Best Bites: The most memorable cheese of 2021

For raclette, pick Tête à Papineau for its ooey gooey meltiness, says Vanessa Simmons.

We bring the curtain down on 2021 with the help of friends in fromage recalling the most memorable cheeses that crossed their palates during the past 12 months. We add our favourites, too.

Check out the tasting notes and make up your shopping list for the next visit to a cheese shop or, better yet, right to the cheesemaker.

Let’s begin with cheese educator and sommelier Vanessa Simmons, our BF in fromage:

Tête à Papineau for raclette.

My most memorable cheese taste for 2021 was one that brought back a sense of normalcy from years past where I hosted a raclette tasting for a group of scuba diving friends to celebrate an amazing diving season and introduce them to this one-of-a-kind experience. It’s the special moments in time that make memories, and these days, we need to take advantage of those where and as we can. I’ve always found delicious Canadian cheese to be the perfect choice to play a starring role in raclette. I picked Tête à Papineau for it’s ooey gooey meltiness, low oil residue, development of “la religieuse” crusty rind and awesome toasted flavor that brings an umami taste to elevate sweet, salty and pickled accompaniments. 

Tête à Papineau is a semi-soft washed-rind pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Fromagerie Montebello in Québec. Aged for about 60 days, under a thin golden apricot grainy rind its taste profile is a pleasant find. Aromas of sweet cream mix with flavours of butter, cream, and mild nut and then graduate to more prominent toasted nut over time and with heat, making it the perfect melting cheese to spotlight in raclette.

For Debbie Levy, cheese educator and a key player in the organization of the Cheese & Butter Competition at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, the cheese experience of the year was delivered by Bois de Grandmont from Fromagerie Médard in the Saguenay-Lac Saint Jean region of Québec.

Bois-de-Grandmont made by Fromagerie Médard.

With its wood band and rustic appearance Bois de Grandmont from Fromagerie Médard was a clear winner for me. The spruce bark imparts a delightful woodsy note. That, combined with the soft buttery paste, left me wanting more!

Cheesemaker Rose-Alice Boivin-Côté represents the sixth generation of the Côté family farming the 100 acres of land granted by authorities in the 19th century to mothers and fathers of 12 or more living children. The objective: clear the forest and develop the region.

Ferme Domaine de la Rivière is located in Saint-Gédéon and now also features a bakery. For cheese production, only milk from a herd of 100 Brown Swiss cows is used.

Jackie Armet is a longtime friend in cheese who has worked with me as cheese co-ordinator at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and then the Canadian Cheese Awards. In between Covid lockdowns, she has had a chance to visit cheese producers in Québec.

One thing that is quite apparent is that having cheese right from the farm or producer is different then buying it from cheese shops, even having it weeks later at home.

Her two favourites of 2021:

Ashen Bell or Cloche Cendré .

Ashen Bell or Cloche Cendré is a pasteurised goat milk cheese in a pyramid format made by Fromagerie du Vieux Saint-François in Laval near Montréal. Lovely smooth flavour without the sour usually associated with goat’s milk. Vegetable ash coats the rind. Delicious to have anytime during the day and extra special with a fresh bagel. The fromagerie is not federally licensed so its cheese is only sold in Québec where it is well known and considered a staple.

Fou-du-Roy.

The name Fou du Roy from medieval times evokes a jester whose profession was to entertain the king and lords. Fromagiers de la Table Ronde is located in the Laurentians of Québec. Holstein cows produce the milk for this washed-rind, organic, farmstead cheese. Aged 60 days, it takes on flavours of butter, peanut and hay, with the sandy textured rind adding another dimension.

Our own “Wow!” moment in cheese came on a road trip across Northern Ontario when we visited Nickel City Cheese in Chelmsford, 25 minutes northwest of Sudbury, and ordered deep-fried cheese curds at the Poutinerie stand operated by the son of Nicole Paquin, Nickel City’s owner.

Deep-fried cheese curds at Nickel City Cheese in Chelmsford just northwest of Sudbury.

The deep-fried curds were outstanding. Crispy and crunchy on the outside, ooey gooey on the inside. Without a doubt the tastiest fried curds ever!

It doesn’t hurt that the poutine stand is steps from the cheese plant where the curds are made fresh several times each week. Close to 20 different types of curds are available at Nickel City.

That road trip across Northern Ontario delivered two other memorable moments in cheese:

Mattagami made by Fromagerie Kapuskoise.

—At Fromagerie Kapuskoise in Kapuskasing we discovered that Cheesemaker François Nadeau  has made huge strides in developing French-inspired cheeses in a few short years. We were especially taken by Mattagami, a cow’s milk cheese aged two years, named for a river near the fromagerie and inspired by Cantal, one of the oldest cheeses on the planet. Mattagami presents a rich and creamy texture. When aged over a year, it starts to crystalize, further enhancing the flavour of the cheese. Mattagami pairs well with red wine or dry white wines, and can be used to replace Cheddar in recipes.

Cheesemaker Walter Schep at Thunder Oak Cheese Farm.

Thunder Oak Cheese Farm outside of Thunder Bay was the first producer of Gouda cheese in Ontario, starting in 1955 after the Schep family arrived from the Netherlands. Today, Walter Schep, son of the founders, is the cheesemaker and does he work wonders with the creamy Dutch cheese! We were especially taken by the 4-year Thunder Oak. At that age, Gouda is no longer sweet and creamy but has developed intensity as it becomes harder. Now, it’s bold, sharp and caramelized, almost candy like. We love it!

Our final memorable cheese of 2021 we discovered only a few weeks ago when we started tasting our way through the Advent calendar featuring Québec cheese developed by Fromages CDA. Although we had enjoyed many of the award-winning cheeses produced by Fritz Kaiser in Noyan, Québec, over the years, we had never tasted Noyan, the first cheese he made way back in 1981 when he was a 23-year-old immigrant and about to become a pioneer in the artisan cheese movement in Quebec and, indeed, Canada.

Noyan, one of the first cheeses created by Fritz Kaiser 40 years ago.

Noyan has a smooth rind that is pinkish white to coppery orange in colour. The cow’s milk cheese has a cream coloured interior, and is both supple yet flexible. The aroma is reminiscent of fresh mushroom. The taste of milk and nuts becomes ever more robust with time.

Stay safe in the New Year, and enjoy Canadian artisan cheese as much as you can.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on YouTube at Strictly Cheese.

 

Punching above your weight at Royal cheese competition

Cheesemaker Jason Fuoco face-to-face with a water buffalo at Fromagerie Fuoco north of Montréal.

You know there is hope for the future of artisan cheesemaking in Canada when smaller cheesemakers punch well above their weight in a major competition such as the 2021 Canadian Cheese & Butter Competition at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

Cheeemaker Cindy Hope of Cross Wind Farm at Keene, Ontario.

That was the torch held high by Jason Fuoco and Cindy Hope in the oldest cheese competition in Canada that dates back 99 years to 1922 when the Fair was first held at Exhibition Place in Toronto.

Fuoco, the exquisite soft washed rind cheese that Jason Fuoco makes with the rich milk from his herd of 60 water buffalo in the Lanaudière region of Québec, was crowned Grand Champion in Goat, Sheep, Water Buffalo and Mixed Milk Cheese.
Cindy Hope, who creates lovely goat’s milk cheese on the farm she and her husband, Kevin, run near Peterborough, Ontario, won two first-place ribbons with her signature Artisan Chèvres and another first with Maggie Smoked Gouda.
Jason started making cheese in 2012, Cindy a few years earlier.
Learn more here:
Perennial winner Margaret Morris and her team at Glengarry Fine Cheese of Lancaster, Ontario, brought home three first-place awards while Balderson Cheese of Winchester, Ontario, making cheddar since 1881, pretty well swept the cheddar category.
Miranda, made by Fritz Kaiser of Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, one of the earliest pioneers of artisan cheese in Québec and, indeed, Canada, was named Grand Champion among all cow-milk cheeses.
Here are all winners in the 2021 competition at The Royal:
COW MILK
Grand Champion
Miranda, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, Noyan, Quebec, Cheesemaker Fritz Kaiser
Firm and Hard, Surface Ripened, Natural or Brushed Rind
Miranda, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, Noyan, Quebec, Cheesemaker Fritz Kaiser
Fresh Unripened Cheese, Natural
St. John’s Fresh Cheese, Portuguese Cheese Co., Toronto, Cheesemaker Jaime Ortiz
Fresh Pasta Filata
Bella Casara Burrata, Quality Cheese, Vaughan, Ontario
Cheese with Grilling Properties, Natural or Flavoured
Braséo, Fromagerie La Vache à Maillotte, La Sarre, Québec, Cheesemaker Éric Beauchamps
Soft Cheese, Mixed or Washed Rind
Figaro, Glengarry Fine Cheese, Lancaster, Ontario, Cheesemakers Margaret Morris, Billy McDonell, Connie De Melo
Semi-Soft, Interior Ripened
Mild Gouda, That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm, Economy, Nova Scotia
Semi-Soft, Surface Ripened
Fleur-en-Lait, Glengarry Fine Cheese, Lancaster, Ontario, Cheesemakers Margaret Morris, Billy McDonell, Connie De Melo
Firm and Hard, Interior Ripened
Gouda 2-Year, Mountainoak Cheese, New Hamburg, Ontario, Cheesemaker Adam Van Bergeijk
Feta or Feta Style
Light Feta, Krinos Foods Canada Ltd., Vaughan, Ontario, Cheesemaker Emmanouil Georgantelis
Blue Cheese
Celtic Blue Reserve, Glengarry Fine Cheese, Lancaster, Ontario, Cheesemakers Margaret Morris, Billy McDonell, Connie De Melo
Flavoured Cheese (except smoked)
Wild Nettle, Mountainoak Cheese, New Hamburg, Ontario, Cheesemaker Adam Van Bergeijk
Flavoured Cheese, Naturally Smoked
Bleu Fumé, Fromagerie Abbaye Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, Québec
GOAT, SHEEP, WATER BUFFALO & MIXED MILK
Grand Champion
Fuoco, Fromagerie Fuoco, St. Lin Laurentides, Québec, Cheesemaker Jason Fuoco
Surface Ripened
Fuoco, Fromagerie Fuoco, St. Lin Laurentides, Québec, Cheesemaker Jason Fuoco
Fresh Unripened Cheese, Natural
Artisan Chèvre Original, Cross Wind Farm, Keene, Ontario, Cheesemaker Cindy Hope
Fresh Unripened Cheese, Flavoured
Artisan Chèvre Cranberry Orange, Cross Wind Farm, Keene, Ontario, Cheesemaker Cindy Hope
Interior Ripened
Le Moutier, Fromagerie Abbaye Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, Québec
Flavoured Cheese
Maggie Smoked Gouda, Cross Wind Farm, Keene, Ontario, Cheesemaker Cindy Hope
CHEDDAR

Grand Champion Cheddar, Ontario Champion Cheddar, Silver Trier Award – Highest Aggregate Score
Balderson Medium Cheddar, Lactalis Canada, Chesterville, Ontario
Medium Cheddar, 4 to 9 months
Balderson Medium Cheddar, Lactalis Canada, Chesterville, Ontario
Mild Cheddar, up to 3 months
Balderson Mild Cheddar, Lactalis Canada, Chesterville, Ontario
Old/Extra Old Cheddar, 9 to 24 months
Balderson Extra Old Cheddar, Lactalis Canada, Chesterville, Ontario
Aged Cheddar, 2 years and older
Maple Dale 3-Year Cheddar, Maple Dale Cheese, Trenton, Ontario, Cheesemaker Cory Armstrong
BUTTER
Grand Champion
Lactantia Cultured Salted Butter, Lactalis Canada, Chesterville, Ontario
Cultured, salted or unsalted
Lactantia Cultured Salted Butter, Lactalis Canada, Chesterville, Ontario
Grass Fed or Organic, Unsalted
Temiskaming Valley Gras Fed Unsalted Butter, Thornloe Cheese, Thornloe, Ontario
Grass Fed or Organic, Salted
Gay Lea Grass-Fed Salted Butter, Gay Lea Foods Cooperative, Mississauga, ON
For complete results, visit 2021 Canadian Cheese & Butter Competition at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

Canadian cheese calendars for Advent

After years of only British cheese calendars available for the holidays, Canadians finally have an Advent calendar featuring Québec cheese.

Congratulations to Fromages CDA, the award-winning marketing agency led by Daniel Allard, for developing a tasting calendar for sale in Sobeys, IGA and Safeway stores—while supplies last.

Here’s how the 24-day cheese calendar works:
—Ideally, you’ll start tasting on December 1 and conclude on Christmas Eve.
—When you lift the perforated flap for each day, revealing a cheese sample, the name of the fromagerie and the cheese will be visible. In the photo, we have opened December 1 and 2, revealing Fromagerie le Fromage au Village/Coeur du village, and Fromagerie P’tit Plaisir/Lys de St-Gérard.
—With a small knife, pierce the plastic to uncover the cheese.
—Enjoy the treat and repeat the process again the next day.
In all, there are eight different cheeses in the package that retails for $39.95, a reasonable price for 650 grams of excellent artisan cheese. Each of the 24 pieces is 27 grams, a perfect amount for sampling.
The eight cheeses are:
Coeur du village, a cheddar made by Fromagerie le Fromage au Village in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of Québec;
Lys de St-Gérard, semi-firm cheese, Fromagerie P’tit Plaisir, Eastern Townships;
Fontina, firm cheese, Fromagerie Saint-Benoit-du-Lac, Eastern Townships;
Meule des champs, firm cheese, Fromagerie Rang 9, Centre-du-Québec;
Noyan, semi-firm cheese, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, Montérégie;
L’Ancêtre, organic cheddar, Fromagerie L’Ancêtre, Centre-du-Québec;
Fredondaine, firm cheese, Fromagerie La Vache à Maillotte, Abitibi-Témiscamingue;
Le Désirable, cheddar flavoured with maple syrup, La Fromagerie du Terroir de Bellechasse, Chaudiere-Appalaches.
All of the above cheeses are made with cow’s milk. They are marketed under the Amour et Tradition banner by Fromages CDA and distributed across Canada.
If the Québec artisan cheese calendar has sold out where you shop, take the above list to your neighbourhood cheese shop and purchase the cheeses individually or have them ordered in for you.
Failing that, Progressive Dairy Canada has created Advent cheese calendars that you can download and print and then use as a guide for shopping and sampling:
Either way, enjoy plenty of excellent Canadian cheese as the holidays approach.
—Georgs Kolesnikovs
Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on YouTube at Strictly Cheese.

Fritz Kaiser celebrates 40 years of cheesemaking with gold medals at Worlds

Fritz Kaiser: Celebrating 40 years of cheesemaking with Swiss know-how and Québec terroir.

Three goat milk cheeses made by Fritz Kaiser, one of the earliest pioneers of artisan cheese in Québec and, indeed, Canada, won gold medals at the recent World Cheese Awards held in Spain that attracted more than 4,000 entries from 45 countries.

The honours come on the heels of the 40th anniversary of the founding of Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser in 1981, in Noyan, Québec, south of Montréal, three kilometres from the U.S. border.

Fritz Kaiser was born in Zurich, Switzerland, into a farming family but early on he developed a passion for cheesemaking and began to learn his craft. In 1978, Fritz emigrated to Canada, settling, as many Swiss did, in French-speaking Québec south of Montréal. His brother, Matthias, also emigrated and started Ferme Imperiale, a dairy farm, in Noyan.

Three years later, in August, 1981, at age 23, Fritz struck out on his own with Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser. This was a time when every cheesemaker in Canada seemed to be making cheddar exclusively. Two monasteries, Trappist Abbeye Notre Dame du Lac near Oka and Benedictine Abbaye Saint Benoît du Lac in the Eastern Townships of Québec, were the rare exceptions.

Using the craft he learned in his native Switzerland, Fritz started cheesemaking with Raclette, for which he’d become most widely known, and Noyan, a lovely washed rind that has been a best-seller for four decades.

Today, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser produces 30 different cheeses, using pasteurised cow and goat milk, many of which have won seemingly countless awards over the years. In Raclette alone, there are eight different cheeses made.

“Cheese is a living product, made from 100% pure milk,” says Fritz. “No derivatives, no modified milk ingredients. Our production is purely artisanal, completely opposed to factory production that places more importance on volume.”

His wife, Christin, and sons, Adrian and Noah, are involved in the cheese business. His brother, Matthias, and nephews continue to run the nearby dairy farm.

In 2020, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser processed 5 1/2 million litres of milk and fabricated about 660 tonnes (660,000 kilos) of cheese. The fromagerie has about 25 employees and one busy cheese-washing robot made in Switzerland, added in 2019.

In February this year, two new cheese coolers were completed, each with a capacity of 64,000 wheels, in investment to permit future growth.

Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser in Noyan, Québec, south of Montréal, three kilometres from the U.S. border.

The cow’s milk used by the fromagerie comes from six area farms. The goat’s milk comes from two nearby farms, one owned by Franz Fuchs, the other by Hans Hodel. The El Toro cheese is made with water-buffalo milk which comes from Ferme Bufala Maciocia an hour away from the fromagerie.

Fritz, hearty and hale at age 63, still indulges in his other passion, flying, by piloting his own Cessna 172.

Daniel Allard, president of Fromages CDA, the powerhouse marketing agency that handles distribution of many leading Canadian cheeses, has known Fritz for more than 30 years, and represented his cheese since 2000.

“Fritz is very much hands-on with all aspects of cheese production at the fromagerie,“ says Allard. “The high standards of Swiss cheesemaking are at the heart of all he does. He started out small, encountered pitfalls, but persevered to become a dominant force in cheesemaking in Quebec and Canada.”

Allard chuckles as he recalls the challenge Fritz had making bloomy rind cheese; nevertheless, he persevered with Le Sœur Angèle which went on to become hugely popular and raise $110,000 for Sister Angèle Foundation.

Here are the three gold medalists in the World Cheese Awards:

SUPER GOLD MEDAL: La Mascotte

Semi-firm 100% goat’s milk cheese, Mascotte tastes of roasted almonds with a goaty finish. Its rind releases a most appealing slightly woody aroma. Excellent cheese for raclette. First produced in 2011.

Named after the mascot of Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada on Île aux Noix in the Richelieu River close to Lake Champlain.

GOLD MEDAL: Sainte Nitouche

With notes of roasted almonds and caramel, and a woody aroma, Sainte Nitouche is a semi-soft, washed-rind goat’s milk cheese that melts well and can be used for raclette dishes. It pairs well with homemade tapenade or fresh- or dried-tomato bruschetta. First brought to market eight years ago.

Named after a fictional saint said to be the epitome of innocence and modesty.

GOLD MEDAL: Tomme du Haut-Richelieu

Tomme du Haut-Richelieu is the goat’s milk version of Fritz Kaiser’s Noyan cheese. Made with 100% goat’s milk, it has a washed rind and supple interior, with a hay-like aroma and nutty, fresh milk flavour. In production for 30 years.

Named after Le Haut-Richelieu, a regional municipality in the Montérégie region in southwestern Québec, home to Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser.

In addition to the three goat’s milk cheeses that garnered gold, three other Fritz Kaiser cheeses brought home medals:

SILVER MEDAL: Vacherin Fri-Charco

Semi-soft washed rind cow’s milk cheese with a mild lactic, fruity aroma and a hazelnut and salted butter flavour.

BRONZE MEDAL: La Tomme de Monsieur Séguin

Half cow’s milk, half goat’s milk, Tomme de Monsieur Séguin is a nice blend of Noyan and Tomme du Haut Richelieu. Its smooth rind, and supple, flexible interior, tempt the palate with a fine blend of flavours and a nice goaty finish.

BRONZE MEDAL: Miranda

A firm cheese with a washed, rose-and-copper coloured rind. This impressive cow’s milk cheese emits a scent of nuts and damp straw, and its salty taste releases hints of spicy walnuts and almonds.

Miranda was named Grand Champion at the 2021 Cheese & Butter Competition at Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on YouTube at Strictly Cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jāņu Siers: Midsummer means making cheese at home

Jāņu Siers still wrapped in cheesecloth as it cools. Brown eggs give the caraway-speckled fresh cheese a yellow hue.

The sweet smell of dairy in the house that comes from making cheese at home is one of my favourite things. Holding milk at 90 to 95C for 15 minutes so curd separates from whey is a sure way to create that warm and wonderful aroma.

The summer solstice has me preparing to make a caraway-speckled fresh cheese Latvians call Jāņu Siers.

Here are the ingredients: 3 litres of whole milk, 1.5 kilos dry pressed cottage cheese, 175 grams butter, 4 eggs, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds, and 1 tablespoon salt. After I make the cheese, I’ll add a few photos at the bottom of the post about the process.

In Latvia, my native land, the cheese is a core element in celebrations marking the summer solstice, a festival called Jāņi. I like the cheese too much to eat it only once a year, so often I’ll make it also at midwinter and giving small wheels as gifts to family and friends at Christmas.

Here’s what I posted about the cheese a few years back:

Jāņu siers, what kind of cheese is that?” you ask. It’s a caraway-speckled fresh cheese that I make at home.

Jāņu siers in Latvian, my native language, is, literally, John’s cheese in English. In Latvia, for more than a thousand years, it has been made at the summer solstice to mark the midsummer festival of Jāņi. That festival is celebrated on June 23 by Latvians all over the world on the eve of St. John’s Day. For many, it’s the most important holiday of the year.

In Latvia, farms are bedecked with garlands of oak and birch branches and meadow flowers. Nearly everyone leaves the city for the open air so that the shortest night of the year can be spent in the merry company of friends in the country. Bonfires are lit, special songs are sung, dancing is a universal element during the festival. The traditional caraway-seed cheese and lots of beer are on the menu.

This TV commercial for Aldaris beer will give you a taste of the festivities on Jāņi:

Tradition has it that this is the one night of the year that you must never sleep. Girls pick meadow flowers to make wreaths for their hair, while men named Jānis get a bushy crown of oak leaves around their heads. (Jānis is the most popular male name in Latvia and comparable to John.)

Eating, singing, drinking and dancing ensue the whole night long. Although the sun sets briefly, it doesn’t get dark in the higher latitude of Latvia and everyone must be awake to greet the rising sun in the morning. A naked romp into the nearest lake or river is a must for men—and the women who cheer them on. Young couples like to go into the forest and search for the legendary fern blossom. Or so they say. And when you greet the morning sun, you have to wash your face in the grass’s morning dew, which on Jāņi morning is said to have particularly beneficial properties.

The reality for me this year was that I tried to make more Jāņu siers than before and used a large lobster pot to heat the milk to 90-95C rather than my usual heavy saucepan. Very hard to keep milk near the boiling point for 15 minutes in a thin pot, I discovered to my dismay, without scorching the milk, thus, three small wheels I made won’t be shared with friends as behind the taste of cream and caraway there is a hint of burnt.

On the bright side, Jāņu siers is always eaten with butter (and never on bread), and I love butter almost as much as cheese. Lay on enough butter and the slight scorched taste dissipates. Consume with enough lager and the cheese tastes as good as it should.

Incidentally, I have not repeated the error of trying to keep milk at 90-95C in a thin lobster pot!

Here are photos of the process:

Here are the ingredients: 3 litres of whole milk at least 3.25%, 1.5 kilos dry pressed cottage cheese, 175 grams butter, 4 eggs, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds and 1 tablespoon salt. Look closely at the label of the cottage cheese and ensure it says “dry pressed” and not merely “pressed.”
Mix eggs with cottage cheese. Brown eggs are generally more yellow, which is preferred.
Gently heat the milk to 90-95C and add the cottage cheese mixture. Hold at 90-95C for 15 minutes or so until curd separates from whey.
Wet the cheesecloth before lining a sieve and emptying the curd and whey. Twist the resulting bag of curd and squeeze to drain most of whey.
Warm the pot again, add butter and caraway seeds, then add the curd and salt, and begin mixing in circular fashion until curd forms a ball and no longer sticks to sides of pot. It will take 10 minutes or more.
Wet another cheesecloth before lining a sieve and emptying the ball of cheese. Divide into two or three portions if you prefer smaller wheels. Place on a plate, with the knot in the cheesecloth underneath the cheese. Add second plate and weigh down in fridge overnight.
The next day, remove cheesecloth and wrap cheese in plastic. Store in fridge until it’s time to enjoy. Some people say a week is the right time for the cheese to age to perfection, but we can never wait that long.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, was born in Latvia but has lived in Canada most of his life, in Ontario, Quebec and the Northwest Territories. He did spend most of the 1980s living, working and sailing in California.

Cheese finally makes it on Food Network Canada

Afrim Pristine, Canada’s highest profile cheesemonger, starts his cheese journey in Switzerland for the television docu-series Cheese: A Love Story

Eleven years ago, after I started CheeseLover.ca and launched The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, I approached Food Network Canada to explore the possibilities of creating a show about Canadian cheese. I was told in no uncertain terms, Food Network does not do single-ingredient programming.

Fast forward to May 10, 2021: Food Network Canada announces that it’s diving into the world of cheese with a food travel docu-series entitled Cheese: A Love Story. Hosted by Afrim Pristine, owner of Cheese Boutique in Toronto, the series will see him traveling the globe “exploring the most iconic cheese locations and hidden gems to get a deeper look at one of the world’s greatest, and most beloved foods. Cheese: A Love Story makes its debut on June 9 at 8 p.m. ET on Food Network Canada.”

The change-of-heart at the network is testament to how the food scene has changed in the past decade, how much more loved and enjoyed fine cheese is today by Canadians, and how high of a profile Afrim Pristine has managed to build for himself over the past 25 years at the family cheese emporium in west-end Toronto.

Here’s how Corus Studios/Proper Television, which produced the series, describes the show:

Afrim Pristine is Canada’s leading cheese expert, owner of the Cheese Boutique in Toronto and has over 25 years of cheese experience. His passion and commitment to learning more about this magical food stems from his father and family business of 50 years. In this six-part series Cheese: A Love Story, Afrim embarks on a journey to meet up with the farmers, cheesemakers, shop owners, affineurs and chefs in Switzerland, France, Greece, Toronto, Quebec and British Columbia. In each episode, Afrim’s love of cheese only grows fonder as he gets an in-depth look at how each culture has made it their own. Throughout his excursions, he crosses paths with culinary pioneers including: Chuck Hughes (Le Bremner) and Michele Forgione (Chez Tousignant) in Quebec; Elia Herrera (Colibri) and Aiko Uchigoshi (Aburi Hana) in Toronto; and Wall of Chefs’ Rob Feenie and Top Chef Canada Season 7 winner Paul Moran in British Columbia, and many more.

In the premiere episode airing Wednesday, June 9 at 8 p.m. ET, Afrim starts his journey in Switzerland, where he meets with chefs, cheesemakers, vendors and a legendary affineur, Roland Salhi to learn the fine art of aging. In the home known for Gruyère, raclette, fondue, and the famous holey Swiss Emmental, Afrim learns firsthand how these classic cheeses stand the test of time and discovers the modern approaches the Swiss have innovated in the world of cheesemaking.

Here’s a preview of other segments as per Corus:

FRANCE

More than a few countries like to call themselves the “masters” of cheese, but none has cheese more engrained in its cultural identity than France. This is where Afrim knows he’ll find upwards of 400 varieties of cheese in soft, semi-soft and pressed forms, each made in their own specialty pockets of the country. The journey begins in Paris, where gastronomy is the national pastime. Here, cheese is enjoyed in iconic dishes, from a delicate Soufflé to a hearty Tartiflette, to a simple cheese board enjoyed one bite at a time. Then, Afrim heads south to the Jura Mountains to find one of the largest cheese aging facilities in the world. Situated in a former military fort once helmed by Napoléon, the vast, winding fortress of underground caves and tunnels is unlike any other cheese-ripening facility on the planet. Afrim’s final stop is in Normandy, where he shops the local market, Marché de Dieppe, to learn about the region’s heart and history with Neufchâtel and Camembert.

GREECE

Not to be outdone in terms of long traditions, Afrim takes a trip to Greece where the history of cheese dates back thousands of years. Greece is one of the first countries on record to ever make cheese, from shepherds with sheep and goats on the mountainside to athletes at the first Olympic games energizing with cheesecake. Cheese is a national cornerstone at every Greek table. Starting in the capital city of Athens, Afrim meets Greek master chef Akis Petretzikis to find out how traditional cheeses are used today in beloved Greek dishes; from Hortopita cheese pie to traditional Greek salad, Horatiki. Heading north to the Thessaly region, Afrim finds the historic capital of pure barrel-aged Grecian Feta, Greece’s most iconic cheese. The final stop is Crete, where local shepherds still employ the art of ancient cheesemaking completely by hand in methods passed down over generations.

QUEBEC

Quebec cheese making is a practice rooted in heritage and tradition, from long established family fromageries to the key ingredients of classic local dishes. Quebec is known as one of the finest cheese making regions in the world and has developed a whole tourism industry modeled around the top quality and wide variety of cheeses they produce. Afrim’s journey into the creamy creations of Quebec begins in Montreal where he tastes modern takes on timeless classics, and of course, poutine. Just outside the city, Afrim stops in at two generations-old fromageries, both known for some of the region’s best cheeses and for their unique settings. Then he heads North to the historical capital Quebec City and the neighbouring Charlevoix County to experience the most iconic local traditions that la belle province has to offer.

TORONTO

Not all great cheese comes from old Europe. Cheese is now, truly, a global favourite. This time Afrim takes a mini trip around the world in his own backyard, Toronto, one of the most diverse and cultural cities on the planet. Afrim gets a rare opportunity to see the extent of new influences on cheese since he first began in the business. From Filipino food trucks, to Korean diners, to Caribbean comfort classics; Afrim gets an inside look at the cheese secrets of immigrant neighbourhoods all over town. Turns out he needn’t travel far to see the effect of a booming global cheese culture, expressed through the cultural melting pot right here at home.   

BRITISH COLUMBIA

The last leg of Afrim’s journey is in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. It’s the same country where Afrim lives, but thousands of miles from his home and worlds away in terms of its cheese culture. Unlike his other stops with centuries-old cheese histories, B.C.’s cheese scene is unencumbered by tradition. Here, in the wild west, there’s a free-to-invent mentality that touches all aspects of the lifestyle, including cheese, and the collective attitude is to ‘support your own’ and ‘buy local.’ Afrim will be surprised and delighted by the quality he finds in under-represented spots like Tofino, Comox, Salt Spring Island and of course, the culinary capital of Vancouver. Against some of the most breathtaking scenery the country has to offer, Afrim enjoys some of the world’s top-notch, award-wining cheese that punctuates platters and ignites local chef’s imaginations.

Cheese: A Love Story makes its debut on Wednesday, June 9, at 8 p.m. ET on Food Network Canada.

Kudos to Corus Studios/Proper Television. Congrats to Afrim Pristine! Three cheers for cheese!

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on YouTube at Strictly Cheese.

 

 

 

In praise of poutine

The superlicious smoked-meat poutine served at SumiLicious in Scarborough.

Cheese. Meat. Potatoes. Gravy. Maybe with a pickle or slaw on the side. Comfort food beyond compare, that’s poutine.

Small wonder poutine has become such an iconic dish, and no longer only in Québec where it originated in the 1950s. Over the years, we’ve enjoyed poutine in its many variants clear across Canada.

Our current favourite is the smoked-meat poutine served at SumiLicious at Steeles Avenue East and Middlefield Road in Scarborough, just a few minutes from home. Perfectly fried potatoes, Montreal-style smoked meat with all its juices, and fresh curds from Fromagerie St-Albert Co-op. The result is superlicious.

We always order the meat fatty so it literally melts in your mouth. When we’re not up for a poutine, we go for a smoked-meat sandwich piled high with deliciousness. Either way, we’re in heaven, even when eating in the car on account of COVID-19 restrictions on dining in.

Sumith “Sumi” Fernando learned his craft over 17 years of working at iconic Schwartz’s Deli in Montréal. When Sumi and his wife, Shalika De Fonseca, both Roman Catholics, immigrated to Canada from Sri Lanka two decades ago, neither had ever encountered Jewish food before.

During his time at Schwartz’s, Sumi became obsessed with the spicy, wood-smoked, mile-high meat sandwiches that drew crowds at all hours of the day. “I would see people going crazy when they took that first bite, shaking their head [in awe],” Sumi explained in an interview in Saveur magazine. “I wanted to do something like that.”

So, how did two Catholics from Sri Lanka end up serving Jewish food in a predominantly Chinese neighbourhood in Toronto? They picked that corner of Scarborough, on the Markham border, because, during his years at Schwartz’s, Sumi noticed most customers from Great Toronto lived in Markham. Market research completed, they opened SumiLicious in May 2018—to rave reviews.

Sumi turns tough beef brisket über tender by marinating it in spices for 10 days, followed by smoking overnight. The meat is steamed just before it’s sliced by hand to order. As we said, the result is superlicious.

Our all-time favourite is the most decadent poutine served in Canada. At famed Au Pied de Cochon in Montréal, the poutine is topped with foie gras. Not only that, the crunchy fries are made with duck fat! The curds, when we last enjoyed the dish, came from La Fromagerie Champêtre. Chef Martin Picard—Who remembers him as Wild Chef on TV?—has served the foie gras poutine since 2001, helping to make Au Pied de Cochon a destination restaurant for foodies from around the world.

At Au Pied de Cochon in Montréal, Chef Martin Picard crowns his poutine with foie gras. Photo by André-Olivier Lyra.

Just look at the slices of foie gras, the squeaky curds and the crunchy fries in the mouth-watering photograph by André-Olivier Lyra published in a feature on Montréal poutine in Nuvo magazine. Oh, to be back in Montréal right now!

So nice to see local cheese curds made by Five Brothers Artisan Cheese used in the poutine at Ches’s Famous Fish & Chips in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

During a visit to St. John’s, Newfoundland, we ate twice at Ches’s Famous Fish & Chips where we were delighted to learn the poutine is made with Bergy Bits Curds from Five Brothers Artisan Cheese and not some industrial operation on the mainland. Local and artisan always tastes better.

Click here for a history of poutine in The Canadian Encylopedia.

Cheese Ambassador David Beaudoin, our friend in cheese, hosted an informative webinar on poutine recently sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada, featuring three recipes you can try at home. Watch it now.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, has never met a poutine he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on YouTube at Strictly Cheese.

 

Cheese treats for Valentine’s Day

We asked our neighbourhood cheesemonger, Tammy Miller at Country Cheese Company, what she would recommend for a cheese board on Valentine’s Day—or any other special occasion.

Here are Tammy’ top five picks:

Farmstead 3-Year Gouda, Mountainoak Cheese

This aged gouda has a wonderful grainy crystaline texture and an intense sweet-savory flavour with a caramel finish. Break it up in rustic chunks and serve with dried cured meats, olives, roasted nuts, mustard and dark bread. #CDNcheese

Adoray, Fromagerie Montebello

A pretty little cheese wrapped in spruce bark is perfect to feature on a cheese board. This rich cheese tastes of salted butter and bit of funky damp hay. The spruce bark strapping adds a pleasant resinous woodsy flavour. Cut the top off and slather on fresh crusty bread. #CDNcheese

Wildwood, Stonetown Artisan Cheese

This firm washed rind has a silky texture and flavours of brown butter and nuts. Serve with a cherry jam like Provisions Montmorency Cherry and Merlot Wine Jam. #CDNcheese

Figaro, Glengarry Fine Cheese

A soft surface-ripened cheese that when served at around six weeks is rich and lactic, with mellow yeasty and vegetal notes. Serve it with dried fruits and nuts, fresh berries, or drizzle with honey. #CDNcheese

Cashel Blue, J&L Grubb

Creamy and salty with the perfect amount of mineral blue tang. Tammy likes to serve this with classic pairings like honey, figs, prosciutto and candied nuts. Imported from Ireland.

Our thanks to Tammy Miller at Country Cheese Company for helping us prepare these recommendations. Click here to see the Valentine’s Day specials she has on offer at her cheese shop in Ajax just east of Toronto on Highway 401.

 

 

 

Cheesemaking technology course goes virtual

Professor Art Hill (right) will present his acclaimed cheesemaking technology course online this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The popular Cheese Making Technology short course that Professor Art Hill has conducted annually since 1986 at University of Guelph, Department of Food Science, will be presented online this year on April 12 to 30.
The course—designed for artisan and commercial cheesemakers, cheese hobbyists, and government and sales personnel who work with cheesemakers—focuses on the science and technology of cheesemaking.

“The focus is on understanding the manufacturing principles of technological families of cheese, rather than becoming expert in the manufacture of particular cheese varieties,” says Professor Hill.

Each participant will receive a cheesemaking kit with sufficient tools to make cheese in their home kitchen as part of the course.

For more information and registration: https://www.uoguelph.ca/foodscience/cheese-maker-certificate

The University of Guelph has been offering some version of its cheesemaking course since 1893. It’s the second oldest dairy school in Canada.

Professor Art Hill of University of Guelph.

When it comes to dairy and cheese, Art Hill is a man of many talents but his specialty is cheese technology. Over the years, his respected cheesemaking offerings have attracted national and international participants. When time permits from his duties as Professor, Dr. Hill influences government and industry policies on issues such as milk pricing, safety of cheese curds and raw-milk cheese, import of dairy ingredients, and cheese composition standards. He also serves as Chief Judge and head of the Jury responsible for evaluating and scoring cheese at Canadian Cheese Awards, the biggest cheese competition in Canada.

Click here for information about the comprehensive six-course Cheese Maker Certificate offered by University of Guelph.

 

 

 

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