Eighteen years ago, Mira Schenkel emigrated from Switzerland with her husband, Uli, to farm and raise a family in British Columbia. Today, she’s the best home cheesemaker in Canada.
Initially, it was Uli who was the cheesemaker in the family but as the demands of the farm in Salmon Arm, B.C., increased and his time for making cheese became limited, Uli convinced Mira to try her hand at it. Four years ago, she made her first cheese.
On the first weekend of June, her wonderful cheese called Clover captured Best of Show honours and won the washed-rind category in the inaugural Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards held in conjunction with The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario.
“While mostly self-taught, I am truly grateful to my dear and hardworking husband for encouraging me to become a cheesemaker and also for his great care and milking of our cows to provide the highest quality milk which makes the cheese special,” Mira wrote in an email. She also credits 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes by Debra Amrein-Boyes, an award-winning cheesemaker at The Farm House Natural Cheeses in Agassiz, B.C.
Along with many other animals the farm, the Schenkels have four family cows, two Jerseys (Amber and Peekaboo) and two crossbreds (Belle and Brittney) that provide the fresh unpasteurized milk from which Mira make her cheese.
Since making her first mountain cheese four years ago, Mira says she has enjoyed making a variety of cheeses including Gouda, Maasdammer, Camembert and, of course, Clover—all always aged for a minimum of 60 days due to the use of unpasteurized milk.
“The unique flavour of my award-winning Clover cheese features clover and herbs which I bring in from Switzerland,” Mira explains.
The judges loved Clover:
“This raw-milk Alpine cheese has a wonderful clover and grass aroma that comes from the Swiss Clover wash used on the rind. The wonderful golden hue of the paste is dotted with occasional small eyes which developed during ripening that complement the make-up of the cheese. The cheese has a nice clover flavour with hints of honey and finishes with a nuttiness that hints of hazelnuts or roasted almonds. The texture of this cheese is as complex as the flavor. It starts firm but, as you taste it, the cheese breaks down to an almost-fudge like finish.”