For the second year in a row, Bleu d’Élizabeth made by Fromagerie du Presbytère has won the coveted gold medal in the Caseus Québec Fine Cheese Competition, the annual judging of cow-, goat- and sheep-milk cheeses produced by Québec cheesemakers.
For its repeat performance, Bleu d’Élizabeth was also honored with the Caseus Emeritus award.
For the Morin brothers—Jean is the cheesemaker, Dominic manages the fourth-generation dairy farm—the awards just keep on coming. Earlier this year, Bleu d’Élizabeth won two medals in the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, for best blue and best organic cheese. Two years, ago Élizabeth was named runner-up in the prestigious American Cheese Society competition.
What’s the secret to their success? Happy cows is Jean Morin’s stock answer, but he adds: “Every morning I start the day by asking myself what I can do better today than yesterday.”
That drive for perfection shows in Bleu d’Élizabeth, so soft, rich and creamy, with lovely grey-greenish veins, with understated saltiness, and a distinct earthy aroma.
The Caseus awards were presented yesterday in the National Assembly in Québec City by Agriculture Minister Francois Gendron. More than 40 producers entered 165 cheeses in 24 categories of competition.
Additionally, in an unprecedented awards sweep, Louis d’Or was named champion in three different categories:
On top of that, their fabulous Bleu d’Élizabeth was selected champion in the blue-cheese category!
Clearly, Jean Morin was the happiest and proudest cheese producer in Canada last night as the Gala of Champions unfolded at Palais Royale in Toronto, scene of a lavish awards ceremony cum cheese-tasting organized by Dairy Farmers of Canada, sponsors of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.
In his acceptance speech, Jean was quick to give credit to his brother, Dominic, who looks after their herd of cows, and to Dany Grimard, who runs the make room in the former rectory that serves as the creamery across the street from their farm in Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick two hours east of Montréal.
Jean and Dominic are fourth-generation dairy farmers who have found amazing success as first-generation cheese producers in a few short years. What’s the secret of their success?
“Happy, healthy cows,” Jean says. “It all starts with the milk, and the care we show the cheese as we make it.”
Appropriately, smiling cows adorned the tie Jean wore to the awards gala.
Phil Bélanger, chair of the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Jury and president of the New Brunswick Chapter of La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, had this to say about Louis d’Or:
“The milky richness of this cheese is a tribute to the organic milk with which it is made. The cheese has a smooth texture, warm nutty and floral notes in aroma and taste. Inspired by the traditional cheesemaking know-how from the Jura region, the cheesemaker created an amazing cheese.”
Louis d’Or is truly a magnificent cheese, with fine, complex flavours, eloquently expressed after nine months of ripening. The Louis d’Or cheese gets its name from the Louis d’Or Farm, which produces the organic milk used to make it. The name of the cheese also refers to the French currency of the same name used under the reign of Louis XIII in 1640.
The first opportunity for the public to taste Grand Prix winners in one place—and meet the makers such as Jean Morin—will be at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 4-5 in Picton in Prince Edward County, Ontario’s newest wine region and fastest-growing culinary destination.
At the Festival, cheese expert and author Gurth Pretty, one of the Grand Prix judges, will lead a tutored tasting on cheese of Western Canada. Grand Prix champion Margaret Peters-Morris will conduct a demonstration of cheesemaking at home.
Here is the complete list of 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix winners, with asterisks indicating those already committed to taking part in The Great Canadian Cheese Festival:
The Canadian Cheese Grand Prix is a competition sponsored and hosted by Dairy Farmers of Canada, celebrating the high quality and proud tradition of Canadian cheese made from 100% Canadian cow’s milk.
For the 2011 competition, a record-breaking total of 203 cheeses from six provinces was submitted for judging in the competition.
A panel of Canada’s top cheese experts spent two days in Montréal rigorously tasting and evaluating the best cow-milk cheeses this country has to offer as they narrowed the field down to 51 cheeses in 17 categories.
Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheesehead-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, couldn’t believe his ears when Jean Morin mentioned him and the upcoming Great Canadian Cheese Festival in his acceptance remarks.
For a cheese lover,Le Festival des Fromages de Warwick certainly isn’t formidable but it sure is fromidable—as the signs all over town proclaim. (Fromage, fromidable, get it?)
In its 16th year, the festival, the largest cheese event in Canada, generally welcomes more than 40,000 people to Warwick, a town of 3,500 two hours east of Montreal, in mid-June. This year, for reasons that are puzzling, attendance dropped to 28,000.
Thirty Quebec cheesemakers offered more than 100 varieties of cheese for tasting. It was impossible to taste them all, as much as one might want to.We focused exclusively on cheeses we did not know but managed to sample barely 20 cheeses over two days. Among the most memorable:
Louis d’Or, a flavourful, complex Gruyere-like washed rind, firm cheese made with the raw milk of the cheesemaker’s own Holstein and Jersey cows. Fromagerie du Presbytère, Sainte-Élizabeth de Warwick, Central Quebec.
Mont Jacob, a semi-soft, interior-ripened cheese, with a pronounced flavour and fruity aroma. Fromagerie Blackburn, Jonquière, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.
Tomme des Cantons also caught our fancy but there is no information available on the La Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage site. Perhaps it has been discontinued.
Saturday and Sunday are the busiest days atle Salon des fromages d’ici, the cheese show that is the heart of the Warwick festival. We’d recommend Friday as your primary day at the event. In addition to cheese, the 2010 festival featured 14 producers of artisan foods, eight vintners, three producers of ciders, one microbrewer, one beekeeper and two grocery-store chains, plus non-stop entertainment in the festival theatre, a children’s activity park, a farm yard complete with sheep, goats and chickens, a spectacular fireworks display on opening night, and popular Quebec bands and singers in concert every evening.
For lunch, supper or anytime, one could withdraw from all the goings-on to the 750-seat festival bistro under a big-top tent and enjoy a cheese and salad plate like the one pictured. There were six choices on the menu, each one with its own assortment of four cheeses, one pâté, one condiment, grapes, crudité, crisp greens and fresh bread.