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Curds and Eh: Kelsie Parsons Reports on The Canadian Cheese Awards

Le Baluchon displayed at the Canadian Cheese Awards

Very happy to be able to get the scoop (below) on the new Canadian Cheese Awards from cheese monger and cheese writer Kelsie Parsons–  he is in the last legs of finishing his Canadian Cheese Book and I look forward to having more on that down the road.

There’s a new champion in the Canadian cheese world – Le Baluchon, an organic washed rind cheese made in Quebec by Marie-Claude Harvey and her team at Fromagerie F.X. Pichet. It was named cheese of the year at the first-ever Canadian Cheese Awards held April 7 at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

Three awards in total were handed out for Le Baluchon – best semi-soft cheese, best organic cheese, and cheese of the year. Each award is well deserved.

Cheese of the Year - Le Baluchon

Le Baluchon was first made in 2004 in a partnership between Fromagerie F.X. Pichet and Fromagerie Jonathan. At the time, Fromagerie F.X. Pichet produced cheese milk from their own herd of cows and then sold their young cheeses to Fromagerie Jonathan, which ripened, promoted, and sold local farmstead cheeses. This arrangement is much more common in Europe and allows farmstead producers to focus on farming and cheesemaking. Unfortunately, Fromagerie Jonathan went bankrupt. By that time, Le Baluchon had made a name for itself in Quebec so Marie-Claude Harvey and her husband Michel Pichet purchased Fromagerie Jonathan’s building and the rights to the name Le Baluchon and continued its production.

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Fromagerie F.X. Pichet’s ripening room with bowls of brine and brushes in the foreground.

Washed rind cheeses, such as Le Baluchon, are frequently rubbed with a brush that is dipped in brine. This technique adds salt to the cheese, keeps its exterior moist, and creates the proper environment for the growth of Brevibacterium linens (or B. linens for short) which creates the pinkish orange rind typical of this style.

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The name Le Baluchon refers a hobo’s bundle of possessions tied to a stick.

What I love about Le Baluchon is its complexity and depth of flavour. There’s so much happening in every bite – flavours of nuts, butter, a slight bitterness to the rind, and a subtle pungency. Although the judging was blind (they could see the cheeses but weren’t told the names), the judges picked a cheese that is consistent in quality from batch to batch. I have never had a wedge of this cheese that was less than excellent.

Marie-Claude Harvey and Art Hill

Marie-Claude Harvey displays her award for Cheese of the Year with Professor Art Hill

Marie-Claude was instrumental in changing regulations in Quebec to allow for certain fromageries to legally produce unpasteurized cheese aged less than 60 days. She has been inducted into the prestigious Guilde de Fromagers for her contributions to the cheese industry.

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Marie-Claude Harvey and Michel Pichet pose with dry grass grown on their farm.

Michel Pichet restarted his family farm in 1989 with a focus on producing high quality organic milk and keeping his cows healthy and happy. He now has a mixed herd of 90 Brown Swiss, Holstein, and Ayershire cows of which he milks 50 twice a day.

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A curious Brown Swiss cow on the Pichet family farm.

The cows have access to the outdoors all year round and their feed is free of genetically modified organisms and pesticides. Michel is proud that his cows live much longer than the average dairy cow and they have more offspring. He explains that most cows have 2 or 3 calves in their lifetime but on his farm they give upwards of 12 calves which are never killed for veal. Producing certified organic cheese costs Fromagerie F.X. Pichet an extra $75,000 per year but as Marie-Claude says, it’s “the price of respecting the environment.”

An amazing amount of cheese was entered into the competition; 291 cheeses from 76 cheese companies were entered.  They competed in 30 categories. There were 16 categories based on cheese style, 5 regional awards, and 9 special categories including milk type, farmstead, organic, and new cheese.

Raclette de Compton au Poivre

Raclette de Compton au Poivre produced by Fromagerie La Station – winner of the Best Flavoured Cheese award

 

Farm House Clothbound Cheddar

Farm House Traditional Clothbound Cheddar produced by Farm House Natural Cheese – winner of Best Aged Cheddar (1 to 3 years) and Best British Columbia Cheese.

Le Porto Bleu

Porto Bleu, a new blue cheese mixed with Port made by Fromagerie du Charme.

An all-star lineup of cheese experts gathered at the University of Guelph at the end of February to judge the cheeses. Professor Art Hill, a respected expert on dairy and cheese science, led the judging. The group did a terrific job narrowing down the entrants and every finalist is worth seeking out.

Georgs and Anita

Georgs Kolesnikovs and Anita Stewart speak at the 2014 Canadian Cheese Awards

Georgs Kolesnikovs is the creator of the Canadian Cheese Awards and the Great Canadian Cheese Festival (the third annual festival will be held June 7-8 in Picton, ON). Kudos to Georgs for his hard work creating these two terrific events. After the Ontario Cheese Society crumbled a few years ago, Georgs stepped up and sought to unite Canadian cheesemakers and promote their products in new ways. I’m excited to see what he has planned next though I’m sure we’ll continue to see greater unity within the Canadian cheese industry especially with the looming increase in the specialty cheese import quota proposed in the CETA agreement.

The crowd of cheese industry professionals watches as category champions are announced

The crowd of cheese industry professionals watches as category champions are announced

At the end of the award ceremony, Georgs challenged cheesemakers to submit better quality cheeses for the next competition. Apparently, some entrants were inferior in quality to what they are known for. It was a rather solemn end to the awards ceremony but I’m confident it’s not a sign that the quality of Canadian cheese as a whole is slipping. Regardless, the bar has been raised and I know cheesemaker are already planning which cheeses they’ll send to the next Canadian Cheese Awards which will be hosted in Montreal in 2016 followed by Vancouver in 2018.

Once again, congratulations to all the finalists and category champions. There are many world class cheeses made in Canada and Georgs’ events are wonderful opportunities to recognize and celebrate the work of our talented cheese producers.

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Curds and Eh: Crannog Ale-organic, farmstead and from BC

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A “Growler” of Crannog Ale

Another post by Kelsie Parsons from his amazing cross-country pilgrimage.  Read more here or just look for “Cheese and Eh” in the Categories drop-down menu to your right.  SR

Crannog Ales

While traveling across Canada last summer I was chatting with a cheesemaker in Alberta about my love of farmstead cheese and I mentioned that I wished there were farmstead breweries in Canada. It turns out I was talking to the right person because she replied, “Oh, well you should check out Crannog Ale!”

Crannog Brewery

On the Crannog Ales website, brewer Brian MacIsaac states, “The grudlann (brewery) is old world (no push button computer driven factory)…”

Two days later I was in Salmon Arm, British Columbia visiting Gort’s Gouda and took a brief detour to Crannog Ale, located in Sorrento, BC. When pulling into the driveway of the Crannog Ale and Left Fields Farm, I was struck by the beautiful landscape.

Crannog Hops

Crannog Hops

The farm is surrounded by green hills and consists of fields full of produce, towering hop vines that seem to grow into the clouds and Shuswap Lake is just a stones throw away. The farm is also home to pigs, sheep and a hive of bees. What a perfect place to live and work!

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The second thing I noticed was the striking hand painted Celtic artwork on the walls of the brewery and surrounding buildings (which the owners built themselves).

Crannog Mural

Crannog Mural

The interlaced celtic knots and symbols reflect brewer Brian’s Irish background and suggest a connection to the land and animals.

Crannog's Wheat and Barley

Crannog’s Wheat and Barley

At Crannog Ales, Rebecca, Brian and Greg produce unfiltered, unpasteurized Irish ales that are sold in growlers, party pigs (8.5L) and kegs. Some of the ingredients such as hops, herbs, fruit, berries and honey come from their own Left Fields Farm, which is pretty awesome if you ask me. Even the water for their beer comes from a well on their property. I get really excited when producers  have control of their ingredients all the way down to the soil in which they’re grown. That level of commitment requires true passion and dedication.

To top it off, Crannog Ale is also certified organic. That means no GMOs, pesticides or degradation of the environment is necessary in the making of this beer! They also use grain waste from the beer production as compost and feed for pigs and they treat and reuse wastewater to run a zero emissions facility. Most breweries have a lot to learn from Crannog Ale.

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Ian Langohr (my travel buddy this summer) and I enjoyed a growler of their Insurrection Pale Ale as we camped beside Kalamalka Lake. We probably didn’t drink the beer under the proper conditions. It was admittedly quite warm (think back seat of a car in the August sun kind of warm). After an afternoon spent diving off a dock and swimming we enjoyed every last warm drop of our growler of Insurrection Pale Ale while we played dice games with neighbours at our campground.

Old Grizzly Gouda

Sylvan Star’s Old Grizzly Gouda

Of course we had cheese to snack on too! The hoppy bitterness paired exceptionally well with the caramel nutty flavours of Sylvan Star’s Old Grizzly Gouda and surprisingly with Gort’s Gouda tamer mild Gouda.

That day was the perfect mix of sun, swimming, beer, cheese and shooting stars. It turned out to be one of the most memorable days of the summer. With the short days and somewhat cold weather we’re experiencing now, I’ve begun longing for the summer.

Hand of God Stout

Hand of God Stout

Next time I’m in BC I’ll be sure to visit Crannog Ale again and refill my growler. I think I’ll try the Back Hand of God Stout next…

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Crannog Ales and Left Fields Farm is both a home and a small business so it’s important to call ahead to book a tour. Workers here are usually quite busy brewing and working in the fields.

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July 7–better than the Canada Day Long weekend (Farm, music, chefs) GROW FOR THE STOP FUNDRAISER

Better than the long weekend? Uh-huh.  In case you hadn’t heard, The New Farm’s 5th Annual Fundraiser for Grow For The Stop is happening this Saturday July 7.  Montreal band Stars will be performing amongst delicious, organic local food prepared by some of Ontario’s top chefs.  Here are the deets:
Saturday July 7th, 2012
Gates Open and Dinner: 5:30
Opening Band: 7:30
Stars Perform: 8:30
Admission: $45, plus eventbrite ticketing fees – http://www.eventbrite.ca/event/3540334235
Food and drink sold separately – cash sales

  • Rodney Bowers of Hey Meatball, Organic French Fries with Ketchup and Mayo
  • Chris Brown of The Stop Community Food Centre – Twin Creeks Grilled Pork Sausages with New Farm Cucumber Slaw
  • Kristin and Dan Donovan of Hooked – Fish Tacos served with Luis Valenzuela of Torito Tapas Bar’s Fresh K2 Milling Corn Tortillas
  • Matt Flett of Georgian College – New Farm Pulled Pork on Brick Street Bakery’s Artisanal Buns
  • Brad Long of Cafe Belong, New Farm Salad Greens and Spring Vegetables with Brown Butter Dressing
  • Giacomo Pasquini of Vertical Restaurant – Fenwood Grilled Chicken with Panzanella Salad
  • Aaron Bear Robe of Keriwa Cafe – New Farm Fried Green Tomatoes with Snap Pea Guacamole
  • John Sinopoli of Table 17 and Escari –  Spring Vegetable Frittata
  • Caesar Guinto of the soon to open, Creemore Kitchen – Heritage Grain Donuts with Sweet Beet Filling
  • Mapleton’s Organic Ice Cream
  • Ingredients distributed by 100km Foods Inc.
Bar Selections Generously Provided by:
  • Creemore Springs Brewery
  • Martini Bar by Tag Vodka with Local Flavours
  • Wine by Innisikillin
  • Organic, Fair Trade Coffee by Merchants of Green Coffee 
  • Cider by Avalon Orchards
  • Dairy by Organic Meadow 

  • The New Farm is a small diversified organic farm, near the Village of Creemore. Three years ago, The New Farm formed a partnership with The Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto, a wonderfully innovative and inspirational organization that works to increase access to healthy food in a manner that maintains dignity, builds community and challenges inequality. The New Farm does many things to support their work, including holding events on their farm that feature great music, dram and delicious food. They built a stage in their 100 year old bank barn and have had bands like Fred Eaglesmith, The Sunparlour Players and Elliott Brood perform. To date, The New Farm has raised over $50,000 for Grow for The Stop’s Food Program, where 100% of the money raised goes towards buying the best organic food grown in Southern Ontario for use in the Stop’s many programs and Foodbanks in Stayner and Collingwood.This year, The New Farm hopes to raise $25,000 on July 7th, with an event that will draw 500 people. The renowned Montreal Band, Stars will perform and this year, the event will showcase a variety of different food stations featuring a number of Ontario’s top chefs and restaurants.



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Bread and Butter Haiku

Chewy baguette with crispy crust.  Monforte butter, hand-churned from creme fraiche (which was made from organic cream from Mapleton’s Organic).

LUNCH.

Calls for a Haiku.

BREAD AND BUTTER

it would not be  bad

to lose skinny human friends

for fat chewy ones

Finish with a pear.

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