Mariposa Dairy dominated this year’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair competition for cheese made with goat, sheep or water buffalo milk. Mariposa’s Tania Lenberg Farms Toscano Sheep Cheese was named Grand Champion. Three other Mariposa cheeses won their classes as did Tania.
Tania, a farmstead Toscano-style sheep’s milk cheese, is a relatively new addition to the array of cheeses produced by Mariposa Dairy in Lindsay, Ontario. Sweet and nutty, attractive on the cheese board, Tania already has many fans.
A distinctive characteristic is the colour of the paste that deepens as the cheese ages. Cheesemaker Pieter vanOudenaren says the orange colour comes from the carotene in milk. The inset shows a wedge of Tania in our cheese bin that was made in early 2012, now nicely aged, darker in colour and delicious.
Mariposa markets its goat and sheep cheeses under three labels: Celebrity, Mariposa Dairy and Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve.
Here are the results for cheese made with goat, sheep or water buffalo milk:
Grand Champion Goat, Sheep or Water Buffalo Milk Cheese
On this Video Wednesday, let’s visit with David Wood at Salt Spring Island Cheese just off Vancouver Island in British Columbia. It’s a dairy worth a visit in person, if you have the opportunity. To sample the Salt Spring chèvres is to taste what arguably are the best goat’s-milk cheeses produced in Canada. The garlic chèvre is to die for.
A great way to become familiar with any type of cheese is to spend an evening discussing its history, production, and taste while nibbling on prime examples. This I learned while attending Julia Rogers’ Night School for Cheese Fans class on goat cheese which she delivered to a packed house of 20 at the Leslieville Cheese Market (East) on Thursday.
While I would classify myself as a cheese fan, I am more likely to show my appreciation by devouring large amounts of the stuff than by carefully contemplating the smell, taste and texture of a cheese. Julia taught me the error of my ways as we ate our way through five goat cheeses and discussed each one individually.
Learning the history and the specifics of the cheesemaking process helped to build an appreciation for the cheese that went beyond the pleasure of eating it. I was impressed to learn goat cheese made its way to France in the eighth century, and was produced at almost all family farms. It seems everyone had a goat or two kicking around the farm, and families took advantage of this by churning out their own cheeses.
As a cheese-tasting neophyte, I benefited greatly from the guidance of an expert. Julia suggested subtle undertones that could be detected in each cheese, and encouraged students to concentrate while tasting, in order to discover delicate flavours on their own. Her expertise was also helpful in suggesting suitable wine and beer pairings for each cheese, as well as dishes that could be improved by the addition of a goat’s-milk cheese.
I was amazed to discover how much cheese appreciation has in common with wine tasting. Where I would normally pop a piece of cheese into my mouth without much thought, Julia insisted I give attention to the nose, texture and acidity of each goat cheese. This certainly helped to enhance my enjoyment of the cheese.
We sampled cheeses from France, Holland and Canada, and I am pleased to say my favourite was Chevre Noir from Chesterville, Quebec, an 18-month-old tangy cheese. I was surprised to learn it was a goat’s-milk cheddar. Before the class, I hadn’t realized goat’s milk could be used in a variety of cheese types, including cheddar and blue.
The history of goat cheese in Quebec was interesting to learn, mainly because it is such a short history. Goat cheese production didn’t take off in the region until the early 1980s. Prior to that, goat’s milk was primarily produced for hospitals, where it was fed to premature babies whose underdeveloped digestive systems were better able to process the small fat molecules present in goat’s milk.
When the tasting was complete and the wine had run dry, many students hung around to ask Julia their cheese-related questions. My tasting companion and I chose to press ourselves through the crowd to the cheese counter, where we took advantage of the 10-per cent-discount offered to attendees by snapping up three goat cheeses. And a new batch of goat cheese lovers was born.
Phoebe Powell recently returned to Toronto after traveling for three months across Asia where she found few opportunities to sample cheese.
Kicking back in Zoe’s Lounge at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa is a fine way to conclude a road trip that started 10 hours earlier. We have a window table under the atrium with a view of the stately National Arts Centre and Wellington Street where pedestrians in parkas and toques scurry back and forth.
As we had a productive meeting earlier in Picton to discuss the Ontario cheese trail concept, I’d like to end the day on a cheese high. I order a French onion soup, make a “Canadian cheese board” my main, and finish the meal with what turns out to be an exceptional apple cake.
The aroma from the duo of cheeses—Gruyere and Oka, both from Quebec—on the onion soup makes it soooooooo inviting. Significant Other makes a note to combine the two on a grilled cheese sandwich sometime. The soup itself is rich and hearty. (Why is that the closer one gets to the Quebec, the better the French onions soups taste?)
The Canadian cheese plate is fine in an ordinary sort of way: Oka is always nice, three-year Balderson Heritage Cheddar has bite, Ermite from Abbaye de Saint-Benoit-du-Lac has blue tang and a linger of mushrooms, while the Chevalier Triple Cream Brie is suitably creamy. On the side there is a tasty mission-fig chutney and a perfect cluster of small grapes.
But the piece de resistance is the apple cake, more specifically, brown butter apple cake served with roasted walnut vanilla ice cream, marinated cranberries, drizzle of creme anglaise and caramel sauce, and—Wait for it!—a dollop of sweet goat-cheese mousse.
What an amazing flavour! The sweetened whipped cream is a perfect match for the goat cheese. A perfect end to the meal and a day on the road to visit Ottawa for Winterlude.