World’s first Chaga Cheddar created at Lakeside Farmstead

Cheesemaker Ian Treuer prepares to move blocks of Chaga Cheddar into the aging room at Lakeside Farmstead after it has air-dryed following a soaking in chaga tea.

Here are two things you need to know about Jeff Nonay, a third-generation dairy farmer in Alberta. He enjoys a cup of chaga tea. He has a passion for cheese.

Three years ago, Lakeside Dairy, a thriving dairy, beef and potato operation 30 minutes north of Edmonton owned by Nonay and his partner, Coralee, expanded into producing cheese. The Nonays hired Ian Treuer to, firstly, lead-hand the design of the cheese plant and, then, to become the head cheesemaker at Lakeside Farmstead.

One day Jeff asked Ian whether a cheddar infused with chaga, a type of fungus that grows on Alberta birch trees, might be worth developing.

After some trial and error, the first Chaga Cheddar in Canada—indeed, in the world—came to be.

After soaking in a bath of chaga tea, cheddar curds are molded, pressed and aged for up to seven weeks. The resulting cheese is beautifully marbled and has a creamy texture and mild, nutty flavour.

Jeff Nonay is all smiles with the way Chaga Cheddar looks and tastes. Photo by Curtis Comeau Photography.

Says Jeff: “We soak our curds in a chaga tea, imparting flavours of smoke, sweetness, earthiness. The brewing tea fills the room with smells of being around a campfire. While the cheddar and chaga flavours meld together, the texture quickly becomes creamy and smooth. The outside of the curd stains with the rich dark tea and makes for a spectacular looking cheese.”

Adds Ian: “Our chaga cheddar has an interesting flavour. You get the mild to medium cheddar flavour, but the chaga imparts an almost smoky, caramel/dark chocolate flavour.”

Cheesemaker Ian Treuer holds chaga, a type of mushroom or fungus that grows on birch trees in Alberta—and in northern climes around the world.

Chaga’s most noted accolade is its antioxidant power, according to Untamed Feast, the local experts who source the sustainably harvested chaga used by Lakeside. Chaga is also nutrient dense, containing the B vitamin complex, vitamin D, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium. Chaga is used to balance blood sugar and blood pressure, to purify the liver, to relieve pain, to modulate the immune system and as an overall tonic.

The cheese produced at Lakeside is truly “farmstead” in that milk comes solely from the dairy barn a mere 200 feet/60 metres from the cheese plant.

Adds Treuer: “The cows have a nutritionist that designs their feed. And that, to me, makes it a better milk to use.”

In addition to Chaga Cheddar, Lakeside produces Cheddar, Clothbound Cheddar, Butter Cheese, Brie, Alpine Cheese, Fromage Blanc, Cheese Curds, Cottage Cheese and Cultured Butter. The cheese is available only in Alberta at present, from selected cheese shops and a retail store at the farm open Wednesday through Saturday.

Ian Treuer first started making cheese at home more than a decade ago: “I was looking for a hobby and it was that or make beer—and I don’t really drink.”

It wasn’t smooth sailing at first.

“That first cheese was a hockey puck. It was hard . . . but I was determined to eat it,” Treuer said.

Treuer kept working at it, which eventually led to teaching classes and working at smaller cheese operations. Then, in 2019, he was asked to become the head cheesemaker at Lakeside Dairy.

Cheesemaker Ian Treuer is shown in the aging room at Lakeside Farmstead with wheels of Alpine, a raw-milk cheese that is aged 12 to 24 months.

 

 

 

“I spent 20 years in another career and then the opportunity to work in cheese kind of arose. I have a very understanding and supportive wife, who allowed me to leave a really good job to pursue cheese.”

Treuer calls the process of making cheese his happy place. He says no cheese is identical, as the result is influenced by the subtle differences in each batch of milk.

Wheels of Washed Rind Cheese and Brie are ready to be packaged and shipped to retailers and customers.

Lakeside Dairy owner Jeff Nonay is known in the Edmonton food scene for his beef. He says that helped get his foot in the door of local restaurants and retailers and on the minds of consumers but his ultimate goal was to add cheese to his offerings.

“It was produced only 200 feet away on our dairy farm, where it all started, and transformed here to something consumers can really wrap their taste buds around,” Nonay said.

Lakeside Dairy is a Nonay-family run dairy, beef and potato operation north of Edmonton that now also produces farmstead cheese.

 

Nonay has had cheddar on the brain for a decade, after visiting a Québec dairy farm with its own cheese plant on site.

Five years ago, a devastating fire gutted a barn and killed 140 cows at the farm that has been in operation for decades.

“We lost a building, we lost animals and we needed to make decisions on what that meant on the farm,” Nonay said.

He said the fire was a fork in the road: a chance to look at what was lost and make decisions on other ways to run the business—and that included making cheese.

After Nonay rebuilt the barn, he started construction on the cheese plant.

“I could see in Québec (at Fromagerie du Presbytère) how it was done, and what we needed to do,” Nonay said but then the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down.

Like aging cheese, patience is key. Nonay kept pushing, had the plant completed and began making cheese with Treuer in charge of production.

Nonay and Treuer have come up with a new flavour made from a type of fungus that is often found growing on birch trees in Alberta forests.

The world’s first chaga cheese has a fairly mild taste with a slight nutty flavour.

“It’s truly amazing, where we have been able to come up with something unique in the world of cheese,” Treuer said.

Your intrepid reporter first met Ian Treuer almost a decade ago when Ian was a judge at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. The vat in the background holds 2,500 litres of milk which will yield 250-350 kilos of cheese.

These days Ian Treuer’s daily commute is a short one: a mere 100 steps separate his residence and jobsite at Lakeside Farmstead.

After tasting, testing and tweaking recipes for nearly a year, Lakeside Farmstead’s first cheese product, fresh curds, landed on store shelves in October, 2020.

The issue of milk sourcing is important. This is single-herd cheese, and just like single estate in the world of wine, the singleness of the raw product speaks to terroir (French for taste of place) and the very essence of the product. The taste, the smell and the texture of the cheese is not only a result of Treuer’s fine-tuning, but also because of what the animals are fed and how they’re raised.

While Ian Treuer turns milk into cheese, and Jeff Nonay tends to all aspects of farm life, including turning manure into compost, the dairy barn team ensures the cows receive the best food and care in a clean, low-stress working environment.

Lakeside milks 160 cows and finishes more than 150 beef animals a year.

“Sometimes I ask myself if I’m crazy to be doing all of this,” Nonay says. “Though when I look back, sitting in a rocking chair years from now, I want to think that the cheese is probably the coolest thing we did with our ability.”

The cheese idea sprouted after a young man from Québec came to the farm as part of an agricultural placement project for his education. “He had a backpack with a guitar, some maple butter and a block of amazing cheese inside,” says Nonay recalling the student’s arrival. The cheese was award-winning Louis d’Or, a Canadian classic.

When the placement ended and the young man returned to Québec, Jeff received a thank you note from his father, who, as it turned out, was Jean Morin, a fourth generation dairy farmer and the highly respected cheesemaker at Fromagerie du Presbytère in Sainte-Élizabeth de Warwick east of Montréal, maker of Louis d’Or and other award-winning cheeses.

Over the years, a friendship between the Alberta farmer and the Québécois fromager blossomed, and with that friendship, visits to Morin’s facility and an introduction into cheesemaking. Two of Jean Morin’s sons, first Charles, then Alexis, completed their placement at the Nonay farm.

More than a thousand people show up for Friday evening socials during the summer at Fromagerie du Presbytère in Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick, about two hours east of Montréal.

“Everything Jean did spoke to my soul,” Jeff Nonay says, inspired not only by the creative process but by the enjoyment he witnessed from Morin involving the small community in his work at the church-turned-cheesiry, for in Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick, those who make cheese together, eat, drink and rejoice together, too.

—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 on his travels across Canada on Substack at On the Road, Across the Sea.

Credit: Much thanks to Global News in Edmonton and the Eat North website for coverage of developments at Lakeside Dairy from which portions of the above report have been excerpted.

Zacharie Cloutier: Perfect pairing of art and science

Cheesemaker Marie-Chantal Houde and award-winning Zacharie Cloutier. Photo Le Val Ouest.

Marie-Chantal Houde has done it again. Her wonderful sheep milk cheese, Zacharie Cloutier, has been crowned the best cheese in Quebec—for the second time.

The honour came last night at the conclusion of Sélection Caseus 2022, the annual Québec-government sponsored judging and competition for artisan cheese made in Québec with all milks: cow, sheep, goat and water buffalo.

Complete results of the competition are online in English: https://www.caseus.ca/winners.php

Fromagerie Nouvelle France cheese is distributed by Plaisirs Gourmets. You’ll find Zacharie Cloutier in the best cheese shops across Canada. Ask your cheesemonger to order it. Or order online directly from the fromagerie.

We first met Marie-Chantal Houde way back in 2010 when she was developing Zacharie Cloutier on Sundays when she had use of the make room at Fromagerie du Presbytère. The next year she struck gold at Sélection Caseus for the first time. Her star had begun to ascend in a hurry.

Here’s our initial post about Marie-Chantal, her brother, Jean-Paul, who manages the sheep, and Fromagerie Nouvelle France in Racine, Québec, a 90-minute drive east of Montréal. It appeared in September 2014.

Marie-Chantal Houde: The cheesemaker as a rock star

THEN: Marie-Chantal Houde in the make room at Fromagerie du Presbytère developing Zacharie Cloutier five years ago.
THEN: Marie-Chantal Houde in the make room at Fromagerie du Presbytère developing Zacharie Cloutier five years ago.

Five years ago, on a visit to Fromagerie du Presbytère in Sainte-Elizabeth-de-Warwick two hours east of Montreal, I noticed a young woman up to her elbows in curd in the make room—even though it was Sunday.

Jean Morin, co-owner of the fromagerie, explained: “Oh, that’s Marie-Chantal (Houde). She’s developing a sheep’s milk cheese to sell under her own label. I let her use my facilities on Sundays. She’s really talented. In a few years, she’ll be a rock star in cheese.”

NOW:
NOW: One of its kind in Canada, a copper vat from France is used in the making of Zacharie Cloutier and other award-winners like Pionnier and Jean Morin’s Louis d’Or.

The next year, Marie-Chantal’s new cheese, Zacharie Cloutier, made its first appearance at Québec’s prestigious cheese competition, Caseus 2011, and struck gold. The sheep’s milk cheese was named best cheese in all milks. No cheese had ever won top honours at Caseus in its first year. Her star had begun to ascend in a hurry.

At this year’s Caseus competition, Fromagerie Nouvelle France, which Marie-Chantal started five years ago with her brother Jean-Paul, dominated the competition like no other cheese producer had done in the 16-year history of Caseus—confirming Jean Morin’s prediction.

ZAC: The best sheep's milk cheese made in Québec today.
ZAC: The best sheep’s milk cheese made in Québec today.

Zacharie Cloutier was named Grand Champion as well as Gold Award winner. Nouvelle France also won the two sheep’s milk categories, Zacharie Cloutier taking washed, natural or mixed rind honours while La Madelaine was judged best bloomy rind. Additionally, Pionnier, a collaboration between Nouvelle France and Fromagerie du Presbytère, was named best blended-milk cheese.

Fromagerie Nouvelle France is based on a 250-acre farm on the outskirts of the village of Racine, in Québec’s Eastern Townships. Jean-Paul tends to the East Friesian sheep, Marie-Chantal makes the cheese.

ZAC: The best sheep's milk cheese made in Québec today.
SIBLINGS: Jean-Paul looks after the East Friesians, Marie-Chantal makes the cheese. They’re the fourth generation in their family to work the land.

Vanessa Simmons, cheese sommelier at Savvy Company in Ottawa and featured presenter at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival who served as one of 21 judges at Caseus 2014, writes:

“Fromagerie Nouvelle France’s signature cheese, Zacharie Cloutier, is a raw sheep’s milk cheese, named for an ancestor who came to Canada from France in 1634. This ancestor is also said to be a distant relative of Céline Dion.

“Marie-Chantal’s love for her craft and talent transfers directly to her flagship cheese. Zacharie Clouthier is a semi-cooked, firm, raw sheep’s milk cheese with a very distinct exterior basket weave design attributed to a specially selected mold that gives the cheese and apricot rind its unique appearance.  Inside is a dense, meaty, bone-colored paste that portrays a mix of complex aromas and flavors: salt, butter, hazelnut, caramel, and coconut, with a hint of ripe pineapple. A rare treat.

“Le Pionnier, a collaboration between Fromagerie Nouvelle France and Fromagerie Presbytère, is a 40-kilogram wheel made of raw sheep’s and cow’s milk coming from the two cheesemaker herds. The cheese is a great marriage of cow’s milk cheese according to Morin’s tradition, and sheep’s milk cheese, according to Houde’s tradition. Le Pionnier is a firm cheese with a bit of washed rind, a dense cheese texture and some earthiness, and is very robust. Aged for 10 to 12 months, Le Pionnier displays complex aromas of butter, brown sugar and macadamia nuts with a delicate floral note. This cheese says ‘Look at me’ and is very indicative of their personalities. They are very outspoken cheesemakers.”

Now
COLLABORATION: Marie-Chantal Houde and Jean Morin toast the introduction of Pionnier, now also a Caseus winner.

Born on the family farm in Racine 30-something years ago, Marie-Chantal studied at l’Institut de technologie agroalimentaire in Saint-Hyacinthe, then at l’Université McGill in Montréal and l’École nationale d’industrie laitière et des biotechnologies in Poligny in the Jura cheese region of France.

Jean-Paul Houde represents the fourth generation of farmers in his family. His knowledge of the fields, grains, soil and harvesting he owes to his grandfather. His father taught him animal husbandry, to love and care for the animals and, of course, how to milk them. Jean-Paul manages 400 East Friesian sheep of which 250 are milked in rotation. The Solidar sheep farms in Chicoutimi and the sheep farm Fou du Berger in Hatley also supply milk for cheesemaking.

For Marie-Chantal, fine cheese is a marriage of art and science. Her passion for cheesemaking seems boundless. We look forward to seeing—and tasting—where her star will take her.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens.

 

With deep-fried cheese curds, poutine and a pogo stick, we celebrate 44 years in love

Whenever a road trip takes us into Northern Ontario, we always plan a stop at Nickel City Cheese in Chelmsford near Sudbury.

The beginning of our road trip out West was no different, except we had a special anniversary to celebrate: 44 years in love.

Who would have thunk that chance encounter on August 25, 1978, during registration at the Russian Academy of Classical Ballet in Toronto would lead to this: An anniversary celebration in Room 112 at Valley inn Motel in Azilda on the outskirts of Sudbury, Ontario, a short drive from Nickel City Cheese in Chelmsford where from the on-site food shack we ordered delicious deep-fried curds, an excellent poutine with curds that really squeak, and a house-made pogo stick that we shared as a meaty app.

The libation was a lovely Grand Cru champagne, Brimoncourt Extra Brut, gifted to us by good friends Maris and Sarmite on the occasion of my recent 80th birthday. Smooth and creamy, it elevated our simple meal to unexpected heights.

Nickel City Cheese is the outcome of a dream Nicole Paquin cherished for many years while toiling as a civil servant in the Ontario Attorney General’s ministry in Sudbury. She was originally from Québec and grew up with fresh curds readily available.

“I remembered the fromage des villages from where I grew up in Québec, and wanted to bring that here,” she said. “We had fresh cheese on a regular basis.”

She took early retirement, studied cheesemaking at University of Guelph, and in August, 2018, opened the doors of Nickel City Cheese.

She makes cheddar exclusively and offers nearly 20 flavours of fresh cheese curds. Thus, it was a natural progression to open a Poutinerie run by her son next to the creamery. And, eventually, a donut shop that features funnel cake, and now an ice cream stand, too.

The milk comes from a Dairy Farmers of Ontario co-op supported by 14 local farms.

Double disappointment

On our return trip from the Rockies, we planned to again stop in Chelmsford for deep-dried curds and the excellent poutine. Much to our chagrin, we found the Poutinerie closed for the season—even though the website says it will be open until November 1.

To add insult to injury, the fast-food joint in Chelmsford that specializes in deep-fried chicken ran out of chicken just as we placed our order, so we ended up eating barely warm burgers for dinner back at the motel.

Dare we visit Chelmsford again?

Footnote: In a recent email, Nicole Paquin confirmed the poutinerie, donut shop and ice cream shop are closed for the season while the cheese shop hours are as follows:

  • Monday to Friday—10am to 5:30pm
  • Saturday to Sunday—10am to 5pm

Nickel City website: https://nickelcitycheese.ca/

Nickel City on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NickelCityCheese

Perfect score earns Gay Lea Grass-Fed Butter Grand Champion crown at The Royal

For the first time in memory a perfect score was recorded in the annual Canadian Cheese & Butter Competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair when Gay Lea Grass-Fed Salted Butter was crowned Grand Champion in this year’s competition presented by Dairy Farmers of Ontario at the 100th Anniversary Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

Comments by judges on the score sheets are telling: Beautiful texture, smooth body, excellent colour, super clean flavour.

Gay Lea Foods Co-operative, with more than 1,400 dairy farms across Ontario and Manitoba as members, has butter-making down pat. Its Grass-Fed Salted Butter scored a perfect 100.00 to win Grand Champion and its category. Gay Lea Sea Salted Butter scored 99.5, its Gras-Fed Unsalted scored 98.5, both winning their respective categories.

Cows that feed on fresh grass produce the best cheese and butter.

Gay Lea’s grass-fed butters have a distinct yellow colour, rich flavour and silky mouthfeel. And they are healthy as butter can be.

Experts in health and nutrition tell us that grass-fed butter is a good source of vitamin A and the antioxidant beta carotene. It also has a higher proportion of healthy, unsaturated fats and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) than regular butter.

What’s more, it provides vitamin K2, a form of vitamin K that plays an important role in your bone and heart health. Overall, grass-fed butter is a relatively healthy alternative to regular butter when consumed in moderation.

Technical Judge Barry Reid.

What makes grass-fed butter better?

We asked Barry Reid, one of the technical judges in the RAWF competition. Born into a cheesemaking family, Barry’s father was a cheesemaker for 30+ years, Barry was, too, for 15 years. For 20 years following, Barry was a full-time dairy inspector with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency based out of Belleville, Ontario. For the past 35 years, Barry has judged cheese and butter competitions.

“The freshness of the grass. The sunshine. Nature always produces the best if you look after it. No sprays or chemicals, et cetera.

“Hay stored in buildings for any extended period of time will deteriorate over time. But climate, especially in Canada, dictates we do this.

“Cows help the process along if they are not stressed, if they have a good life environment, with lots of water and good feed.”

As award-winning cheesemakers have told us many times over the years: It all begins with the grass. Happy cows produce the best milk—which makes the best cheese and butter.

Butter is typically made from cow’s milk. Essentially, it’s the fat from milk in solid form. It’s made by churning milk until the butterfat separates from the buttermilk.

In the 2022 Cheese & Butter Competition at The Royal, there were 195 entries submitted by producers across Canada. Judging took place June 10. Complete results are posted at https://www.assistexpo.ca/results/rawf/5/

Read more:

Support for the competition was provided by the Presenting Partner, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, which has made over $30,000 in prize money available, as well as Metro which supports the competition and presents the Champions Showcase during The Fair.

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair celebrates 100 years of world-class equine and agricultural excellence on November 4-13, 2022, at Exhibition Place in Toronto. It is the world’s largest combined indoor agricultural and equestrian show.

The Royal draws more than 300,000 visitors to Toronto annually to see thousands of unique entries from elite Canadian and international breeders, growers and exhibitors, more than 4,500 large and small animals, shows, activities, shopping, dining and—of course—The Royal Horse Show.

Come and experience The Royal, there’s truly something for the entire family. Click here for information and tickets.

Treizième Apôtre goat cheese crowned Grand Champion at The Royal

Treizième Apôtre: Grand Champion in goat, sheep, water buffalo or mixed milk division.

Treizième Apôtre made by Fromagerie du Presbytère in Québec was honoured as a Grand Champion in the 2022 Canadian Cheese & Butter Competition presented by Dairy Farmers of Ontario at the 100th Anniversary Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

Made from unpasteurized goat milk, Treizième Apôtre was named Grand Champion in the goat, sheep, water buffalo or mixed milk division. It also won first place in the surface ripened category.

The recognition as Grand Champion is the second such victory for Cheesemaker Jean Morin at the oldest and biggest cheese and butter competition in Canada. His Louis d’Or was honoured as Grand Champion in the cow milk division.

Treizième Apôtre—Thirteenth Apostle, in English—is a goat cheese to offer to people who say they don’t like goat cheese. It has a refined taste that is simply delicious.

It’s not a chèvre but a semi-firm cheese with a rich and creamy texture. Under a beautiful orange ocre washed rind, the uniform white paste overflows with delicate fruity notes.

Treizième Apôtre label shows the Morin family dairy farm across the street from the former church where cheese is aged.

The milk used for the cheese comes from a goat farm near Fromagerie du Presbytère in Ste-Elizabeth-de-Warwick in central Québec.

Why name the cheese “Thirteenth Apostle?”

“Since we make our cheese in a presbytere (a former rectory), we were looking for a name with a religious angle,” explains Stephanie Ouellet, manager of Magasin Général Ste-Élizabeth, the expansive retail store down the street from the fromagerie. “Since Jesus had 12 apôtres or apostles, we thought that the producer of the goat milk, Gérard Cinter, might be the 13th.”

Cheesemaker Jean Morin is known for his sense of humour. The whimsical nature of the cheese name is also reflected in the artwork for the packaging. It depicts the tiny village with the Morin family dairy farm across the street from the former church where these days cheese is aged.

Jean Morin, a fourth generation dairy farmer, purchased the former Roman Catholic rectory when he started cheesemaking in 2005. Ten years later he purchased the former church to develop a state-of-the-art aging facility.

Jean Morin: Fourth generation dairy farmer and award-winning cheesemaker.

Although most of the 12 cheeses the fromagerie produces are made with cow milk from the family dairy farm, Jean Morin has expanded his product line to include:

  • Taliah, a rustic cheddar made with sheep milk;
  • Les Cinter, a heavenly chèvre made with goat milk;
  • Pionnier, an Alpine-style cheese made with a blend of sheep and cow milk.

Expert judges at The Royal competition had nothing but praise for Treizième Apôtre. “A textbook perfect surface ripened cheese with a beautiful rind,” said one. “A simply gorgeous cheese,” said another.

If your favourite cheese shop doesn’t carry Treizième Apôtre, order it online from Fromagerie du Presbytère for home delivery in Ontario, Québec and New Brunswick. The fromagerie is represented by distributor Plaisirs Gourmets across Canada.

In the 2022 Cheese & Butter Competition at The Royal, there were 195 entries submitted by producers across Canada. Judging took place June 10. Complete results are posted at https://www.assistexpo.ca/results/rawf/5/

Read more

Support for the competition was provided by the Presenting Partner, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, which has made over $30,000 in prize money available, as well as Metro which supports the competition and presents the Champions Showcase during The Fair.

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair celebrates 100 years of world-class equine and agricultural excellence on November 4-13, 2022, at Exhibition Place in Toronto. It is the world’s largest combined indoor agricultural and equestrian show.

The Royal draws more than 300,000 visitors to Toronto annually to see thousands of unique entries from elite Canadian and international breeders, growers and exhibitors, more than 4,500 large and small animals, shows, activities, shopping, dining and—of course—The Royal Horse Show.

Come and experience The Royal, there’s truly something for the entire family. Click here for information and tickets.

Louis d’Or crowned Grand Champion at The Royal—again

Grand Champion: Louis d’Or made by Fromagerie du Presbytère in Sainte Elizabeth de Warwick, Québec.

Louis d’Or is truly the King of Cheese in Canada.

The Alpine-style cheese made by Jean Morin and his équipe at Fromagerie du Presbytère in Québec has won the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. It has been honoured as Cheese of the Year at the Canadian Cheese Awards. It has been recognized as the Best Cheese in Quebec at the Caseus competition—twice.

Now, Louis d’Or 18 months has been crowned Grand Champion in the cow milk division at the 2022 Canadian Cheese & Butter Competition presented by Dairy Farmers of Ontario at the 100th Anniversary Royal Agricultural Winter Fair—eight years after it was crowned Grand Champion at The Royal the first time!

No other Canadian cheese has won all four of the most prestigious competitions in Canada.

Here’s what Cheese Sommelier Vanessa Simmons of Ottawa has to say about Louis d’Or:

Made in monster-sized 40-kilogram wheels, this washed-rind raw cow milk cheese is cooked, pressed and aged from 9 to 24 months with extra care taken during the ripening process. Resulting is a smooth, rich-textured paste encased in an antique gold, amber-colored rind. Aromas range from butter to onion and ripe pineapple. A complex mix of sweet, salty and dominant nutty, meaty flavors finish with a tingle at the back of the palate that lingers thanks to raw milk.

“Balance is achieved with a grand array of flavours blending into a mélange of excellence,” one judge at The Royal competition commented. Said another: “The aroma is nutty and herbal, the complex flavours are fantastic.”

What’s the secret of the success of Louis d’Or?

“Happy, healthy cows,” Cheesemaker Jean Morin says. “It all starts with the milk, and the care we show the cheese as we make it.”

Jean Morin is the fourth generation Morin to run the dairy farm known as Ferme Louis d’Or in Sainte Elizabeth de Warwick, a tiny village two hours east of Montréal. His children represent the fifth generation: Thomas, Charles, Alexis and Èva. A daughter-in-law, Stephanie, manages the retail store. Meet the Morin family and take a tour of the farm and fromagerie in the video:

Fromagerie du Presbytère dates back to 2005 when Jean Morin purchased the former Roman Catholic rectory across the street from the family dairy farm. (Presbytère is the French word for rectory.)

When we first visited in 2010, Jean Morin 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 as well as Morbier, Emmental, Mont-d’or, Gex Blue and Vacherin du Haut-Doub.

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

The past decade has proven him right. Louis d’Or has become widely known and praised for its fine, complex flavours.

Jean Morin: Fourth generation dairy farmer and award-winning cheesemaker.

In 2015, Jean Morin paid $1 to purchase the Roman Catholic church in Sainte Elizabeth de Warwick, across the street from the farm and adjacent to the rectory turned fromagerie, then poured $1 million into conversion for affinage.

The former church can house up to 3,000 wheels of Louis d’Or. They are looked after by Pat, the name given to a $300,000 Swiss-made robot that lifts, brushes and rotates the 40-kilo wheels of cheese weekly. Since the aging space is more than five meters high, the robot not only ensures uniformity but also protects employees from the hazards of manually handling wheels of cheese that weigh 40 kilos or close to 90 pounds.

Louis d’Or cheese gets its name from Ferme Louis d’Or where 140 milking cows produce the milk used to make it and other cheeses. The name of the cheese also refers to the French currency of the same name used under the reign of Louis XIII in 1640.

The longer Louis d’Or is aged the more all that aroma and flavour only elevate the taste experience to a sublime degree. It’s rich and creamy, with floral notes and hints of nuttiness, a wonderful example of Canadian cheese at its finest.

If your favourite cheese shop doesn’t carry Louis d’Or, order it online for home delivery in Ontario, Québec and New Brunswick.

In the 2022 Cheese & Butter Competition at The Royal, there were 195 entries submitted by producers across Canada. Judging took place June 10. Complete results are posted at https://www.assistexpo.ca/results/rawf/5/

Also see:

Support for the competition was provided by the Presenting Partner, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, which has made over $30,000 in prize money available, as well as Metro which supports the competition and presents the Champions Showcase during The Fair.

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair celebrates 100 years of world-class equine and agricultural excellence on November 4-13, 2022, at Exhibition Place in Toronto. It is the world’s largest combined indoor agricultural and equestrian show.

The Royal draws more than 300,000 visitors to Toronto annually to see thousands of unique entries from elite Canadian and international breeders, growers and exhibitors, more than 4,500 large and small animals, shows, activities, shopping, dining and—of course—The Royal Horse Show.

Come and experience The Royal, there’s truly something for the entire family. Click here for information and tickets.

Cows Creamery cheddar crowned Grand Champion at The Royal

Armand Bernard, lead cheesemaker at Cows Creamery in Charlottetown, P.E.I. since 2006.

Cows Creamery has done it again.

The Extra Old Cheddar made by the P.E.I. cheese producer was honoured as Grand Champion Cheddar in the 2022 Canadian Cheese & Butter Competition presented by Dairy Farmers of Ontario at the 100th Anniversary Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

The victory in the oldest and biggest cheese and butter competition in Canada represents the latest in a long list of awards garnered by a remarkable cheddar whose recipe hails from the Orkney Islands north of mainland Scotland.

In 2004, Cows Creamery owner Scott Linkletter visited the Orkney Islands where his family has roots. He fell in love with the taste of the local cheese and returned with a recipe for traditional English cheddar and a dream to make cheese with local milk in P.E.I.

Linkletter enlisted the help of Armand Bernard, who had already been working at Cows as an ice-cream maker for 10 years, meaning Bernard was no stranger to transforming P.E.I. milk into something extraordinary.

Cows Creamery introduced Extra Old Cheddar to the world in 2006.

They developed Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar and the wonderful aged cheddar that in 2014 was selected as the World’s Best Aged Cheddar and last week at The Royal as Canada’s best cheddar—for, it seems, the umpteenth time.

The recipe for all cheddars made by Cows Creamery is essentially the same—except for the aging process and length of time in affinage.

Bernard, the lead cheesemaker at Cows since 2006, is known for his meticulous attention to detail. Andrea White, wholesale manager at Cows, says his consistency is part of the reason Cows Creamery products are a cut above the rest: “Armand leads a team of professionals that never waiver on the quality and precision of their work. Every day is different; from cloth-binding fresh wheels of cheddar, to flipping and vacuuming the cheeses as they age in their caves, ensuring uniformity in their aging—consistency is always part of the job”.

Bernard believes high-quality P.E.I. milk plays a key role in their success. Cows Creamery works with a local dairy co-op that supports 160 small, family-run farms on the island. The average herd size is a mere 65 Holstein cattle and care is taken by each farmer to maintain clean farming practices. Throughout the year, the cows graze on clay- and iron-rich pasture and eat a mixed diet of hay, grain, and silage. Sea salt and minerals are naturally occurring in the environment, too, which gives the cheeses unique earthy notes.

No point on the island is more than 30 kilometres or so from the sea.

The Extra Old Cheddar is aged for at least 18 months. It’s made with vegetable rennet, all natural, with no colour added. The cheese is made with unpasteurized milk: The milk is gently heated, which preserves the micro-organisms and enzymes in raw milk that give cheddar its characteristic flavour.

Like wine, cheese has a terroir, says Bernard. “The area it’s produced in—whether it’s the nutrients in the soil or the air the cows breathe—has certain things that can’t be replicated. On the island, we’re surrounded by water. We have the red soil. I don’t believe I could take the same recipe to central or western Canada and create the same product.”

For Cows Creamery, Bernard says, the trick to making “absolutely delicious” cheese is the aging process.

“The real flavour comes with time as the cheese ages,” he says. “Some cheese will get sharper, ours becomes more flavourful, with more depth of character.”

Bernard grew up on a small farm near Tignish, about 150 kilometres northwest of Charlottetown where Cows Creamery is based.

“We were a small farm, milked 24 cows. I had six brothers and sisters. It was all hands on deck. We had chores in the barn before we went to school and helped with the milking at night. Summers were spent at home working the fields. It was an awesome way to grow up.”

Did your family make anything with the milk?

“No, but we drank two gallons a day when everybody was home. It was delicious. In the summertime, you’d have the cream rise to the top, and you’d have it on strawberry shortcake. I got to know milk well.”

Culture magazine, the leading publication about cheese in the English-speaking world, had this to say about the taste of Cows Creamery Extra Old Cheddar:

“Although on first glance the texture of this cheese is semi-firm and crumbly, on the palate it’s unexpectedly creamy and smooth, melting in the mouth. Its great taste hits you immediately, with a notable tang and sourness that interplays with a mild sharpness. An initial hint of sweetness can be detected, as well as rich, full toasted nut and buttery cashew aromas and notes of pineapple, chive and sweet cream.”

Cows Creamery is based at 12 Milky Way in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

COWS Ice Cream has been a family tradition on Prince Edward Island since 1983. From a small kiosk on the famous Cavendish Boardwalk in Charlottetown, the COWS brand now has seven locations across P.E.I, four in Nova Scotia, and one each is Whistler, Banff, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Quebec City and Beijing, China. The COWS brand has expanded over the years with cheese and butter lines, as well as the popular COWS-themed merchandise.

Raspberry Point Oyster Co. is a sister company shipping choice oysters throughout Canada, U.S.A., Europe and Asia. The company started as a bit of a hobby for Scott Linkletter and his father who harvested oysters near the family summer home in New London Bay.

But the man is a serial entrepreneur, if there ever was one. Other sister companies include Anne of Green Gables ChocolatesBOOMburger and Moo Moo BBQ Grilled Cheesery, among other ventures.

In the 2022 Cheese & Butter Competition at The Royal, there were 195 entries submitted by producers across Canada. Judging took place June 10. Complete results are posted at https://www.assistexpo.ca/results/rawf/5/

Support for the competition was provided by the Presenting Partner, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, which has made over $30,000 in prize money available, as well as Metro which supports the competition and presents the Champions Showcase during The Fair.

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair celebrates 100 years of world-class equine and agricultural excellence on November 4-13, 2022, at Exhibition Place in Toronto. It is the world’s largest combined indoor agricultural and equestrian show.

The Royal draws more than 300,000 visitors to Toronto annually to see thousands of unique entries from elite Canadian and international breeders, growers and exhibitors, more than 4,500 large and small animals, shows, activities, shopping, dining and—of course—The Royal Horse Show.

Come and experience The Royal, there’s truly something for the entire family. Click here for information and tickets.

 

 

 

 

Fromagerie du Presbytère twice champion at Royal Cheese & Butter Competition

Cheesemaker Jean Morin with award-winning Louis d’Or at Fromagerie du Presbytère.

Cheesemaker Jean Morin and his équipe at Fromagerie du Presbytère in Ste-Elizabeth-de-Warwick, Québec, dominated the 2022 Canadian Cheese & Butter Competition presented by Dairy Farmers of Ontario at the 100th anniversary Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

Louis d’Or 18 mois and Treizième Apôtre were crowned Grand Champions in two sections of the competition, in Cow Milk and in Goat, Sheep, Water Buffalo and Mixed Milk, respectively. Additionally, four cheeses from Presbytère were named class champions.

Quite the haul in the oldest and biggest cheese and butter competition in Canada with 195 entries submitted by producers across the land. Judging took place June 10. The Fair runs November 4-13 at Exhibition Place in Toronto.

Cows Creamery Extra Old Cheddar was named Grand Champion Cheddar.

Gay Lea Grass-Fed Salted Butter was crowned Grand Champion Butter.

More than $33,000 in prize money was provided by Dairy Farmers of Ontario, the Presenting Partner. The Champions Showcase at The Fair is presented by Metro.

Complete results are posted at https://www.assistexpo.ca/results/rawf/5/

Here are the 2022 Grand Champions and class winners:

Cows Creamery Extra Old Cheddar: Grand Champion Cheddar.

CHEDDAR CHEESE

  • Grand Champion, any milk
  • Cows Creamery Extra Old Cheddar
  • Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, P.E.I.
  • Cheesemaker Armand Bernard
  • Silver Trier Award, cow milk cheddars
  • Cows Creamery, Charlottetown, P.E.I.
  • Cheesemaker Armand Bernard
  • Mild Cheddar, up to 3 months
  • L’Ancêtre Organic Mild Cheddar
  • Fromagerie L’Ancêtre, Bécancour, Québec
  • Medium Cheddar, 4 to 9 months
  • L’Ancêtre Organic Medium Cheddar
  • Fromagerie L’Ancêtre, Bécancour, Québec
  • Aged Cheddar, 2 years or older
  • Perron Millésimé 2015 Vintage
  • Fromagerie Perron, Saint Prime, Québec
Louis d’Or 18 mois: Grand Champion in the cow milk section.

COW MILK CHEESE

Treizieme Apotre: Grand Champion in the goat-sheep-water-buffalo-mixed milk section.

GOAT, SHEEP, WATER BUFFALO & MIXED MILK CHEESE

  • Grand Champion
  • Treizième Apôtre
  • Fromagerie du Presbytère, Ste-Elizabeth-de-Warwick, Québec
  • Cheesemaker Jean Morin
  •  
  • Fresh Unripened Cheese, Flavoured
  • Beet Horseradish Chevre
  • Cross Wind Farm, Keene, Ontario
  • Cheesemaker Cindy Hope
  • Pasta Filata
  • Bella Casara Buffalo Mozzarella
  • Quality Cheese, Vaughan, Ontario
  • Soft Bloomy Rind
  • Le Sabot de Blanchette
  • Fromagerie La Suisse Normande, St-Roch-Ouest, Québec
  • Cheesemaker Fabienne Mathieu
  • Interior Ripened
  • Blyth’s Eweda
  • Blyth Farm Cheese, Blyth, Ontario
  • Cheesemaker Paul Van Dorp
  • Surface Ripened
  • Treizième Apôtre
  • Fromagerie du Presbytère, Ste-Elizabeth-de-Warwick, Québec
  • Cheesemaker Jean Morin
  • Feta or Feta Style, Natural
  • River’s Edge Feta
  • River’s Edge Goat Dairy, Arthur, Ontario
  • Cheesemaker Katie Normet
  • Feta or Feta Style, Flavoured
  • Sundried Tomato & Basil Feta
  • Cross Wind Farm, Keene, Ontario
  • Cheesemaker Cindy Hope
  • Cheese with Grilling Properties
  • Grillou Fines Herbes
  • Fromagerie Nouvelle France, Racine, Québec
  • Cheesemaker Marie-Chantal Houde
  • Open Class
  • Le Verdict d’Alexina
  • Fromagerie Le Détour, Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac, Québec
  • Cheesemaker Mario Quirion
Gay Lea Grass-Fed Salted Butter: Grand Champion Butter.

BUTTER

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair celebrates 100 years of world-class equine and agricultural excellence on November 4-13, 2022.

Since its inception in November 1922, The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair has become the world’s largest combined indoor agricultural and equestrian show.

The Royal draws more than 300,000 visitors to Toronto annually to see thousands of unique entries from elite Canadian and international breeders, growers and exhibitors, more than 4,500 large and small animals, shows, activities, shopping, dining and—of course—The Royal Horse Show.

Come and experience The Royal, there’s truly something for the entire family. Click here for information and tickets.

 

$33,000 in prize money at oldest cheese competition in Canada

Attention, Canadian cheesemakers!

Entries are open for the 2022 Canadian Cheese & Butter Competition presented by Dairy Farmers of Ontario at the 100th anniversary Royal Agricultural Winter Fair with more than $33,000 in prize money provided by Dairy Farmers of Ontario.

It’s the oldest cheese and butter competition in Canada dating back 100 years to 1922 when the Fair was first held at Exhibition Place in Toronto.

Entry deadline is June 1. Judging for the competition takes place June 10 with winners announced soon after.

The competition is open to Canadian cheese made with all milks—cow, goat, sheep, water buffalo and mixed—by producers in all provinces.

Click to read and download the 2022 competition book with rules and regulations in English.

Cliquez pour lire et télécharger le livret du concours 2022 avec le réglementation en français.

Judges for the prestigious competition are selected on the basis of their knowledge, understanding and appreciation of cheese. The Jury is evenly divided between judges strong on technical aspects of cheese and those strong on aesthetics.

Technical Judges: Art Hill, Kelsie Parsons, Barry Reid, Cecilia Smith,  Heather Thelwell.

Aesthetic Judges: André Derrick, Erin Harris, Andrew Moulton, Martin Raymond, Sue Riedl.

Judging Facilitator: Connie Smith. Competition Superintendents: Debbie Levy and Lisa McAlpine.

Presenting Sponsor of the Cheese & Butter Competition: Dairy Farmers of Ontario.

Evaluation of cheese will be based on the following:

  • Aroma
  • Flavours
  • Texture and Body
  • Appearance and Rind Development
    (if rind is appropriate to the cheese)

In the 2021 competition, the Grand Champions were:

Grand Champion in Cow Milk: Miranda, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, Noyan, Quebec, Cheesemaker Fritz Kaiser;

Grand Champion in Goat, Sheep, Water Buffalo and mixed milk: Fuoco, Fromagerie Fuoco, St. Lin Laurentides, Québec, Cheesemaker Jason Fuoco;

Grand Champion Cheddar and Ontario Champion Cheddar: Balderson Medium Cheddar, Lactalis Canada, Chesterville, Ontario;

Grand Champion Butter: Lactantia Cultured Salted Butter, Lactalis Canada, Chesterville, Ontario.

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair celebrates 100 years of world class Equine and Agricultural excellence on November 4-13, 2022.

Since its inception in November 1922, The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair has become the world’s largest combined agricultural and equestrian show.

The Royal draws more than 300,000 visitors to Toronto annually to see thousands of unique entries from elite Canadian and international breeders, growers and exhibitors, more than 4,500 large and small animals, shows, activities, shopping, dining and—of course—The Royal Horse Show.

Come and experience The Royal, there’s truly something for the entire family. Click here for information and tickets.

 

Much cheese and good eats on a cross-Canada road trip

We’re planning a road trip across Canada, from our home near Toronto to the Canadian Rockies and home again. We’ll be on the road for almost two months, covering close to 8,000 km, camping most of the time—and eating well.

Our primary destination will be the Rockies in all their early fall splendor. We are so looking forward to taking in incredible scenery such as Pyramid Lake in Jasper National Park captured above by Scott Kranz @scott_kranz on Instagram.

Cheese stops are on the itinerary, and food stops, too. Here’s the beginning of our list:

WESTBOUND

EASTBOUND

If you have a suggestion or recommendation, please leave it in comments below.

If you’re planning to visit the Rockies, be sure to check out Travel Alberta, an excellent resource for all things Alberta.

Read more about our plans and the itinerary at our new website On the Road, Across the Sea on Substack. Come along for the ride by subscribing to our newsletter on the Substack page. It’s free.

—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.

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