Tag Archives: curds

Curds and Eh: Exploring the scary depths of blue cheese and Frankenstein

Blue Frankenteins only get better-and stronger–with age.

Welcome to Curds and Eh, where cheese brain Kelsie Parsons shares his scarily cheesy thoughts for Halloween….SR

If I had to pick a cheese to hand out for Halloween it would be a blue. Imagine the look on the kids’ faces! I think it would qualify both as a trick and a treat. Blue cheese has the unique ability to scare and totally gross people out while tantalizing others with its distinct aroma and look. Despite my hypothetical Halloween prank I’d never force blue cheese on anyone.

“C’mon, how was I supposed to know the  Roquefort was for the guests?”

As a cheesemonger I often get asked, “why do you eat it?” and “do they actually let the mold grow in the cheese on purpose?” followed up by, “when the cheese in my fridge turns that colour I just toss it out!” I totally understand where they’re coming from and I know blue cheese isn’t for everyone. The blue cheese family is very much like the misunderstood Frankenstein‘s monster. They both posses a depth of character beyond what meets the eye and a desire to be loved though they are often rejected. Personally I love blue cheese. It’s powerful and delicious.

Tame a blue cheese’s roar with honey

For people that are just getting acquainted with blue cheese or want to try something new, here are a few tips:

  • Try something different. You’re probably thinking, “sure but it’s still a blue cheese!” Some of the most common blues such as Danish blue or Roquefort are common at dinner parties however they’re both incredibly strong. These two cheeses have their qualities but I don’t recommend them for someone trying blue cheese for the first time.
  • Ask your cheesemonger to guide you to a mild blue. Quite often the milder blue cheeses are creamy and lack the intensity of their more potent relatives.
  • Pair blue cheese with something sweet. A sweet accompaniment takes the edge off and balances the saltiness typical in blues. Drizzle a bit of honey on blue crumbled on toast, serve with pears, or enjoy with a sweet beverage such as port, late harvest riesling or ice wine.

Cabrales–for the less faint of heart

Now let’s get to know Frankenstein’s monster A.K.A. blue cheese a bit better. Blue cheeses actually aren’t always blue. Depending on the strain of Peniciullium roqueforti added to the milk the cheese could have blue, yellow, grey or even green spots on it. With the various colours come different levels of intensity and flavours ranging from sweet to savoury to spicy. In fact, after a wheel of blue is cut into the colours intensify over the next 15 minutes because blue cheese needs oxygen to thrive. If you examine a wedge of blue you’ll often see blue lines. This is where the cheese has been pierced to allow oxygen to enter the cheese so the blue can flourish.

Blue Haze-see the line where the needle pierced the cheese?

One of my favourite Canadian blues is called Blue Haze. It begins its life as a Ermite, a mild blue cheese made at the monastery of l’Abbaye St.-Benoit-du-Lac in Quebec, the same place where Bleu Benedictin is made. Once it has matured and developed its blue veining it’s brought to Cayuga in Southern Ontario and smoked over a harvest blend of wood. A smoked blue cheese! This is one memorable cheese! The smoke gives the cheese a brown rind and meaty flavours reminiscent of bacon and bbqs. Blue Haze is awesome crumbled on burgers or steak, or simply served with a cold dark beer. This is one cheese I just can’t get enough of.

Kelsie sailing this summer

If you come visit me on Oct. 31st at Sobeys Ira Needles (Kitchener) we can share a wedge of Blue Haze. I’ll be the one standing at the cheese counter with a green painted face and bolts in my neck.

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Curds and Eh, Episode 5: THUNDER OAK GOUDA breaking new ground

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

Thunder Oak Cheese is famous for their Gouda. The Schep family produces aged and flavoured Goudas on their family farm in Thunder Bay, Ontario and are the only Canadian cheesemakers within a 650km radius!

It wasn’t until more than 30 years after Jacob Schep’s first trip to Thunder Bay that he began commercially producing cheese. Jacob Schep arrived in Thunder Bay from Holland as an exchange student in 1968. His dream was to work on dairy farm but unfortunately he was placed on a potato farm instead.

The following year Jacob returned with his partner Margaret to show her the land that he loved but after a 3 day train ride from Montreal to Thunder Bay, Margaret decided it was too remote and too far from her family. Back in Holland, Jacob and Margaret ran a dairy farm for 10 years but they found there wasn’t land available to expand so in 1981 they immigrated to Ontario and the following year they set up a dairy farm in Thunder Bay.

Thunder Oak Company

Their cheese factory opened in November 1995 and in 2007 their son Walter and has wife Joanne took over the cheese production. As Margaret recalls the past 30 years she laughs and says she never wanted to marry a farmer, move to Canada or end up making cheese but she ended up doing all of the above and seems incredibly happy.

Forms filled with Gouda Curds

Walter Schep is a 6th generation cheesemaker and his family still makes cheese in Holland and Belgium. His mother, Margaret, explains that their Gouda recipe has been passed down through her family for generations but making cheese is a lot like making cake – everyone in her family uses the same recipe but there are small differences in the final product.

Thunder Oak Gouda flavours (from the Thunder Oak website)

The cheeses at Thunder Oak are a rainbow of colours and cover a huge range of flavours. In total they produce 12 varieties of flavoured Gouda including sun-dried tomato, nettle, smoked, classic cumin spice, and jalapeno, their most popular. They also make regular Gouda at 4 ages (mild, medium, old, and extra old) and Maasdammer which is the size and shape of Gouda but has holes and a flavour similar to Swiss. Due to the demand for fresh curds Thunder Oak began selling Gouda curds, which are less salty than their cheddar curd cousins but equally as delicious.

Gouda Pressing at Thunder Oak

For anyone traveling across Canada or visiting Thunder Bay, Thunder Oak Cheese is a must stop destination. Visitors have a chance to watch Walter produce cheese every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning and of course there are plenty of samples too. Thunder Oak’s cheeses are so popular locally that they can often be hard to find across the country.

It’s worth looking for at your local fine cheese retailer. Not to worry though, Thunder Oak is about to break ground on a new facility down the road that will double their size and allow them to keep up with the demand of their highly sought after cheeses.  Now that’s gouda news!*

*A Gouda joke is obligatory in any article about the classic Dutch cheese.  Read more about the city of Gouda itself.

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).

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Curds and Eh eps 2: Quebec (get ready to change your summer vacation plans)

To read and introduction about this guest blog series by Kelsie Parsons click here.  For Eps 1, click here.

Hi Everyone,

I feel bad for telling you about my project and then disappearing for two weeks. Hopefully you can forgive me once you see how busy life on the road actually is.

Here’s a quick review of last week:

Sunday June 17th – I attended the Fine Cheese Festival in Victoriaville, Quebec, which was a great opportunity to meet cheese makers before I hit the road. I enjoyed meeting Michèle Foreman, author of the just released Fromages: Artisans du Quebec. La crème de la crème. It’s a beautifully photographed book with information on all the artisan cheese makers in Quebec. I’ve found the book to be incredibly helpful so far on my journey even though it is en français (and admittedly my French is limited).

Caseus Award for Le Baluchon

A real highlight of the day was seeing Le Baluchon win the people’s choice Caseus award. Le Baluchon is an organic, unpasteurized cheese with a washed rind and is so deserving of the award.

The raclette grill of my dreams (Sue)

On Monday I spent several hours at Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser near Noyan. Fritz Kaiser grew up in Switzerland and moved to Quebec at a young age where he began making cheese in 1981. He’s known for creating the first Canadian raclette cheese. What is raclette you ask? It’s the name of a cheese, the accompanying grill and the process of melting cheese and serving it on potatoes, meats and veggies. (ex. “Come on over to my raclette party and we’ll melt some Fritz raclette on my new raclette grill”)

l’Abbaye-Saint-Benoit-du-Lac

A highlight of my adventures so far occurred last Tuesday when I finally took the pilgrimage to l’Abbaye-Saint-Benoit-du-Lac. In 1912 French monks settled on the banks of Lake Memphremagog and began a Trappist monastery. In the early 1940s a cheesemaker from Denmark visited the monastery and taught the monks how to make a blue cheese similar to the French Bleu d’Auvergne. Their unique blue is appropriately called Ermite (Hermit in English) and was the first cheese created at their factory in 1943. Now their most popular cheese is Bleu Bénédictin, an earthy flavoured blue that previously won as a Grand Champion of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix (basically the Oscars of Canadian cheese).

Unpasteurized (less than 60 days) Le Pont Blanc, Fromagerie au Gré des Champs

Wednesday was a day full of new cheeses for me. Ruban Bleu, is a farmstead fromagerie located just outside of Montreal and it produces many sizes, shapes and varieties of goat cheese. There’s something for everyone here but my personal favourite was a fresh chevre mixed with caramelized onions. That day I also visited Fromagerie au Gré des Champs who produce unpasteurized, organic cheese made from the milk of their herd of Brown Swiss cows. Fromagerie au Gré des Champs is one of a handful of fromageries in Quebec that legally produce unpasteurized cheese aged for less than 60 days*. One of these cheeses is called Le Pont Blanc. It’s a small lactic cheese with a very thin rind, a yeasty aroma and a mild milky flavour.

Sheep at La Moutonniere

There’s never time to rest when you’re on a cheese adventure so on Thursday I headed to St.-Hélène-de-Chester to visit La Moutonnière and l’Atelier. Lucille Giroux, the cheesemaker behind La Moutonnière, initially raised sheep for meat but realized that she needed to get another product out of them to make a decent living. At the time there was no sheep being milked in Quebec so she imported dairy sheep from Sweden. I love her Fleur de Monts, an aged sheep cheese with fragrant floral aromas.

Ma Maniere (My Way)

Simon Hamel has 10 years of experience making cheese in Quebec and France and recently began creating his own cheeses under the name l’Atelier out of La Moutonnière. My new favourite cheese is one he creates called Ma Manière (the name roughly translates to ‘I’m doing it my way’). It’s a lactic goat cheese with a wrinkly rind and a flavour that will transport you to France. I’m willing to put money on Simon winning top awards with this cheese. Ma Manière has very limited production so it may be hard to get. (try Fromagerie Atwater in Montreal–Sue).

Working hard to make fresh cheese at Fromagerie Presbytere

Nothing makes me happier than seeing communities come together over food. Every Friday in Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick people gather in the front yard of Fromagerie du Presbytère for a picnic dinner and to enjoy fresh cheese served at three stages of the cheesemaking process. Around 4pm bowls of a cottage cheese like product are sold. Cheesemakers Jean Morin and Marie-Chantal let the fresh curds (no, not cheddar curds) knit together into a single mass, which is then cut, stacked, flipped and restacked. Slabs of this fresh cheese are then sold at the shop and customers sprinkle salt on top. Next, blocks of fresh cheese are milled and salted and turned into squeaky cheddar curds. This is what everyone waits for! Throughout the afternoon and evening, hundreds of people attend the picnic and enjoy wine as they listen to live music.

Zacharie Cloutier, sheep’s milk

If you ever have the chance to try Zacharie Cloutier (produced by Fromagerie Nouvelle France at this facility), Louis d’Or, Laliberte, or Bleu d’Elizabeth, I highly recommend doing so. They are some of the finest cheeses in all of Canada.

(Kelsie is continuing on Quebec and will be posting again soon-Sue)

* The federal standard is all raw milk cheeses must be aged for 60 days before being sold. About 4 years ago, Quebec changed their regulations allowing for fresh unpasteurized cheeses to be sold but only if cheese makers met strict regulations

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Curds and Eh: A Cross Country Cheese Tour, episode 1

Kelsie Parson: Canadian Cheese Tourist

Hi everyone, here is the first blog in the Curds and Eh series. Welcome Kelsie!

Hello fellow cheese lovers!

By day I’m the Cheese Manager at Sobeys Ira Needles in Kitchener and by night I’m a curd nerd who can’t stop reading about cheese (and eating it too!). I started working at Sobeys nearly 2 years ago and I’m responsible for a 36′ long cheese wall, which is home to 350 varieties of cheese.

Sobeys Ira Needles

Several months ago I told Russ, my store manager, that I was planning on taking the summer off to travel across Canada and write a book about Canadian cheese.  He was incredibly supportive but wanted to make sure I’d return to Sobeys when I’m done. Of course I promised I’d be back. When I began my travels Russ wanted part of me to stay with the cheese wall so he hired one of my staff to carve my head out of St. Albert Mild Cheddar!

From here…

To here….It’s quite the honour having my head in cheese! I’m still amazed! It’s like looking in a cheese mirror!

With a Jean and a beautiful wheel of Louis D’Or at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

I’m currently on week 4 of my cross-Canada cheese adventure. Recently I’ve visited cheese makers around Ontario and attended the Great Canadian Cheese Festival and today I’m heading to Montreal.

I’ll be in Quebec for a full month but I’m afraid I’ll still only try a handful of all the cheeses produced there. After Quebec I’m headed to the Maritimes and Newfoundland(!) and then across Northern Quebec and Ontario. The longest   the road will be driving from Thornloe Cheese near Lake Timiskaming to   in Thunder Bay. Ontario is a massive province! I’ll then spend the month of August traveling the Prairies, Alberta and B.C. When I consider my journey as a whole, 3.5 months seems like a really long time to be on the road but breaking it down province by province it seems like a whirlwind adventure. Regardless, I’m really looking forward to sharing the journey with you.

Poutine from St. Albert Cheese on Ottawa. Can man live on poutine alone?

Why such an epic cheese adventure? I’ve always wanted to write a book about Canadian Cheese and I figure now is the right time. In many ways I’m modeling my book after Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins. The book is organized by region opposed to style and as a reader I felt like I traveled around Europe with Mr. Jenkins. I’m aiming for my book to be about individual cheeses as much as it is about the people behind them and the regions they’re from. Of course there will be loads of photos in the book; I just wish I could make it scratch and sniff (what a stinky book!).

One thing I’m missing though is a title for the book. I considered simply Canadian Cheese. It’s too the point but not very catchy. I find cheese people usually have a cheesy sense of humour so I also considered titles such as The Whey Across Canada and Curds & Eh! I like them but I think there’s a better title out there. Now this is where I ask for your help. If you can help me come up with the perfect title you’ll be recognized in the acknowledgements and you’ll get a free book (when it’s printed).

See you again in two weeks,  Kelsie

My favourite pic (says Sue) Kelsie in storage!

BIO

Kelsie Parsons worked as a cheesemonger for Cheese of Canada and Provincial Fine Foods in Toronto and his photos of Canadian Cheese are featured in Juliet Harbutt’s World Cheese Book (2009). He earned his Cheesemaking Certificate from the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese and has since apprenticed at Monforte Dairy. In 2010, Kelsie was selected as a delegate to represent the Toronto Slow Food convivium at Terra Madere in Turin, Italy. Kelsie is the Cheese Manager at Sobeys Ira Needles in Kitchener and is currently writing a book about Canadian cheese. He also blogs at Sobeys.com/foodiefeature

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Introducing “Curds and Eh” A new Cheese and Toast Blog series by Kelsie Parsons

This is Kelsie Parsons.  Well, it’s Kelsie if he were to be made of cheese (St. Albert Mild Cheddar in fact). Kelsie is the cheese manager at Sobeys Ira Needles in Kitchener.

As you can see from his cheese doppelgänger, Kelsie is not only compact and shelf-stable but he’s amazingly passionate about cheese and knows a lot about it.

Kelsie speaks to his cheese peeps at Sobeys.

I bumped into him at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival at the beginning of June and told me he’s taking the summer off  to  write a book about Canadian cheese.   He’ll be touring Canada over three months and researching his book along the way.

If any of you cheese lovers own a copy of the great cheese reference book by Steve Jenkins “Cheese Primer” this is Kelsie’s blueprint for his own writing.

I was instantly smitten with his cause and also dying to hear about his adventures.  I figured the people reading Cheese and Toast would probably love reading about this too.

So Kelsie has agreed to write a series over the summer for my blog that we’re calling, “Curds and Eh”.  It will be published every two weeks on Wednesdays–starting tomorrow.

I’m proud to be a part of chronicling this massive effort,  and impressed with the personal time Kelsie is putting into this book. I hope all the cheese makers, cheese mongers and us cheese eaters across the country can support him along the way.

Supportive cheese mongers.

If you have some insider “cheese info” Kelsie should know about in your province leave a comment on this–or his future other posts–he in currently in Quebec and then heading to Newfoundland and the Maritimes.

Enjoy this series, I know I will.

Sue

Kelsie Parsons Bio (not messed up by Sue’s opinions as above)

Kelsie Parsons worked as a cheesemonger for Cheese of Canada and Provincial Fine Foods in Toronto and his photos of Canadian Cheese are featured in Juliet Harbutt’sWorld Cheese Book (2009). He earned his Cheesemaking Certificate from the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese and has since apprenticed at Monforte Dairy. In 2010,Kelsie was selected as a delegate to represent the Toronto Slow Food convivium at Terra Madere in Turin, Italy. Kelsie is the Cheese Manager at Sobeys Ira Needles in Kitchener and is currently writing a book about Canadian cheese. He blogs at Sobeys.com/foodiefeature

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