Three goat milk cheeses made by Fritz Kaiser, one of the earliest pioneers of artisan cheese in Québec and, indeed, Canada, won gold medals at the recent World Cheese Awards held in Spain that attracted more than 4,000 entries from 45 countries.
The honours come on the heels of the 40th anniversary of the founding of Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser in 1981, in Noyan, Québec, south of Montréal, three kilometres from the U.S. border.
Fritz Kaiser was born in Zurich, Switzerland, into a farming family but early on he developed a passion for cheesemaking and began to learn his craft. In 1978, Fritz emigrated to Canada, settling, as many Swiss did, in French-speaking Québec south of Montréal. His brother, Matthias, also emigrated and started Ferme Imperiale, a dairy farm, in Noyan.
Three years later, in August, 1981, at age 23, Fritz struck out on his own with Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser. This was a time when every cheesemaker in Canada seemed to be making cheddar exclusively. Two monasteries, Trappist Abbeye Notre Dame du Lac near Oka and Benedictine Abbaye Saint Benoît du Lac in the Eastern Townships of Québec, were the rare exceptions.
Using the craft he learned in his native Switzerland, Fritz started cheesemaking with Raclette, for which he’d become most widely known, and Noyan, a lovely washed rind that has been a best-seller for four decades.
Today, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser produces 30 different cheeses, using pasteurised cow and goat milk, many of which have won seemingly countless awards over the years. In Raclette alone, there are eight different cheeses made.
“Cheese is a living product, made from 100% pure milk,” says Fritz. “No derivatives, no modified milk ingredients. Our production is purely artisanal, completely opposed to factory production that places more importance on volume.”
His wife, Christin, and sons, Adrian and Noah, are involved in the cheese business. His brother, Matthias, and nephews continue to run the nearby dairy farm.
In 2020, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser processed 5 1/2 million litres of milk and fabricated about 660 tonnes (660,000 kilos) of cheese. The fromagerie has about 25 employees and one busy cheese-washing robot made in Switzerland, added in 2019.
In February this year, two new cheese coolers were completed, each with a capacity of 64,000 wheels, in investment to permit future growth.
The cow’s milk used by the fromagerie comes from six area farms. The goat’s milk comes from two nearby farms, one owned by Franz Fuchs, the other by Hans Hodel. The El Toro cheese is made with water-buffalo milk which comes from Ferme Bufala Maciocia an hour away from the fromagerie.
Fritz, hearty and hale at age 63, still indulges in his other passion, flying, by piloting his own Cessna 172.
Daniel Allard, president of Fromages CDA, the powerhouse marketing agency that handles distribution of many leading Canadian cheeses, has known Fritz for more than 30 years, and represented his cheese since 2000.
“Fritz is very much hands-on with all aspects of cheese production at the fromagerie,“ says Allard. “The high standards of Swiss cheesemaking are at the heart of all he does. He started out small, encountered pitfalls, but persevered to become a dominant force in cheesemaking in Quebec and Canada.”
Allard chuckles as he recalls the challenge Fritz had making bloomy rind cheese; nevertheless, he persevered with Le Sœur Angèle which went on to become hugely popular and raise $110,000 for Sister Angèle Foundation.
Here are the three gold medalists in the World Cheese Awards:
SUPER GOLD MEDAL: La Mascotte
Semi-firm 100% goat’s milk cheese, Mascotte tastes of roasted almonds with a goaty finish. Its rind releases a most appealing slightly woody aroma. Excellent cheese for raclette. First produced in 2011.
Named after the mascot of Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada on Île aux Noix in the Richelieu River close to Lake Champlain.
GOLD MEDAL: Sainte Nitouche
With notes of roasted almonds and caramel, and a woody aroma, Sainte Nitouche is a semi-soft, washed-rind goat’s milk cheese that melts well and can be used for raclette dishes. It pairs well with homemade tapenade or fresh- or dried-tomato bruschetta. First brought to market eight years ago.
Named after a fictional saint said to be the epitome of innocence and modesty.
GOLD MEDAL: Tomme du Haut-Richelieu
Tomme du Haut-Richelieu is the goat’s milk version of Fritz Kaiser’s Noyan cheese. Made with 100% goat’s milk, it has a washed rind and supple interior, with a hay-like aroma and nutty, fresh milk flavour. In production for 30 years.
Named after Le Haut-Richelieu, a regional municipality in the Montérégie region in southwestern Québec, home to Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser.
In addition to the three goat’s milk cheeses that garnered gold, three other Fritz Kaiser cheeses brought home medals:
SILVER MEDAL: Vacherin Fri-Charco
Semi-soft washed rind cow’s milk cheese with a mild lactic, fruity aroma and a hazelnut and salted butter flavour.
BRONZE MEDAL: La Tomme de Monsieur Séguin
Half cow’s milk, half goat’s milk, Tomme de Monsieur Séguin is a nice blend of Noyan and Tomme du Haut Richelieu. Its smooth rind, and supple, flexible interior, tempt the palate with a fine blend of flavours and a nice goaty finish.
BRONZE MEDAL: Miranda
A firm cheese with a washed, rose-and-copper coloured rind. This impressive cow’s milk cheese emits a scent of nuts and damp straw, and its salty taste releases hints of spicy walnuts and almonds.
Miranda was named Grand Champion at the 2021 Cheese & Butter Competition at Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
- Website: Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser
- Cheesemaker: Fritz Kaiser
- Distributor: Fromages CDA
- Availability: Across Canada
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.