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.

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