? Your guess is as good as mine!

For a behind the scenes report on tasting 225 cheeses in 48 hours check out today’s Spread column.  And here are some more photos of the event.

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Photo Courtesy of Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Here we are evaluating the soft bloomy rinds and Allison is trying to convince me it is normal protocol to pick up the wheel and take a bite from the edge (hazing for the newbie).  No, not really, but it it was tempting.

Judging the firm washed-rinds.  Photos courtesy of Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Judging the firm washed-rinds. Photos courtesy of Dairy Farmers of Canada.

All of the Nominees have been announced and you can find the list here 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Finalists.

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Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Judging Weekend

My uniform for the weekend.

My uniform for the weekend.

Hello from Montreal.  If you have seen any of my tweets from the last day or so you will know that I have had the honour of being on the jury for the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.  The event takes place every two years and is organized by The Dairy Farmers of Canada (so it is all cow’s milk cheese).  Cheesemakers across Canada can enter.

Sue poses with Washed Rinds

Here I am (kind of blurry) standing in front of two (of 4 total) tables which were being prepared for the Washed Rind category.  See how goofy happy I look!  You would not believe how many lovely cheeses we were surrounded by.  And smelled of by the end of the afternoon.

Washed Rinds set up

This is a bit of a better view.  Recognize anything?  We taste everything blind so have no idea which cheese has won until the results are tallied up.

Tasting Washed Rinds

Judges Allison Spurrell of Les Amies de Fromage in Vancouver, Chef Danny St Pierre (QC) and Chef Michael Howl (Nova Scotia).

Above are some of my co-jury members very seriously tasting cheese.  We all want to respect the work the cheese makers have put in so we do out best to be objective and analytical—as well as look for that “WOW” factor (amongst over 200 cheeses!).

Today we judged from 9 until about 4:30 and covered two cheddar categories (defined by age), washed rinds, fresh cheeses, semi-soft cheese and blue.

Blue Cheese

In a funny way though blue would seem the most challenging category (for palate fatigue) young cheddars are also tough–they are mild and subtle and you must really concentrate to not miss flavour and nuance when tasting many at a time.

I will write no more as we’ll all be going out to dinner soon (what? we had a 2 hour break after 7 hours of cheese eating, time to eat.)  Tomorrow we finish choosing the category champions and ultimately decide on the Grand Prix winner.

Will write more about the experience hopefully for Swallow and perhaps even for the Globe.

Meanwhile, I just sit here and think, “How cool is this!”   (But also, “no I don’t want yogurt for breakfast or no cream in my tea please.”)

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Curds and Eh: Best New Cheesemakers 2012 by Kelsie Parsons

The Cheesiry's Washed-Rind Pecorinos

Alberta’s The Cheesiry produces washed-rind Pecorinos

(Another amazing post–maybe one of the best so far– from Kelsie Parsons to look back over 2012 in cheesemaking.  For more of Kelsie’s blogs just type “Curds and Eh” into the search window on the home page or select Curds and Eh under CATEGORIES.  And for intro to his adventure click here.   Now I can’t wait to read his book!! SR)

This is the time of year when many people reflect on the past year. What’s new? What happened? What are the highlights?

2012 was a pretty awesome year for me. After years of dreaming, I finally took time off work and travelled across Canada to write a book about Canadian cheese. But this post isn’t about me, it’s about the wonderful people I met along the way.

Five Brothers, Nfld: Mozzarella, Goat Cheddar and Queso Fresco

Five Brothers, Nfld: Mozzarella, Goat Cheddar and Queso Fresco

It seems like every couple of weeks there’s a new cheese factory popping up somewhere across Canada. What an exciting time to be involved in cheese! Through this post I’d like to call attention to some of the best new cheesemakers out there.

In no particular order, here is my list of the top cheesemakers that began making cheese within the past couple of years. Some are new to the cheese industry, others have been working in it for years but only recently started their own cheese companies. Keep an eye out for their cheeses and if you get the chance take a wedge home to enjoy.

Jeff Fenwick-Back Forty

Jeff Fenwick-Back Forty

Back Forty (Lanark Highlands, Ontario) – Jeff Fenwick

Back Forty Cheese has been around for many years but this past year Jim Keith sold his company to Jeff and Jenna Fenwick. They’re a young couple who decided to move from Hamilton, ON to a beautiful property in the Lanark Highlands in Eastern Ontario. Jeff is the cheesemaker and Jenna is a talented textile artist who transformed Jim’s old sheep barn into her studio.

Bonnechere

Bonnechere

Bonnechere is one of my favourite cheeses ever. Jim Keith styled it after a rare French cheese and it’s actually scorched over an open flame, which gives it a unique toasted appearance. When Jim put his home and business up for sale I was terrified that we’d lose this awesome cheese. Fortunately, Jeff spent several months working with Jim to learn his techniques and Bonnechere continues to be as nutty and delicious as ever. Jeff is also producing Back Forty’s three other raw sheep milk cheeses – Madawaska, Flower Station Feta, and Highland Blue. Rumour has it that he has plans to create a new cheese as well. I can’t wait to try it.

Gunns Hill Cheese board

Gunns Hill Cheese board

Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese (Woodstock, Ontario) – Shep Ysselstein

Based just outside of Woodstock, ON, Shep Ysselstein is the owner and cheesemaker at Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese. Shep was raised on a dairy farm and became interested in making cheese after a trip to Thunder Oak Cheese Farm. He spent some time working at a farmstead cheese factory in the Finger Lakes region of New York and then apprenticed at Natural Pastures Cheese Company in Courtenay, BC. A highlight of his career was working in the Swiss Alps producing a cheese known as Berner Alpkäse. There, Shep and another cheesemaker milked 30 cows morning and night and spent their days making cheese.

Shep sniffs a core sample of Handegg

Shep sniffs a core sample of Handegg

Shep’s experience in Switzerland had a huge influence on him. He now creates 3 varieties of washed rind cheeses influenced by the ones he made and ate in Switzerland. His 20-25kg Handegg, is styled after Berner Alpkäse and named after the Swiss town where he made it.

Shep shows of a wheel of Five Brothers

Shep shows off a wheel of Five Brothers

One of Shep’s other cheeses is known as Five Brothers because he in fact has 4 brothers (two of which work on the family farm tending to their large herd of dairy cows and crops). On the outside, Five Brothers looks like a Gouda but cut it open and large eyes (holes) are revealed giving it the appearance of Emmenthal. The flavour is subtly sweet, with a nuttiness that increases towards the rind and the floral aromas of this cheese are wonderful. I highly recommend Gunn’s Hill cheeses.

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Cheese maker Adam Blanchard

Five Brothers Artisan Cheese (St. John’s, Newfoundland) – Adam Blanchard

Speaking of Five Brothers… another one of my favourite new cheesemakers is Adam Blanchard. He owns Newfoundland’s only artisanal cheese company – Five Brothers Artisan Cheese. Despite the name, the company consists only of Adam (though, like Shep, Adam does have 4 brothers). Five Brothers produces perhaps the smallest volume of cheese of all Canadian cheese makers. Adam doesn’t have an expensive pasteurizer, a huge vat or other impressive equipment.

The stov top and fridges where the Magic happens

The stov top and fridges where the Magic happens

His production facility consists of a commercial kitchen where he makes cheese in stock pots on the stove top and he cuts the curds with a fillet knife. He ages his cheeses in reworked refrigerators. Five Brothers produces mozzarella, queso fresco, cheddar, brie and the occasional blue. Restaurants in St. John’s feature Adam’s cheeses on their menus and he also sells his cheese at the farmers market where it regularly sells out.

Fice Brothers Aged, Cheddar-style cheese

Five Brothers Aged, Cheddar-style cheese

Adam is a chef by trade and is seriously into cheese and food culture. He has only been making cheese for a short while but I know he’s taking every opportunity to learn as much knowledge as possible about his trade (he recently completed a cheesemaking course in Texas).

From my brief stay in Newfoundland, I could tell that Adam is starting something really special. I seriously wish I could be in St. John’s so I can see his line-up of cheeses grow and evolve.

Ron Muise of Wandering Sheperd holding Lauchies Tomme

Ron Muise of Wandering Shepherd holding Lauchie’s Tomme

Wandering Shepherd (Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia) – Ron Muise

Ron Muise worked as a chef for years near Bath, England. He returned to Cape Breton Island, where his ancestors have lived since 1620 and he now has two young children, raises and milks sheep, and makes cheese. He says he left the restaurant business because he grew tired of working 18 hour days but I think Ron likes keeping busy.

Wandering Shepherd--Check out that Rind!

Wandering Shepherd–Check out that Rind!

Ron’s creativity in the kitchen translates well into his small cheese business Wandering Shepherd. When I visited, Ron was ripening 8 varieties of blue cheeses. He says, “As a cheesemaker you should follow your heart. You’re going to do what you love and I love blue cheese.”

Like most chefs, Ron enjoys experimenting and tweaking his recipes. He recalled a recent batch of blue that turned out particularly well but the recipe was written on scraps of paper that went through the wash. No worries, Ron laughed it off explaining that he remembers how he created that batch.

Besides blue cheeses, Wandering Shepherd also produces a bloomy rind cheese, clothbound cheddar and natural rinded cheeses such as Lauchie’s Tomme named after his son, Lauchland.  (More on East Coast cheesemakers)

Simon Hamel stacks trays of cheese in a misty ripening room

Simon Hamel stacks trays of cheese in a misty ripening room

L’Atelier (Sainte-Helene-de-Chester, Quebec) – Simon Hamel

Simon Hamel used to work at Fromagerie Tournevent (makers of Chevre Noir) and Fromagerie Eco-Delices (producers of some wonderful raclette) but he’s now working at La Moutonniere and making his own cheeses there under the name L’Atelier.

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Le Chevre a Ma Maniere

In a previous Curds & Eh! post I predicted that Simon’s ripened goat cheese, Le Chevre a Ma Maniere, would be winning top awards. Since then it won best artisanal goat cheese at the 2012 Caseus awards and it also placed third overall. Congratulations Simon!

While Simon showed me around La Moutonniere’s ripening rooms, he picked up a wheel of aged cheese, pointed to a reddish spot on it and said, “this is my favourite kind of mold, it tastes just like mushrooms!” He scraped it off and we savoured the flavour. No cheese, just mold. It’s that kind of passion and attention to detail that is needed to create an exquisite cheese such as Ma Maniere.

Marie Chantal Houde of Fromagerie Nouvelle France makes cheddar

Marie-Chantal Houde of Fromagerie Nouvelle France makes cheddar

Fromagerie Nouvelle France (Sainte-Elizabeth-de-Warwick, Quebec) – Marie-Chantal Houde

At Fromagerie Nouvelle France, Marie-Chantal Houde creates Zacharie Cloutier, a washed rind sheep cheese aged for 6 months. The rind of Zacharie Cloutier resembles an unwaxed Manchego or Petit Basque and the flavour is reminiscent of nuts and hay. It’s one of my favourite cheeses. Many others have picked it as their favourite cheese as well; in its first year of production, Zacharie Cloutier won as the grand champion of the 2011 Caseus awards and then placed first in its category in 2012!   (very worth seeking out but sadly it is very hard to find outside of Quebec last I checked with the distributor, merde SR)

Marie-Chantal didn’t win these awards by accident. She studied cheesemaking in Poligny, France; has worked as a consultant helping artisan producers develop recipes and she teaches classes at the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese. I would love to sit down with her and soak up some of her cheese knowledge.

This summer I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon watching Marie-Chantal work. She whistles and sings as she makes cheese and constantly has a huge smile. It’s obvious that Marie-Chantal absolutely loves what she does.

The Cheesiry (Kitscoty, Alberta) – Rhonda Zuk Headon

Rhonda...photo courtesy of www.osolmeatos.com

Rhonda…photo courtesy of http://www.osolmeatos.com

When I arrived at The Cheesiry, Rhonda made a couple of baa-lattes, lattes made with sheep milk, and we immediately bonded over our shared love of sheep milk and all things Italian. To celebrate her 30th birthday, Rhonda spent 3 months travelling Italy by herself. She fell in love with Italy and before she returned to Canada she began planning her next trip. Four months later she was back in Tuscany working in a restaurant in Montalcino and then on a farm near Pienza where she learned how to make pecorino (pecorino is the generic Italian term for sheep cheese). The farmer eventually let Rhonda make the cheese by herself, which must have been quite daunting but also a huge confidence booster.

The Cheeseirys Pecorino

The Cheeseirys Pecorino

Rhonda took her new skill with her back to Alberta where she now milks 88 ewes. Through the aptly named Cheesiry, Rhonda produces a variety of pecorino cheeses, including the one that she made in Italy. Her pecorinos have rustic, textured rinds and big bold flavours. Quello deliziosso formaggio!

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Shana Miller and Kelsie pose in front of an Upper Bench mural

Upper Bench (Penticton, British Columbia) – Shana Miller

Like most of the other cheese makers on this list Shana Miller isn’t new to the cheese world, she worked as the cheesemaker at Poplar Grove for years. This year she launched Upper Bench Winery and Creamery with her husband Gavin, a well-respected and very skilled winemaker.

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Both wine and cheese are made under the same roof at their facility in Penticton, BC. Shana displays a creativity and ingenuity in creating her rich and complex pasteurized cow milk cheeses. My personal favourites are King Cole, a Stilton-sized creamy blue; Okanagan Sun2, a square washed rind cheese; and Grey Baby, a surface ripened blue. They’re all perfect for indulging in with a (couple) bottle(s) of wine. Upper Bench is a must-visit spot for any foodie visiting the Okanagan Valley.

Upper Bench cheeses

Upper Bench cheeses on a campground cheese board

There are many other cheesemakers that have started producing cheese within the past couple years but these are my top picks for best new cheese makers. I’m sure this won’t be the last time you hear about them.

To all the above cheesemakers, thank you for your hard work, for taking a risk, following your passion and working everyday to make some of the best cheeses out there. I admire all of you and I can’t wait until we meet over cheese again.

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Curds and Eh: Breaking News-Fifth Town Cheese Back in Production

This scoop is by Kelsie Parsons.–SR
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Exciting news for all the curd nerds out there!
After closing their doors 8 months ago, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese has now been bought. Today is the first day back for a couple of the Fifth Town employees who are busy cleaning the plant and preparing for construction to start.
Fifth Town will start making cheese again in 8-12 months.
Cape Vessey (coutesy of the Great Canadian Cheese Festival)

Cape Vessey (courtesy of the Great Canadian Cheese Festival)

A year is a long time but it’s comforting to know that we’ll soon have access to they’re prized cheeses again. I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll continue to make Cape Vessey, Lemon Fetish, Isabella, Operetta…and many others.
Update Jan 9: Confirmed that Fifth Town was sold to Patricia Bertozzi (of Bertozzi Importing) in Nov 2012. Her daughter Patricia Bertozzi is the new owner.
Background on the situation can be found at this post for cheeselover.ca , and here for the official closing news. SR

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Curds and Eh, Eps 8: Home Curdy Home, Kelsie Parsons reflects on his cheese tour

Say Hi to Kelsie if you see him around–he’s easy to spot.

This post is part of a guest blog series by Kelsie Parsons.   See the Globe and Mail piece about his travels.

As August came to an end so did my cheese travels. I now keep my food in a fridge, know exactly where I’ll sleep each night and I spend my days on my computer writing about cheese. There is a certain comfort to being home and having a work routine but I do miss being on the road driving every day, interviewing cheese makers and meeting their cows, goats and sheep.

Checking out Brendan’s beehives

The drive home went quicker than expected. I started in Naniamo, took a ferry to Vancouver, visited two cheesemakers then drove to Nelson, BC to visit my brother. We spent a day together checking out his beehive and watching Kokanee (fresh water salmon) spawn. The next day I hit the road again and visited Kootenay Alpine Cheese in Creston, BC then drove to Regina.

Calf at Kootenay Alpine Cheese

The next day I drove from Regina to Thunder Bay, slept in the Walmart parking lot and then did a long haul home to Stratford, ON. Three and a half months on the road sounds like a long time but it meant I only had a couple of days to spend in each city. To me the summer was a whirlwind tour of Canada but I discovered many cities that I’d love to return to.

Kokanee spawning in BC

While in a café in Winnipeg, I learned their wifi password is “every day I live my dream” (without the spaces). That phrase really stuck with me. I’m so fortunate to be studying something that I love and to work towards a book that up until now I’ve only dreamt about writing. It may sound strange (to some people) but I actually think about cheese all day and occasionally I dream about it at night. It’s kind of an obsession.

When I started in the cheese business I worked for Gurth Pretty, author of The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal and Fine Cheese. In 2006, when Gurth’s book was published it was groundbreaking. No one had ever written such a comprehensive survey of Canadian cheesemakers. I was inspired by Gurth to follow my passion for cheese and to write a book of my own. By writing a book, my goal is to help others discover the world of cheese made in Canada. There are amazing cheeses, cheesemakers and mongers across the country and they deserve to be recognized!

Forms filled with Curds at Salt Spring Island Cheese

Over the past 3.5 months I visited cheesemakers in all 10 provinces and drove over 25,000km. I sampled cheese from 118 Canadian cheese producers and took thousands of photos. I flew to St. John’s, Newfoundland to visit 2 new cheesemakers and took a five hour ferry to Iles-de-la-Madeleine just to visit a cheesemaker. Every single day this summer was an adventure. Every day I learned something new and every day I lived my dream.

By nature of my adventure I ate a lot of cheese (it’s a perk of the job really). Many people have asked me what my favourite Canadian cheese is but it’s so hard to pick just one. Could you? I’ve narrowed down my list to about 30 favourites. What are they? Well, you’ll have to wait for the book! I can’t give it all away here.

A dark and Stormy cheese he means…..Illustration by Dave Donald.

Now it’s time to write a book.

For Curds and Eh 1 (the itinerary), click hereCurds and Eh 2 (Quebec), Click Here, Curds and Eh 3 (Quebec) , click here ,  Curds and Eh 4 (St.John’s), Curds and Eh 5 (Thunder Oak Gouda), Curds and Eh 6 (Cheese Festivals) and Curds and Eh 7 (Cheese Rolling ).

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Snacks in Halifax–beer… lobster… beer and lobster….Wayne’s World

Lobster’s from Wayne’s World. Really. Keep reading, eh.

We were on holidays in Nova Scotia and PEI for 10 days and had an outstanding time.  I was disappointed to be such a terrible blogger in the last couple weeks as I had so many delicious moments, but between problems uploading pics and just travelling with child, I kind of gave up.  But, I will now start sharing.  One huge thing for me was my conversion to beer over wine for most of the trip.  You would switch sides too if you tasted how good the local brews were.  Perfect with our food and the sunny, hot weather.

Like a fish to water, Tad and Propeller IPA

I had planned on branching out ever since Heather Rankin at the Obladee Wine Bar in Halifax (along with beer and wine writer Craig Pinhey) organized a local cheese/beer pairing post on this blog which featured Canadian brews (and Canuck cheeses), three of them from out east.

In Halifax Garrison’s brewery right beside the Seaport Market was our second stop after a quick bite of some amazing, and well spiced, Indian food in the market itself.  Tasting glasses were only $2 each and we tried several, leaving with bottles of the Tall Ship Amber Ale and Raspberry Wheat Beer (very subtle in fruity qualities, which I liked).  We drank these with some spicy tapenade that evening before donning old T-shirts to dig into the lobster fest (see the first picture) on a backyard patio.  Butter, white wine and nothin’ else.  Well, a lot of paper towels.

The Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia

Which brings us to Wayne’s World via the Eastern Passage (where the weather is apparently really different than nearby Dartmouth-sweater vs T-shirt I hear, on some days).  It’s a little fishing community with many “I must take a picture…or 20″ worthy little coves and piers.  We were there on an especially beautiful evening as the sun was on its way down.

Wayne’s World—of Lobster!

But enough sightseeing.  Back to Wayne’s World. This is where the locals go for lobster.  They don’t cook it themselves–heck no.  They do take-out.  Truthfully, I don’t know about all locals, but I do know about at least two locals who have Wayne on speed dial….we had some damn good lobster at their house later that night.

Fish cake and beans at Henry House.

I’m getting all ahead of myself talking about lobster when the first meal I had on the east coast was fish cakes and beans.  And here’s a good laugh for you Atlantic natives, when I saw this I thought, “how novel!  Beans with the fish cakes”.   Ha ha ha ha.  Only to see this on every menu everywhere.  This delicious plate was eaten on the patio of Henry House in Halifax.

Henry House in Halifax

Henry House was built in 1834 and has some great pub food and quite a beer menu (see how easily my beerification began?)

Uncommon Ground, Halifax

Right across the street I had steaming after-lunch coffee from Uncommon Grounds.  Felix was a little boisterous and may have pissed off some customers but I just smiled in embarrassment and looked at him as if he was the cutest imp I had ever seen.  Denial works.

Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market

Which bring us back to the Seaport Farmer’s Market (I know, I’m too excited and jumping all around!) we visited on a weekday so not quite as bustling as it must be on Saturdays but still–wild blueberries for $3/pint!  And truthfully, tonnes of great food to be looked at, admired and purchased when you’re a tourist like me.  And when one has a stroller–NOT CROWDED is awesome.

Butcher Seaport Market

I checked out the grass-fed steaks at the butcher…

And veggies to go with the steak..

Or maybe you just want to grab some lobster poutine to eat by the water?

Lemon Ginger lovely-ness.

And wash it down with this locally made soda (grandma’s recipe!).

Forget chocolate and peanut butter.

And I found this at the Garrison brewery.  And we hadn’t even gotten to the sno-cones we had after the Theodore the Tugboat tour.  (Man, sno-cones aren’t as good as I remembered them.)

So what did I learn in my first 24 hours in Nova Scotia?  Fishcakes come with beans, the beer out East is great and don’t take the light pink crayon if you want to properly mark anything on your Theodore and Friends map.

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Curds and Eh, Episode 6: Cheese Rolling and 3000 tonnes of curd

These people are chasing wheels of cheese down the Whistler slopes

This post is part of a guest blog series by Kelsie Parsons.   See the recent Globe and Mail piece about his travels.

Summer is the time for festivals. I’m not talking Lollapalooza and Osheaga here. I’m talking cheese festivals such as The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, Victoriaville Fine Cheese Festival, Festival des Fromages Artisanaux Quebecois and American Cheese Society’s Cheese Rally in Raleigh.

Although we’re half-way through August the festival season isn’t over yet. Here are a few cheesy festivals to keep you busy.

St. Albert, Festival of Curd

Festival de la Curd – St. Albert

St. Albert Cheddar Co-op makes some of the best cheddar curds in Canada. Fortunately for us they created a festival to celebrate squeaky cheddar curds. The annual festival began in 1994 when St. Albert Cheddar celebrated its 100th anniversary. This year’s festivities include a giant corn maze, an antique tractor show, beach volleyball, a magician, plenty of live music, wine and surprise, surprise…CURDS!!! Over the course of the 5-day festival, St. Albert typically gives away 3 tons of cheddar curds for free. 3 TONS of curds!!! That could make a lot of poutine!

I have never been to the curd festival but I’d love to go sometime! If you’ve been (or are going) I’d love to hear all about it!

Festival de la Curd takes place August 15-19 in St. Albert, Ontario. For more info visit the Festival de la Curd website. .

More cheese rolling–view from the bottom of the hill!  Helmets! Knee pads! This is intense.

The Canadian Cheese Rolling Competition

Where will you be on Saturday August 18th from noon-4pm? I’m planning on attending the Canadian Cheese Rolling Competition in Whistler, BC and I’m super excited to see it! As you may know, I’m spending my summer visiting cheesemakers in every province and will be writing a book about Canadian cheese. I’ve actually planned my whole trip so that I end up in British Columbia for this competition!

This guy for Pope. Just a thought (by Sue).

The Canadian Cheese Rolling Competition is based on the legendary cheese rolling competition in Gloucestershire, England but with a Canuck twist. All the cheese at the festival (and there’ll be a lot) is made from 100% Canadian milk.

Cheese rolling is pretty straight forward. Basically, cheese is rolled down a hill and people attempt to catch it. The lucky winners get to keep an 11-pound wheel of cheese and they receive two ski season passes to Whistler Blackcomb. Last year’s festival saw over 165 participants and 12,000 spectators! There’s more than just cheese rolling and running though. The festival also includes a costume contest, cheese seminars and a market featuring cheesemakers from Courtenay, BC to Charlottetown, PEI.

This event is sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and aims to bring attention to great cheeses made from 100% Canadian milk. As someone who is eating different Canadian cheese every day I have to say there’s a lot of great cheese made here!

UPDATE FROM KELSIE:  The winner of the 2012 cheese rolling is Tyler Belan, front end manager at Highland Sobeys in Kichener, ON.  Congrats Tyler!

Cheese Rolling winner

For an up-to-date countdown until the festival  check out canadiancheeserolling.ca

Come out and taste the best grilled cheese of 2012.

The Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese Cook-Off

The start of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto is always a bittersweet time. Around this time you’ll hear people exclaim, “The CNE is opening! I can’t believe summer’s almost over!” But that sentiment doesn’t last long as they indulge in tasty treats and then attempt to hold them down while on dizzying rides.

One of the hot food events at the CNE will be The Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese Cook-Off held in the All You Need Is Cheese booth. At this event top chefs from around Canada compete to create the “gratest” grilled cheese sandwich.

In 2010, Michael Howell (chef and owner of The Tempest in Nova Scotia) won for his Panini Toscano which featured Canadian Havarti, prosciuto, baby arugula, fresh figs, lemon aioli, and balsamic vineagar. Whoa! I’ll be cooking this up when I return home in September.

Michael will be defending his title against three top chefs from across Canada: Jason Bangerter, executive chef at O&B Luma and Canteen restaurants in Toronto; Ned Bell, executive chef at the Yew Restaurant at The Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver; and Liana Robberecht, executive chef at the Calgary Petroleum Club in Calgary. Each chef has created two recipes featuring cheeses made from 100% Canadian milk and the winning chef will walk away with the 2012 Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese trophy. Recipes from the event will be posted on the All You Need Is Cheese (www.allyouneedischeese.ca/grilledcheesecookoff) website after August 29th.

Chef Melissa Craig at the 2010 competition.

One the judges who will taste all these gooey creations will be Cheese and Toast’s very own Sue Riedl! I’m sure Sue makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich too! (Awwww, stop. SR) What’s your favourite grilled cheese sandwich? Personally, I like mine with horseradish cheddar (go on!  me too…SR)…or maybe a triple cream mixed with a Swiss style cheese. There are infinite possibilities!

The competition will be held on August 29th at 11am in the All You Need Is Cheese  booth at the CNE in Toronto, ON.

For Curds and Eh 1 (the itinerary), click hereCurds and Eh 2 (Quebec), Click Here, Curds and Eh 3 (Quebec) , click here and Curds and Eh 4 (St.John’s).

**Photo of the grilled cheese from http://theinterrobang.com

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