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.

 

 

 

We learn 11 cheeses may be too much of a good thing

Flashback Friday: Post first published on March 7, 2010

Five cheese courses are lined up, awaiting our guests.

There’s nothing quite like spending an evening nibbling on cheese and sipping wine with good friends. We invited two couples to join us for a five-course tasting menu. Here’s how it went down:

First course/Introductions

Riopelle de l’Isle:

One of the great cheeses of Canada, it’s made from raw cow’s milk on a small island— Île-aux-Grues—in the middle of the St. Lawrence River about 40 miles down-river from Quebec City. Riopelle de l’Île is named after Quebec’s most famous painter, Jean-Paul Riopelle, who lived on the island for two decades until his death in 2002.

Artwork by Riopelle himself.

He lent his name to the cheese, and provided the artwork that adorns the packaging, on the condition that one dollar for each wheel sold by Fromageries Île-aux-Grues would be donated to the island youth foundation.

A soft triple-cream cheese with a bloomy rind, Riopelle melts in your mouth and has a wonderful taste of hazelnut, mushroom, a hint of butter and a pinch of salt.

Bonnie & Floyd and me:

I’m so proud of “my” cheese because the two times I’ve shared it, guests have said it was their favorite. This is the Bonnie & Floyd that I was given in November after spending a day learning how cheese is made at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese in Prince Edward County.

Despite my difficulties in finding a spot in our apartment building to age the cheese at the right temperature and the right humidity, my Bonnie & Floyd turned out to be a real treat. Just like the cheese aged at Fifth Town, mine has a smooth paste with complex yet mild mineral flavours. Barely salty near the rind, and somewhat nutty, it provides almost sweet lactic flavours near the centre.

When I first cut into the wheel, I couldn’t believe how fresh and milky it tasted, a testament to how well the ewes who gave the milk are treated, and the speed with which the milk moves from farm to cheesemaker.

Second course/Warming up

Baked Woolrich Chevrai:

My sister gave us a lovely baking dish for Christmas together with a small log of Woolrich Dairy goat cheese and assorted herbs. After 20 minutes in the oven at 350F, it was a striking addition to the assortment of flavours on our menu.

It was nearing its best-before date, so was well aged, and most of our guests laced it with honey. With a Parisian-style baguette, it was a light and tangy treat.

Third course/Cheddar chowdown

Kraft Cracker Barrel vs 5-year Wilton vs 6-year Black River:

We had purchased the Kraft “aged cheddar” as it was on sale at a ridiculously low price at Wal-Mart but had not yet found a way to eat it; thus, my bright idea of blind-tasting the factory-made cheddar against two artisan cheddars.

It was no contest. Even sitting on the board, it was obvious which was the Kraft, but we proceeded with the blind-tasting anyway as it provided an entertaining twist to the proceedings.

The five-year Wilton is a very nice cheddar. Perhaps because it has rested in our refrigerator for four months, we could spot the occasional crystal developing.

For our tastebuds, the six-year Black River was the clear winner, so tangy and complex, so crumbly that after our guests departed, I made a snack of cleaning up the bamboo board.

Fourth course/From the grill

Guernsey Girl:

Guernsey Girl is a delightful new cheese that is unique to Canada and deserves its own blog entry (which will come after we have another chance to try frying the cheese. Yes, this cheese is fried or grilled before it is served).

It’s an outstanding creation of Upper Canada Cheese using the rich milk provided by a herd of Guernsey cows on the Comfort family farm near Jordan, a Niagara Peninsula village.

Fifth course/Getting serious

Époisses Berthaut:

When we think of a rich and powerful cheese at our house, we think Époisses Berthaut from Burgundy in France. It’s a washed-rind unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese with a natural red tint and its own rich and penetrating aroma.

It’s described as an iconic cheese in tasting notes published by Provincial Fine Foods: “Époisses is powerfully scented, soft-to-runny, and can sometimes deter people with its frank, leathery, animal aromas. Once past the lips, Époisses is spicy, earthy, salty and rich, but not nearly as potent as one might expect.”

Cabrales:

The king of blues.

When Cabrales, the great blue of Spain, is well-aged, it is fully potent—on the verge of overpowering the faint of heart. Our Cabrales was like that, even with a chutney or honey or fig jam, so ripe and so intense.

I had told Geoff, a longtime cheesemonger at Chris’s Cheesemongers in St. Lawrence Market, that we wanted a strongh finish to our evening—and did he deliver! Geoff carved our wedge from a wheel that was obviously fully ripe. Heck, half the piece was dark blue!

Our guests, who were as satiated was we were by evening’s end, barely tasted the Cabrales. Meaning Significant Other and I, over the coming week, must find ways to savour the strongest cheese we’ve ever tasted—or it will simply become too powerful, even for strong cheese lovers like us.

Chris’s Cheesemongers, $7.34 per 100 grams.

Dessert

There was a loud groan from our full guests when we presented one additional variation on the evening’s cheese theme—cannoli—but six of the little suckers were devoured within minutes.

Wines

For starters, Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Rose Brut and an excellent Pillitteri Gewurtzraminer Reisling. Then, Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir and a delightful Conundrum California White Wine (blend). Concluding with Casa dos Vinhos Madeira and a knockout Cockfighter’s Ghost Shiraz that was a match for our Cabrales.

With plenty of San Benedetto carbonated mineral water to stave off dehydration.

Sides

Red pepper jelly, Latvian chutney, Kalamata olives, Ontario honey and fig jam from France. Green grapes and strawberries. Honey dates, dried apricots and walnuts. Kashi crackers, multi-grain flatbreads and plain crackers. Parisian-style baguette and a multi-grain baguette.

We also offered tomato slices drizzled with Spanish olive oil and Modena balsamic vinegar and topped with a fresh basil leaf which worked exceptionally well to counter the buttery richness of Guernsey Girl.

Unexpected guests

One couple brought us two additions to our menu:

Le 1608

Le 1608 is a relatively new creation of Laiterie Charlevoix. A semi-firm, washed rind cheese, Le 1608 uses milk from Canadienne cows whose ancestors were brought to Canada from France starting in 1608. Most of these hardy animals are unique to the Charlevoix region of Quebec.

As Sue Riedl wrote in The Globe and Mail about a year ago, “Le 1608 develops a pale orange exterior that is washed with brine while ripening. Developing a full, barny aroma, the paste tastes nutty at the rind and has a complex, fruity flavour that emerges from its melt-in-the mouth texture. The pleasant tang of the long finish clinches this cheese’s spot as a new Canadian favourite.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Saint Agur

An outstanding blue.

What a mouth-watering, medium-strong, creamy blue cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk in Auvergne, France!

Saint Agur was the perfect counter-point to our Cabrales. Kind of like a softer and finer Roquefort and, due to its double-cream nature, easy to spread on a plain cracker. (The next day, it tasted even better, leaving an almond-like impression.)

Footnotes

In retrospect, 11 cheeses over five courses were too much of a good thing. Four courses of maybe eight or nine cheeses would have been just fine.

The experts usually say allow for 400 grams of cheese per person when serving cheese as a meal. We provided 485 grams per person. When all was said and done, close to 400 grams were consumed on average per person.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca.

Best Bites: The Most Memorable Cheese of 2020

A wheel of Louis d’Or is no lightweight! It weighs in at 40 kilos or close to 90 pounds.

I was first introduced to Louis d’Or when, during a visit to Fromagerie du Presbytère some 10 years ago, Cheesemaker Jean Morin (at left in photo) handed me a wheel.

“Have some cheese, Georgs,” he said, with a chuckle.

I almost sank to my knees!

Louis d’Or is made in 40 kilogram wheels. That translates to close to 90 pounds of cheese, not the easiest thing to manhandle.

Jean had just started making Louis d’Or, inspired by what he saw and learned from old-world cheesemakers in the Jura Mountains that straddle the border between France and Switzerland, the home of renowned Comté cheese.

He told me he had high hopes Louis d’Or would become equally famous in Québec and Canada. “It has the right taste,” he assured me.

The past decade has proven him right. Louis d’Or has become widely known and praised for its fine, complex flavours. It’s one delicious cheese!

Award-winning Louis d’Or made by Fromagerie du Presbytère.

Louis d’Or has been recognized as a world-class cheese. It has won the prestigious Caseus competition in Québec and the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. At the most recent Canadian Cheese Awards, it was crowned Canadian Cheese of the Year

This past year I’ve had the good fortune of enjoying Louis d’Or—after nine months of aging, after 18 months and two years, and even after three years. It only gets better with more time spent in the former Roman Catholic church in the village of Sainte-Élizabeth de Warwick that Jean Morin has converted into a state of the art space for affinage.

The church sits across the street from the family dairy farm, Ferme Louis d’Or, and is adjacent to the former rectory which Morin purchased in 2005 to start up Fromagerie du Presbytère. (Presbytère is the French word for rectory.) Cheesemaking takes place in the former rectory which also houses fromagerie offices. The expansive new retail store is just down the street.

Cecilia Smith of Cheese by Cecilia in Uxbridge, Ontario, gets to taste a lot of cheese over any 12-month period. In the culinary arts program at George Brown College in Toronto, Cecilia has taught classes leading to the Professional Fromager certificate since 2014 as well as cheese appreciation and cheese pairing courses. She herself received the Professional Fromager Certificate from George Brown eight years ago and has worked as a fromager at Monforte Dairy and The Passionate Cook’s Essentials in Uxbridge

Earlier this year she was a judge at the 2020 cheese and butter competition held by Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. On Sundays during the summer months, Cecilia operates a market stall at the Uxbridge Farmer’s Market where she features Ontario’s best artisan cheeses.

Mason’s Delight made by River’s Edge Goat Dairy in Southwestern Ontario.

“My most memorable cheese this year was Mason’s Delight from River’s Edge Goat Dairy,” Cecilia told me. “The marble interior is stunningly beautiful, the cheese sweet and tangy with a lovely umami finish.”

Mason’s Delight is a bloomy rind (think Brie or Camembert) goat cheese that has layers of vegetable ash running throughout. A rectangular cuboid shaped cheese that makes it simple to slice into eye catching slices. Vegetable ash not only looks amazing in cheese, it also balances the natural acidity of the cheese. Some people have said that this makes the cheese easier for them to digest.

In 1999, Katie Normet and her family purchased an abused and abandoned piece of land near Arthur, Ontario. After six years of building and land improvement, River’s Edge Goat Dairy was established in 2005.

Today, goals of the farm are to continue to improve the land, educate the public about food and farming, preserve Ontario farmland and, of course, to make the best cheese possible.

It’s been a blast to have Jackie Armet working with me from the very beginning of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and then the Canadian Cheese Awards, as Cheese Co-ordinator in charge of all things cheese.

Alfred Le Fermier made by Fromagerie La Station in Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

Her most memorable cheese of 2020 has been Alfred Le Fermier which she considers a staple, like cheddar.

“It’s woodsy, with hazelnut flavours and a flowery finish. It can be used in any recipe that calls for cheese. But I do prefer most cheese straight up on a cheese board. That‘s the best way to enjoy it.”

Alfred Le Fermier is made with organic raw milk from Holstein cows at Fromagerie La Station on the Bolduc family farm in the Eastern Townships of Québec. It’s a firm, cooked pressed cheese with a washed rind.

The cheese proudly carries the name of the family’s great grandfather, Alfred Bolduc. Alfred Le Fermier symbolizes a family tradition whose mission is to cultivate the soil, live on it and hand it down to future generations in even better condition.

Saint Agur made in the Auvergne region of central France.

There is one imported cheese in the roundup this year: Saint Agur, a blue made with pasteurized cow’s milk in the mountainous Auvergne region of central France. Says Jackie:

“If you are not a fan of blue cheese, this is the gateway of blue cheese to get you there. With such a smooth creamy texture and a subtle spicy flavour, it will tempt you to try it again. Just add a glass of Port and you have a match made in heaven.”

A highlight of the cheese year for me personally  was meeting, via social media, a young cheesemaker in Saskatchewan and getting to taste his cheese.

Kevin Petty was visiting Sion, Switzerland, for a friend’s wedding a few years ago when he was first inspired to get into cheese after being exposed to some of the best artisan cheesemakers in the world. Since then, he has learned from cheesemakers across Canada including Brother Albéric from the trappist monastery near Holland, Manitoba. He tells his own story in this brief video:

Kevin calls his cheese Caerphilly-style because “I started with a Caerphilly recipe but then I’ve changed it quite a bit over two years to make it my own.”

“The cheese is made with raw cow’s milk, mostly Holstein. It’s aged on spruce boards for a few weeks and then vac-sealed. I started with a caerphilly recipe but I’ve made little changes over a couple years, just trial and error, trying to make something with a nice texture and taste. I kind of went where it was leading me without much of a plan.”

Caerphilly-style cheese made by Kevin Petty at Saskatoon Spruce.

At Saskatoon Spruce, Kevin currently produces his original Caerphilly-style cheese as well as an applewood smoked version and a seasonal stout version

My first impression: It’s tasty cheese. The Saskatchewan take on the Welsh take on cheddar.

The 5-month version certainly has more depth of flavour and character than the younger cheeses I tasted. Wonder what it would be like at 9 months and older?

We also asked Kelsie Parsons about his best cheese memories of 2020. He’s in charge of cheese and deli at Sobeys stores across Canada and served as a judge at the 2020 cheese and butter competition held by Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Here’s what he had to say:

“My best bites of 2020 were not about specific cheeses but rather moments shared with others, such a rarity this past year. I reminisce of enjoying cheese during a euchre game with neighbours mid-March (pre-lockdown), and on a summer hike with friends (there were 0 active cases in our county at the time). The flavours of a well-crafted cheese shine so much brighter when enjoyed during special moments with others.

“Wishing all a year of health and happiness, and, when it’s safe to do so, a chance to re-connect with friends and family over some lovingly produced Canadian cheese.”

Which is a very nice way to conclude our annual round-up of memorable cheese moments of the year just ending.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, founded Canadian Cheese Awards and The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

Home delivery: Safe and convenient way to shop for cheese in Covid Times

Winner’s Basket from award-winning Fromagerie du Presbytère.

Canadian cheese producers, distributors and retailers who offer home delivery are standing by online for your order.

Click here to see who will deliver what.

The selection is wide-ranging and mouth-watering.

Take, for example, the award-winning cheeses that Fromagerie du Presbytère in Québec has assembled in a Winner’s Basket for $29.95: Louis d’Or, Religieuse, Laliberté and Bleu d’Élizabeth, plus a cranberry-guinea fowl treat from Faisanderie St-Albert. Order three baskets to give as gifts and one for yourself and the fromagerie will cover the cost of shipping.

Click here to reach the fromagerie’s online boutique.

From Prince Edward Island, the Over the Moon Box from Cows Creamery contains three pieces of Cheddar, Avonlea Clothbound, Extra Old and Appletree Smoked, two pieces of butter, Sea Salted and Cultured, Cheddar Pop, freshly baked COWS Butter Biscuits, Receiver Butter Crackers, Prince Edward Island Honey, Avonlea Preserves, COW CHIPS, and COWS Caramel Corn. $125 with shipping included.

Stonetown Artisan Cheese in Ontario offers a Charcuterie Box for $58 that contains four 170-gram wedges of cheese, including Grand Trunk and Wildwood, German salami and crackers. Free shipping with every purchase of $100 or more.

If you’re able and willing to shop in person, visit our directory of cheese shops across Canada by clicking here.

Finally, a Canadian cheese calendar for Advent!

It’s about time!

So good to see Progressive Dairy Canada magazine produce an Advent calendar featuring Canadian cheese.

Really good to see excellent representation of cheesemakers from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland although we will quibble that many outstanding Québec cheeses are missing. Maybe next year we’ll have to develop an Advent calendar of our own.

But, for now, kudos to Progressive Dairy Canada!

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