Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar’s recipe comes from the Orkney Islands, north of mainland Scotland, with the cheese made in the style of traditional English cheddars by Cows Creamery of Prince Edward Island.
Scott Linkletter, who started Cows Inc. in 1983 by famously making ice cream, was visiting the Orkneys with his wife 15 years ago when they were so taken by the local cheese that he cajoled a Scottish cheesemaker into sharing the recipe. The recipe became the foundation for the Cows signature cheese, Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, introduced in 2006. Ten years later, Avonlea was named Cheese of the Yearat the Canadian Cheese Awards.
While developing the recipe for the clothbound cheddar, Linkletter and head cheesemaker Armand Bernard created a second cheese, PEI Cheddar. Other cheddars, such as Appletree Smoked, followed.
How Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar is made by Cows Creamery in Prince Edward Island under the guidance of head cheesemaker Armand Bernard.
Milk of Holstein cows from small local farms in the rolling hills of Prince Edward Island is gently heated—but not pasteurized—to allow beneficial microbes to thrive and give depth of character and flavour. The salt air and iron-rich soil of Prince Edward Island combine to add flavour and quality to the cheddar.
Cows makes Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar in 10 kilograms wheels, and ages it for 12 to 16 months at 10–12 degrees Celsius and 90% humidity.
The multi-award-winning cheese gets the “clothbound” name from traditional cheddar-making technique of wrapping it in cheese cloth, a method that originated in Somerset, England. The town of Cheddar, where cheddar cheese gets its name from is in Somerset.
The name Avonlea comes from link between Prince Edward Island and Anne of Green Gables. As Scott Linkletter explained to Sue Riedl of The Globe and Mail: “We thought that was a great name because of the connection with Anne of Green Gables. At the time of Anne, this is the way cheese would have been made.”
COWS Ice Cream has been a family tradition on Prince Edward Island since 1983. From a small kiosk on the famous Cavendish Boardwalk, the COWS brand now has seven locations across PEI, two in Nova Scotia, two in British Columbia and one each in Alberta, Ontario and Beijing, China. The COWS brand has expanded over the years with cheese and butter lines, as well as the popular COWS-themed merchandise.
The Linkletter family has also invested in Raspberry Point Oysters with oysters being shipped across Canada, USA, Japan and Denmark. The oyster line started as a bit of a hobby for Scott Linkletter, who used to harvest oysters with his father near his summer home on New London Bay.
How does Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar taste? Among Canadian cheddars, quite unique, truly exceptional.
The flavours and aroma are rich and robust, fruity and nutty, with a hint of baked potatoes, as befits a cheese made on Canada’s spud island, Prince Edward Island. The texture is firm, slightly crumbly as the cheese ages beyond 12 months.
It’s an outstanding Canadian cheese, perfect for cheese boards and snacking. Stick a wedge in your glove compartment for your next road trip.
Check with your favourite cheese shop for availability or order online for convenient and safe home delivery:
You can order boxed selections of cheese and butter direct from Cows Creamery in Charlottetown by clicking here.
When it comes to cooking with cheese, I’m total devoted to recipes that call for melted cheese. There is nothing quite like the smell and the taste of ooey gooey.
Which brings us to making my soon-to-be famous (with tongue in cheek) Three-Cheese Toastie.
The recipe was inspired by a cheese vendor in Borough Market in London, England, called Kappacasein. I learned about it during chat at a farmer’s market at Brickworks several years ago which led me to a mouth-watering video on YouTube.
My Three-Cheese Toastie is all about showcasing Canadian artisan cheese. The recipe I developed—by delicious trial and error—originally called for a blend of three artisan cheeses, two from Ontario, one from Quebec.
The main ingredient is cheddar. I tried others but always came back to cheddar.
Empire Cheese & Butter, in Campbellford, Ontario, northwest of Belleville, started making cheese in 1876. It’s now owned by a group of dairy farmers and still dedicated to traditional handcrafted cheesemaking.
In case you didn’t know, cheddaring started in the village of Cheddar in southwest England in the 12th century. Yes, 12th century!
We use the 2-year cheddar made at Empire. Older cheddars have less moisture and aren’t as good for grilled cheese.
Two cheeses have supporting roles in our original recipe: Mountainoak Gouda and Louis d’Or.
Sainte Elizabeth de Warwick, Québec, 1.5 hours southeast of Montréal
The Morin family are sixth generation dairy farmers. Across the street, in a former Roman Catholic rectory, is the fromagerie that Jean Morin founded in 2005. Since then, Morin was has won more awards than any other cheesemaker in Québec.
Let’s get started!
Shred the cheese immediately after removing from fridge. If you let it come up to room temperature, you’ll have a mess on your hands.
White onion (NOT cooking onion)
Chopped fairly fine and mixed thoroughly into cheese blend. In equal parts. Tailor to your taste.
Quantities are easy to remember:
To make 10 sandwiches, you’ll need 1 kilo or 1,000 grams of cheese mixture. If only 5 sandwiches, which we’re doing, 500 grams of cheese mixture and 50 grams of onion/leek/garlic.
We’re shooting for about 100 grams of cheese per sammie. Equal cheese and bread for best results.
Optional: Black Forest Ham, 2 slices, folded, per Sammie, approx 25 g per slice;
For speed and efficiency when making 100 or more toasties at our local farmers market, we used butter-flavored PAM with excellent results.
At home, we use either unsalted butter or mayo, slathered on the outside of both slices of bread. As the years slide by, we may be developing a preference for the mayo option, mainly because it produces such a nice even brown.
If you’re adding ham, to make what is called a Croque Monsieur, smear a small amount of mustard on the ham. To make a Croque Madame, top with a fried egg, sunny side up.
Usually, we’ll just use a non-stick frying pan, using a second pan or skillet to press down the toasties as they toast away. When we have more time, or guests, we’ll use our Cuisinart Griddler.
Medium heat works well. About 3 or 4 minutes per side, or until cheese melts and bread toasts. Serve while hot, cutting each sandwich on the diagonal to expose more of the ooey gooey. We start eating with our eyes, after all
We’ll usually serve the toasties with a handful of potato chips or a small tomato or gherkins or all of the above.
In the toasties that you see in the video and photos, we went with cheese we had on hand:
Cheese and butter from across Canada have been sampled and evaluated, scores have been tabulated and, now, the finalists in the 2020 Cheese & Butter Competition at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair can be announced.
A jury of expert judges sampled and scored the 164 entries received from producers in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta on the basis of appearance, aroma, flavour and texture, with flavour being the key element.
Here are the finalists in the Cheddar Cheese Section which attracted 35 entries:
Winners in each class and the grand champions—the best of the best—will be announced November 10-14 during The Royal Agricultural Virtual Experience on a new, completely free digital platform accessible by all 24-7. Free registration is required and now is open at http://www.royalfair.org/virtual
Finalists are listed alphabetically by product name in each class. Please note that there was a minimum score to place 1st, 2nd and 3rd. In some cases, if you do not see three finalists, it was either the minimum score was not reached or there were not enough entries.
About The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair:
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is the world’s largest combined indoor agricultural and equestrian show. Now in its 98th year, The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair has gone digital and will run November 10-14 at http://www.royalfair.org/virtual
In this year of COVID-19, the 2020 Canadian Cheese & Butter Competition at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is the only such judging and competition in Canada and one of the few such contests in the world this year.
The cheese and butter competition hosted by The Royal is the oldest in Canada, dating back 98 years to 1922 when the Fair was first held at Exhibition Place in Toronto.
Judging this year took place on September 24 with six expert judges sampling and evaluating the 164 cheese and butter entries submitted by producers across Canada.
Judging was live and in-person with masks on except when judges sampled cheese, with plenty of social distancing, temperatures taken at the entrance and hand-sanitizers everywhere.
Once scores have been tabulated and carefully checked, three finalists will be announced in each class.
Winners in each class—there are 33 in all—and the grand champions—the best of the best—will be announced November 10-14 during The Royal Agricultural Virtual Experience on a new, completely free digital platform accessible by all 24-7.
The Royal Agricultural Virtual Experience will be a unique opportunity to experience the very best in Canadian agriculture and food from your laptop, tablet, smart phone or desktop. The Cheese & Butter Competition will be one of several featured presentations at the virtual Fair. Click here for more information and to register.
Here’s the breakdown of entries received from producers in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta:
Cheddar 35 entries
Variety Cheese (Cow milk) 72 entries
Variety Cheese (Goat, Sheep, Water Buffalo and Mixed Milk) 30 entries
Butter 21 entries
Ghee 6 entries.
The six judges work in pairs, one technical judge and one aesthetic judge. The technical judge starts with a score of 50 and deduct points for flaws and defects while the aesthetic judge starts with zero and awards points for outstanding characteristics and qualities to a maximum of 50. The two scores are added together to obtain the final score for each entry.
The elements under consideration are appearance, aroma, flavour and texture, with flavour being the key element.
Here are the expert judges for the 2020 competition:
André Derrick, aesthetic judge, is a master at food and drink synergy. He is a certified fromager, Prud’homme beer sommelier, accredited whisky ambassador and certified expert in the service and sale of scotch. He’s co-founder of the Frontier Whiskey Society. André’s lifelong love of learning has propelled him to sip, gulp and nibble at life from many international experiences, including stints at Fairmont Hotels, The BT Hotel Group, Club Med and Vineland Estates Winery. André graduated from the University of Waterloo with an honours combined degree in Recreation and Business. He also earned a graduate certificate in hospitality and tourism management from Niagara College. André is regional account manager for Krinos Foods Canada.
Marla Krisko, aesthetic judge, started her journey in cheese in 2005 when she discovered the Cheese Education Guild and began to study about cheese which quickly became a passion. As a “graduate fromager” she continued her studies, making cheese at the Three Shepherds Cheese School in Vermont and working at specialty food stores in Toronto and at events like The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. In 2012, with her partner, Lisa McAlpine, Marla bought Cheese Education Guild, the first school in Canada dedicated to cheese appreciation, from retiring founder Kathy Guidi. Since then, she has served as a judge for the Canadian Cheese Awards and The Royal’s Cheese and Butter Competition.
Kelsie Parsons, aesthetic judge, is Category Manager for Deli Cheese for the 450 Sobeys and Safeway stores across Canada. He is the chair of the American Cheese Society’s Certification Committee, which runs the Certified Cheese Professional (CCP) Exam and TASTE (sensory evaluation) Test. Kelsie has worked as a cheesemonger at farmers markets, specialty shops, and grocery stores. He is a Certified Cheese Professional, earned his Cheesemaking Certificate at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, and has worked as a cheesemaker producing a variety of sheep and goat milk cheeses. He has visited more than 100 cheese companies during an epic cross-Canada road trip.
Barry Reid, one of the technical judges, was born into a cheesemaking family. His father was a cheesemaker for 30+ years, Barry was, too, for 15 years. For many 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 competitions.
Cecilia Smith, a technical judge, is a professional fromager, certified as a Professional Fromager by George Brown College and the American Cheese Society. She teaches the Professional Fromager Certificate at George Brown College and the Cheese Sensory Evaluation course at Conestoga College. Based in Uxbridge, Ontario, Cecilia owns a retail company that sells Ontario artisan cheese. She has provided consulting services to many restaurants and cheese shops and has used her sensory evaluation skills to assist craft breweries and cidermakers.
Heather Thelwell, technical judge, says her curiosity and passion for cheese began 25 years ago while living up the hill from a Parmigiano-Reggiano aging facility in the Po River Valley in Northern Italy. Since then, she has worked as a cheesemaker in predominately small ruminant dairies in Ontario, a cheesemonger and a cheese educator. Her credentials include Certified Cheese Maker, University of Guelph, Technical Production of Cheese; University of Vermont, Artisan Cheese Maker Certificate; School of Artisan Food, Wellbeck, Nottinghamshire, in the U.K.
Behind the scenes at the competition, we find:
Lisa McAlpine is one of two Superintendents for the Cheese and Butter Competition. In 2012, Lisa purchased the Cheese Education Guild/Artisan Cheese Marketing from its retiring founder, Kathy Guidi. Since then, she has been involved in teaching cheese knowledge and appreciation classes to deli employees of large retail chains across Canada, to food professionals and enthusiasts and working for the dairy industry as a cheese consultant.
Debbie Levy is the other Superintendent of the Cheese and Butter Competition. She is a graduate of the Chef Training and Baking and Pastry Arts programs at George Brown College, the inaugural Cheese Education Guild class in 2006 and two certificate programs with Acadamie Opus Caseus in France. Since then, Debbie has worked with the dairy and cheese industry promoting fine Canadian cheese.
Roxanne Renwick is in her third year as Judging Facilitator for the Cheese and Butter Competition. She obtained her Professional Fromager Certificate at George Brown College and has spent the last 10 years in the food retail and cheese industry.
Lindsay Bebbington, Manager, Agriculture & Food at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, served as the entry registrar and lead tabulator of scores for the Cheese and Butter Competition.
We’ll post information about the finalists in each of 33 classes in the competition as soon as it becomes available.
As noted earlier, winners in each class and the grand champions will be announced November 10-14 during The Royal Agricultural Virtual Experience on a new, completely free digital platform accessible by all 24-7.
I was delighted to serve as co-host with Katie Brown when the judging was filmed. The result, including announcement winners and grand champions, will be part of digital presentations online during The Royal Agricultural Virtual Experience.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever.