It’s time for Ontario to have a designated taste trail to spotlight the close to 50 producers of excellent cheese made in the province. Click here for an interactive map providing an overview of cheesemakers in Ontario.
Quebec has long had taste trail to showcase its cheesemakers, recently producing an app for mobile phones to help you navigate the 15 cheese regions of La Belle Province. Click here to access the app, currently available only in French.
Oxford County in Southwestern Ontario has shown what can be done locally to promote its cheesemakers and other artisan food producers, gourmet shops and eateries. Click here to access the Oxford County Cheese Trail, a self-guided tour of 24 stops, including three cheese producers.
We see Cheese Lover’s Guide to Ontario as a mouth-watering guide in print and on the Web:
Who are the cheesemakers in Ontario
Where are they located
What are the tasty cheeses they produce
History of cheesemaking in Ontario
All about milk in Ontario
How milk is turned into cheese
Pairing cheese with wine and beer
Cooking with cheese
We plan to create maps dividing the province into four regions:
Ontario Golden Horseshoe
With suggested itineraries for weekend and longer road trips. We’ll include cheese shops and gourmet food retailers, bakers and charcuterie makers, wineries, breweries and distillers.
If you’d like to help make the Ontario Cheese Taste Trail happen, please get in touch. Email email@example.com or leave a comment below.
For our part, we’ll reach out to cheese producers—There are 46 on our map above—to begin building a database of information about cheeses produced, type of milk used, the personnel involved, history of the business, whether tours are offered, whether there is a retail store on the premises, and so on.
This is quite an undertaking so don’t expect to see the finished product for a while.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, drafted the original outline for an Ontario cheese trail way back in 2010, so this has been a long time coming.
FLASHBACK FRIDAY: First posted on January 23, 2010
Generally, I would not post commercials for cheese but this one for Nolan’s Cheese is worth sharing. Click here to view it. Make sure you have the volume turned up. Watch it to the conclusion before reading further.
In case it did not dawn on you, the commercial is faux. There is no such cheese as Nolan’s and no animals were harmed in the production of the short film.
The film-maker is John Nolan, at the leading edge of animatronics, whose work has been utilized in Harry Potter, Where the Wild Things Are, and Clash of Titans.
He trained a mouse for the opening shots, then built a robotic mouse for the rest.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, is the founder of Canadian Cheese Awards and The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.
Limburger Cheese, famous for its pungent aroma, is a soft washed-rind cheese that, along with Havarti, was a staple of my childhood, after we escaped to Germany from Latvia in the final days of the Second World War, before coming to Canada.
Limburger was originally created by Belgian Trappist monks in the early 1800s in the Limburg region of Belgium. By 1830, due to its popularity, German cheesemakers in the Allgau region of Germany, aka Bavaria, began copying Limburger Cheese. This tradition continues today as Germany is the largest producer of Limburger in the world.
It’s a different story in Canada. Only one cheese producer makes Limburger Cheese, tiny Oak Grove Cheese Factory in New Hamburg, Ontario, 130 km west of Toronto.
It’s a similar story in the United States with only Chalet Cheese Cooperative in Monroe, Wisconsin, making what it calls Country Castle Limburger.
As best as we can determine, Oak Grove doesn’t have distribution in the Toronto area, and it’s unable to ship Limburger to consumers dying to sample the cheese. Thankfully, St. Mang Bavarian Made Limburger is generally available in supermarkets, enabling us to recall flavours of a childhood long ago.
Limburger Cheese has an orange-brown rind and a pale straw colored interior. After maturation of 30 days, the texture of Limburger is still firm and crumbly, similar to Feta, and the taste mild, but by three months of aging, Limburger softens and becomes somewhat spreadable and extremely pungent. This strong scent is caused by a particular strain of bacteria that grows on the surface of the cheese.
Brevibacterium linens is the same bacterium that is employed to ferment washed-rind and smear-ripened cheeses such as Époisses de Bourgogne, Port-du-Salut and Pont L’Eveque. (We won’t mention that Brevibacterium linens is ubiquitously present on the human skin, where it can cause odor.)
But don’t let the aroma of Limburger fool you. The taste is all creamy, sweet and savoury, the paste gives off a lovely lactic aroma with some nuttiness, and the mouthfeel supple and creamy.
All the pungent punch is on the rind—which the faint of heart and palate can trim.
The rind has a distinctive patten indicating where slices should be generously cut for sandwiches. After all, Limburger is a workman’s cheese, best enjoyed on dark rye bread, with a slice of onion, washed down with a dark ale or a strong cup of coffee.
In Wisconsin, they love to smear the rye bread, or pumpernickel with mustard. At our house, we prefer unsalted butter on Dimpflmeier Organic Whole Grain Rye Bread before we lay on the onion and Limburger.
Regarding the onion, we’ve developed a preference for Peruvian Vidalia sold in Farm Boy stores. Almost identical to the Georgia Vidalia in terms of taste, sweetness and color, the Peruvian onion has the characteristic of the flat granex-style onion and is grown in the Southern Hemisphere from the same seed variety as the Vidalia. (Did-you-know aside: The flatter the onion, the sweeter the taste.)
We’re waiting for COVID-19 restrictions to ease to make the trek to New Hamburg for our first taste of Canadian Limburger. Fingers crossed it will be tasty—and smell good like Limburger should.
Also waiting for Mrs. K to relent and let me try a Limburger Mac and Cheese recipe.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever.
Flashback Friday: It’s amazing how many favourites of 2010 are still popular choices today. This post first appeared in November 2010.
It is hard to imagine someone with a greater enthusiasm for cheese and its appreciation than Vanessa Simmons. “I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like,” she insists, and I believe her. I met Vanessa on a Monday night in Ottawa as she led a cheese-tasting class presented by Savvy Company titled the Great Canadian Cheese Discovery. Held at Thyme and Again Food Shop, the class focused on Quebec artisan cheeses.
Vanessa is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, whose passion for cheese first developed when she made her own feta during a cooking class. She says she was amazed that it seemed to take just “magic, faith and some TLC” in order to produce a great-tasting cheese. She was hooked.
Vanessa is now working toward her Cheese Education Guild certificate with Canadian cheese maven and author Kathy Guidi. Once a week, Vanessa leaves work early and drives five hours from Ottawa down Highway 401 in order to attend the cheese appreciation course in Toronto.
“My brother jokes I either need a boyfriend or a dog, because I spend way too much time with cheese,” Vanessa says with a laugh.
We began our sampling with Le Joupon Frivole from Fromagerie Les Folie Bergeres in St-Sixte, a soft, rich surfaced-ripened sheep’s milk cheese. It was fresh tasting and had a thick texture, forming a paste that coated the mouth. The milk used for Le Jupon Frivole is thermalized, a process commonly used in Quebec. Unlike the high heat of pasteurization, thermalization uses lower heat over a longer period of time. It is therefore gentler on the milk, and helps maintain its original flavours.
Our second cheese of the evening was Foin D’Odeur, produced by La Moutonniere in Sainte-Helene-de-Chester. When it was presented to us, this ripe cheese was melting all over the plate. Foin D’Odeur is a bloomy rind sheep’s milk cheese. It had grassy, natural flavours, while the rind tasted mushroomy.
Nearly every cheese we tasted that night was packaged in a beautiful, hand-designed label, as Vanessa pointed out to the group. The unique labelling reflects the grassroots nature of Quebec cheesemaking. The labels serve as an indication of where the cheeses comes from, and speak to the personal attention they receive from their makers.
Our next sample was a knockout little cheese, and one of my two favourites from the evening’s selection. Le Pizy from Fromagerie La Suisse Normandie in Saint-Roch-de-L’Achigan comes in a tiny wheel, but packs a rich, buttery taste with a bit of a tang. A winner at Quebec’s Selection Caseus awards this year, this cow’s milk cheese is a standout.
We then moved to the most playful cheese of the evening, Sein d’Helene from La Moutonniere. Literally “Helen’s breast,” this cheese is sold in a cone-shaped package, both to reflect its cheeky name and the mountainous region from where it hails. The cheese mixes sheep and cow’s milk; it is a fresh, earthy tasting cheese with a bit of acidity.
Our next selection was a goat’s milk cheese from Fromagerie La Petite Heidi in Saint-Rose-du-Nord called Tomme Le Rosee de Saguenay. The cheese presented barn aromas and had a sweet, tangy taste. It is dry and crumbly in texture with a yellow-coloured rind.
Next up was the second of my two favourites from the evening: Hercule de Charlevoix from Laiterie Charlevoix in Baie-St-Paul. The cheese is named for a legendary local figure, Jean-Baptiste Grenon, dubbed “Hercules of the North”. According to local lore, when Grenon was captured by the English in the 1700s and hung, he fought so hard and so long, the English were so impressed they released him from the gallows. The cheese certainly exhibits some of that same strength with its powerful flavours. A thermalized cow’s milk cheese, it tastes of earth and nuts, with a rind that tastes of chocolate.
Our final cheese of the evening was the only bleu on our plate: Bleu Moutonniere from La Moutonniere dairy. Vanessa has nicknamed this blue-veined sheep’s milk cheese “the converter” for its ability to change the minds of staunch anti-bleu cheese tasters. My neighbour at the table was one of these self-professed bleu haters, so I eagerly awaited her reaction to this cheese. Bleu Moutonniere was a big performer at this summer’s American Cheese Society awards, claiming first prize in the “blue-veined sheep’s milk with rind” category. The cheese is smooth and creamy, with bright coloured blue veins snaking throughout the wheel. It is salty and earthy, and quite inoffensive for a bleu cheese. Bleu Moutonniere managed to live up to its name at the table, as my neighbour declared “this is the only bleu cheese I’ve ever been able to stomach!”
As the evening wound down, I finished up my wine, and mingled a bit with the crowd of satisfied cheese students. Finally, I made my way over to bid goodnight to Vanessa. Like a true cheese enthusiast, she was standing by the cheese table, making sure none of the evening’s offerings went to waste.
Video Wednesday: Dr. Art Hill and Christina Marsigliese of Department of Food Science, University of Guelph, demonstrate why only fresh cheese curds squeak.
Generally speaking, supermarkets and chain grocery stores refrigerate cheese curds which reduces or eliminates squeak. For truly fresh curds that squeak as they’re supposed to, shop at specialty cheese stores or go directly to the source at the cheese dairy.
When you taste Cantal, you’re sampling one of the oldest cheeses on the planet, a cheese that dates back to Celtic times more than 2,000 years ago in what was then called Gaul, now France.
It’s jaw-dropping to realize that those buttery, milky and nutty flavours and that strong and earthy aroma were first appreciated by human kind more than two millenia ago, starting in the Cantal Mountains in the Auvergne region of central France.
Pliny’s Historia Naturalis, written in the first century AD, says Cantal was a favourite in ancient Rome. In ancient Rome!
I was first introduced to Cantal last winter by Cecilia Smith during a cheese appreciation course at George Brown College. The first taste was an eye-opener. Last week, at a family gathering to celebrate my sister’s birthday, there was Cantal Fermier, the centrepiece of a three-cheese gift she received. I was lucky enough to bring a small wedge home.
Cantal received Appellation d’Origine (AOC) status from the administrative region of Cantal in the Auvergne region in 1956. This has ensured that the semi-hard, uncooked, pressed cheese has the features and characteristics attributable to the area of origin.
The ”fermier” in the name indicates it’s a farmhouse cheese made with raw milk, as opposed to Cantal Laitier which is the commercial, mass-produced version made from pasteurized milk.
The strong flavours and marked aroma of the wedge I have indicate the cheese has been well-aged, likely nine months or longer. As is typical of an aged firm cheese, the paste is brittle and crumbly. The colour is pale yellow. The rind is rustic-looking but thick and no longer edible.
The gift my sister received was part of a membership in the Cheese of the Month Club offered by CheesyPlace.com, the popular online cheese retailer that ships across Canada.
The tasting notes included with Cantal Fermier say it perfectly:
Along with its stronger flavour, the Cantal also has an equally strong milky, earthy aroma. With this robust selection, you will experience a variety of tastes—with buttery, milky, nutty, sweet and tangy flavours all playing a part. It is also lightly salty in the finish as it gets to room temperature.
Visually, Cantal can be quite intimidating with its rigid rind, penetrating deep into the cheese as its ages and the blue moldy veins that arise with time. Some cheese lovers look for the “most blue-looking” Cantal because it has the most flavour.
Cantal goes well with nuts, grapes and apples and it can be used in salads, soups, cheese fondue or gratins. Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot would pair nicely with Cantal.
Cantal is available from CheesyPlace.com and at fine cheese shops across the land.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheese-head-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, is founder of Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens. His usual focus in the blog is on Canadian cheese but he’ll make an exception for exceptional imports like Cantal.