His Louis d’Or is Grand Champion in the cow’s milk variety cheese class. Pionnier, made with a blend of cow’s and sheep’s milk in collaboration with Marie-Chantal Houde of Fromagerie Nouvelle France, is Grand Champion in the goat and sheep milk variety cheese class.
The 18-month Farmstead Gouda made by Adam van Bergejik of Mountainoak Cheese is Reserve Grand Champion in cow milk.
Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar made by Pieter van Oudenaren of Lenberg Farms/Mariposa Dairy is Reserve Grand Champion in goat and sheep milk.
Grand Champion in cheddar cheese is Black Diamond Mild Cheddar made by Parmalat Canada, now part of Groupe Lactalis, the world’s largest dairy producer. Parmalat dominated all cheddar categories except:
Even though it was up against Canadian cheese giant Agropur, Empire Cheese & Butter Co-op won two firsts, two seconds and two thirds in the cheddar competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair—the best showing by an artisan producer. In fact, Empire’s Mild Cheddar was named Reserve Grand Champion in the judging, runner-up to Agropur Grand Cheddar 2 Year.
The Campbellford, Ontario, cheese producer, where Mark Erwin is the cheesemaker, took the following honours:
Empire Mild Cheddar – Reserve Grand Champion
Empire Mild Cheddar – First in class, Mild Cheddar 2-4 months
Empire Extra Mature Cheddar – First in class, Extra Mature Cheddar
Empire Medium Cheddar – Second in class, Medium Cheddar 6-8 months
Empire Extra Mild Cheddar – Second in class, Extra Mild Cheddar 1-2 months
Empire Marble Cheddar – Third in class, Marble Cheddar any age
Empire Stilton Shaped Cheddar – Third in class, Stilton Shapped Cheddar.
Maple Dale Stilton Shaped Cheddar – Second in class, Stilton Shapped Cheddar
Maple Dale 2 year – Third in class, Extra Mature Cheddar.
Ivanhoe Cheese of Madoc, Ontario, won second in the Extra Mature Cheddar class with Ivanhoe Classic Cheddar made May 15, 2011.
Four of the seven cheddar classes were won by Agropur, one of Canada’s biggest co-operatives owned by 3,400 dairy farmers. Among its 15 dairy divisions is Oka, Canada’s iconic cheese brand that dates back to 1893 when Trappists made it.
For cheese lovers interested in an extra day of cheese-learning and cheese-tasting, a second itinerary has been added to the guided cheese tours offered on the Friday before the third annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival.
The new Quinte Cheese Tour will visit two award-winning cheese producers, Empire Cheese and Maple Dale Cheese, with a lunch stop and tour of Ontario Water Buffalo Company, a pioneering water-buffalo dairy farm. A craft brewery, Church-Key Brewing, and a chocolate maker are also on the itinerary.
The popular County Cheese Tour continues, with stops at Black River Cheese, in operation since 1901, and the new County Cheese Company where cheesemaking will start this summer. Fifth Town Artisan Cheese will be added, if it has re-opened by May 31.
The third annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 1-2, in Crystal Palace on the Prince Edward Fairgrounds in Picton, in the heart of Prince Edward County in Ontario’s Bay of Quinte Region. Cheese tours and a class on cooking with artisan cheese are offered on Friday, May 31.
The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is a multi-faceted event that annually attracts thousands of consumers to meet, learn, taste and buy the best in artisan cheese and fine foods and sample fine wine, craft beer and crisp cider.
Last year, close to 100 exhibitors and vendors and more than 3,000 consumers made the event the biggest cheese show in Canada representing producers from coast to coast. One-third of the participating cheese producers come from Québec, the leading artisan cheese region in Canada.
Agropur, the giant co-operative owned by 3,459 dairy farmers in Canada, United States and Argentina, dominated the cheddar competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair this week. Agropur cheddars won or placed in six of seven categories with its two-year Grand Cheddar being crowned Grand Champion while the Reserve title went to its one-year Grand Cheddar.
Both cheddars are made at the Longueuil plant in the village of Bon Conseil near Drummondville, Quebec.
Aged cheddar is made with unpasteurized milk. The milk is lightly heated in a process called thermization, which preserves the microorganisms and enzymes in raw milk that give cheddar its characteristic flavor. To prevent pathogenic organisms from proliferating, this type of cheddar undergoes a minimum 60-day aging period from the start of production. The resulting cheese retains all its flavour characteristics and gives the cheddar its distinct flavour.
Here are the top three cheeses in each category of the cheddar competition. Unfortunately, the results provided by the Royal do not name the actual cheddar, only the location of the plant, which is not particularly useful for consumers.
Brebichon, Les Fromages du Verger:
A young 350g farmstead sheep milk cheese made with apple juice added to the curd and washed with apple juice from their own orchard. First prize in washed rind cheese category at 2010 Quebec Caseus Awards. Provincially licensed.
—Alain Besré, Fromagerie Atwater, often called the godfather of the Québec artisan cheese movement
Jersey Blue, Städtlichäsi Lichtensteig:
A 100% Jersey cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland made by Willi Schmid. So beautiful you almost don’t want to eat it, just gaze at it. But, mamma mia, when it gets into your mouth! What a cheese, WHAT a cheese! —Russell Gammon, Executive Secretary, Jersey Canada
Le Foin d’Odeur, La Moutonniere:
Soft surface-ripened sheep’s milk, sweet, mushroomy and herbacious. When ripe, like licking buttered popcorn from your fingertips!
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company
Monforte Dairy Cottage Cheese:
Georgous small cream colour curds that play on your tongue like caviar and are so fresh they sqeek lightly on your teeth.
—Andy Shay, Cheese Consultant
At CheeseLover.ca, the most memorable moment in cheese of 2010 came when we first tasted Vacherin Mont d’Or, a singular seasonal cheese of Switzerland that delivers an amazing explosion of aroma and taste—so rich, so gooey.
Other taste hits:
Miranda, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser:
Cheesemaker Fritz Kaiser, who kick-started the Quebec artisanal cheese movement in the 1980s, says Miranda is one of the many cheeses he produces that he’s most proud of. That says a lot, when one considers he makes Le Douanier, Port Royal, Raclette, La Soeur Angele, Le Saint Paulin, among others. We especially liked the rustic flavours of Miranda.
Celtic Blue, Glengarry Fine Cheese, and Bleu d’Elizabeth, Fromagerie du Presbytère: Two very different blue cheeses that demonstrate how far blues made in Canada have come since the days Roquefort ruled. Three cheers for Blue Canada!
Empire Cheddar, 7-year, Empire Butter & Cheese:
There are so many fine older cheddars made in Canada, but Empire’s oldest offering stands out in memories of cheese tasted during 2010.
—Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-head-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, wonders what outstanding cheeses he’ll encounter in the New Year.
I’m not a cheese snob. Sure, I have a preference for farmstead and artisan cheese, but several industrial cheeses are among my favourites. Having said that . . . here comes the big BUT:
All cheese is not created equal. Two restaurants recently demonstrated that.
At Currah’s Cafe & Restaurant in Picton, Ontario, we ordered baked brie. The menu said the brie was Canadian, so we asked the waiter who the producer was. At first he said he did not know. We had to prod him to ask the kitchen. Off he went, and back he came: “It’s Danish brie.”
“Oh,” we said, “the menu says it’s Canadian.”
“No, it doesn’t,” he replied.
“Oh, yes, it does,” we insisted, and off he went to look at a menu.
“You’re right,” he said. “Someone in the kitchen lied.”
“Well . . . could you please ask who the producer is? We like to know what we’ll be eating.”
After a few minutes, he returned with the news: “It’s from Montreal.”
“OK, that’s a big city. Who or where in Montreal?”
“All they know is it says ARS on the package.”
Hmmm, never heard of a cheesemaker in Quebec called ARS. (Later, thanks to Google, we discover ARS Foods, a specialy foods supplier.) When the dish arrived, the presentation was lovely and the onion marmalade quite nice, but the cheese was, well, pedestrian.
With so many stunning soft cheeses in Quebec that will easily match genuine Brie from France, why would Currah’s, which clearly aims to play with the big boys on the resto scene in Prince Edward County, chose to go with a no-name pretender?
In Campbellford, a half-hour north of Picton, Rubbs Barbecue Bistro serves a good-looking poutine. The fries are chunky, the gravy beefy, and the cheese curds are layered through the dish. Here’s the but again: When one asks about the source of the cheese, “Sysco” is the response.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Sysco, which helps serve millions of meals in restaurants, hotels and others across Canada, but just a few minutes down the road from Rubbs is one of the finest producers of cheese curd and cheddar in Ontario: Empire Cheese & Butter Co-op.
At Empire, which dates back to 1870, cheese is made in the traditional way in open-style vats, with no additives to boost production and no flavours added.
All cheese is not created equal. All restaurants are not either.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheesehead-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, will gladly return to Currah’s and Rubbs when they bring the cheese they serve up a notch.