Feels so strange . . . and empty. This is the first first week of June since 2011 that we have not been hosting either The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Prince Edward County or Artisan Cheese Night Market at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.
Here’s a video shot at the very first Cheese Festival in 2011, as a promotion for the 2012 event. The video perfectly captures the spirit of Cheese Lover events.
The final Great Canadian Cheese Festival took place in 2017. The Artisan Cheese Night Market was held in 2018 and 2019. Who knows what the future will bring, especially in these Covid Times?
Stay informed about future cheese events by signing up to follow CheeseLover.ca by email in upper right.
In the meantime, a really good selection of Canadian cheese can be ordered online for delivery to your home on the Shop Online page.
Canadian handcrafted cured meats that are among the best in the world, that’s the mission at Seed to Sausage, says Michael McKenzie, the young man who grew the business from making sausages for family and friends in his garage in Kingston, Ontario.
Based in Sharbot Lake between Kingston and Ottawa, Mike, now 38, also has a busy retail shop in Ottawa at Gladstone and Bronson and he’s opening a butcher/sandwich-maker at the Kanata Centrum.
Many people know Mike because of Day of the Pig, the popular family event he hosts every year. This Sunday, May 21, Day of the Pig will be celebrated at Sharbot Lake Beach with a huge BBQ.
Every year since 2011, Seed to Sausage has been a mainstay at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival where McKenzie’s cured meats will be available for sampling and purchase on June 3-4.
Seed to Sausage brings a commitment to ethically raised animals and a dedication to making things its own, sourcing products right back to the seed they began with.
Beyond that, the Seed to Sausage brand has also become an ambassador for Ontario’s artisan producers, offering venues for smaller businesses to begin sharing their products with urban markets.
Over its eight-year history, Seed to Sausage quickly gained recognition, to the point where it’s now hard to believe we’ve ever sourced our bacon from anywhere else. The principles of “local. ethical. humble.” craft are at the core of the Seed to Sausage brand, where everything is handmade in small batches.
From sausages (don’t miss the Maple Walnut variety) to bacon (all varieties are made using real hickory smoke) to dry cured meats (McKenzie’s cuts are dry aged for 80 days), the S2S roster is extensive. Minimal added ingredients mean that the flavours of the meat shine through in McKenzie’s products, injecting a distinctly Canadian profile into traditional European styles.
Beyond its own products, Seed to Sausage also boasts a gourmet grocery store, stocked with all manner of accoutrements to help you enjoy your salumi to the max. You’ll find crackers, salts, and preserves, all selected with the meats in mind.
This offering spills over into Seed to Sausage’s outpost: The S2S General Store, located on Gladstone Avenue in Ottawa. Born as a collaboration between multiple facets of Ottawa’s food scene, McKenzie has created a space where chefs, bloggers, and producers can come together to create a distribution point for small producers. The aim isn’t to be exclusive though: the S2S General Store wants its shoppers to love the products so much that they begin to ask for them at their local stores, opening up the scene for local producers to gain their own following.
McKenzie offers much credit for his success to Ken McKenzie, his father: “He’s the reason why I’m still in business.” In charge of production is Derek McGregor, formerly long-time chef at Le Chien Noir Bistro in Kingston.
Meet Mike and Derek and the rest of the S2S crew at the seventh anniversary Great Canadian Cheese Festival—the biggest artisan cheese and specialty foods show in Canada—taking place Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and 4, in Prince Edward County, at the Picton Fairgrounds. For complete information and tickets, please visit CheeseFestival.ca.
—This post is an updated version of a profile written in 2015 by Laura Voskamp, a cheese lover and freelance writer.
Jenna Empey and Alex Currie make a fitting partnership both in business and in life: they started a band mere days after they began dating and eventually ran a record label together. In 2012, they launched a new business venture when they founded Pyramid Ferments in Prince Edward County, producing handcrafted fermented food and beverages using local ingredients sourced from County farmers.
Jenna has always been passionate about working in the food and agriculture industry. She began working with local farms in the County in 2003, but took a break to move to Nova Scotia for a few years on a whim. Relocating to the city made her miss that connection to the local food scene and so she began experimenting at home with new kitchen techniques to retain a relationship with food. That’s where she discovered her love of fermenting.
“I started fermenting because it was a technique I’d never tried before and I just really got into it,” Jenna said. “Fermenting creates such complex, deep flavours from really simple ingredients and it’s such a neat experience to watch the fermenting process happen.”
It was in Nova Scotia that Jenna began selling her fermented products, beginning with local farmers’ markets and a specialty food store.
In 2012, Jenna, 33, moved home to Prince Edward County and Alex, 34, joined her. They settled on a farm and began growing all their own food and making ferments to sell, launching Pyramid Ferments.
The early days of the business were challenging, as they lived in an unheated trailer and spent their days farming the land and building up the business. Pyramid Ferments began with a variety of saurkrauts and kimchi and expanded to include kombucha shortly after. Jenna and Alex split the work; she focuses on the vegetable ferments, while he oversees the kombucha operation.
Pyramid Ferments has grown rapidly and their line of tasty and gut-healthy products has expanded. They developed Gut Shot, an innovative, potent digestive aid packed with probiotics; Beet Kvass, a traditional Eastern European probiotic drink; and a small-batch series of products that draws from what’s in season on the farm and what they can harvest through foraging.
Pyramid Ferments has earned a devoted customer base and widespread recognition for its devotion to revitalizing the fermented food movement. The company has been honoured with two Premier’s Awards for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.
For Jenna, the most rewarding part of running her business is to be back in the Prince Edward County community, working alongside a supportive local food community.
“We love our lifestyle here. We work really hard and we’ve grown this business in a community that we love and that is very supportive. It’s great to live in such a nice, warm, welcoming place and to be able to grow our family and our business here,” Jenna said.
But running Pyramid Ferments hasn’t been without its challenges. As innovators in the fermented food space, Jenna and Alex have had to adapt and invent their business model as they go. They’ve learned important lessons in their first five years of business and are proud of the success they’ve earned.
“There’s no model for fermentation businesses,” Jenna said. “It’s an old technique of preserving food but it’s one that people don’t really do on a large scale anymore. There’s no book to read or mentors to turn to; we’ve had to figure everything out on our own.”
Pyramid Ferments will bring its full range of handcrafted fermented products to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival at Picton’s Crystal Palace on June 3-4. They’re also planning to bring some prepared foods, like tangy, spicy kimchi rice. This will be their third year taking part in the Festival and Jenna is looking forward to meeting with like-minded artisan producers from across the country.
“It’s a fantastic festival and it’s inspiring to see so many high-quality artisan food producers from all over and to have them here locally in our own backyard.,” Jenna said. “We get to represent what Prince Edward County has to offer and meet a lot of really interesting food producers.”
This year, Jenna is also busy planning the first Ontario Fermentation Festival, taking place in the County in August. She and the vendors are eager to showcase the full range of fermented goods, like pickles, miso, beer, sourdough bread, chocolate and coffee.
When your father is one of Canada’s most renowned chefs, a passion for food and an appreciation for the restaurant industry come naturally. Nile and Jackson Kennedy grew up around the celebrated kitchens of their father, chef Jamie Kennedy, Canada’s first celebrity chef and a pioneer of the local food movement. But being the chef’s sons earned them no special treatment, as they worked their way through various positions within Kennedy’s restaurants.
“We’ve been working with my dad for a really long time now,” said Nile, 22. “We started by going to events and doing small jobs to just get a sense of what he did.”
Nile got his start in the family business at age 17, working in coat check during private events at the Gardiner Museum, where Jamie Kennedy then ran the venue’s fine dining restaurant and catered on-site weddings and other special events.
From there, Nile worked his way up to become an event server at the Gardiner and then an a la carte server at Kennedy’s Gilead Café, the chef’s last Toronto restaurant, which closed its doors in 2015.
Working in his father’s restaurants taught Nile a great deal about the industry and allowed him to spend plenty of quality time with his dad outside the house.
“Working with my Dad has always been great,” said Nile, “It wasn’t really like a typical working relationship. We would be cracking jokes with each other, and it was really positive. I’ve learned a lot working with him.”
For the past two summers, Nile and his brother Jackson, 26, have operated J.K. Fries, a mobile French fry kitchen they run at events and farmers’ markets around Toronto. J.K. Fries offers Chef Kennedy’s signature double-fried French fries, made with local Yukon Gold potatoes, fresh thyme and sea salt. The fries are always made entirely on site, for the freshest, crispiest snack possible.
This summer, J.K. Fries is setting up shop in Prince Edward County, offering its famous fries at events in the region all season long. For Nile and Jackson, this means a break from city life, and a chance to slow down and take a well-deserved break at the Kennedy farm in the County.
“This summer will still be about work, but we also wanted to take a step back, get out of the city and go to our farm,” Nile explained of the move. “We’ll work up there, and also take up any projects and hobbies we’ve really wanted to do. It’s an exploratory summer in that sense and we’ve both been excited about it for a long time.”
The brothers are looking to discover new interests outside the restaurant business, including learning to craft handmade utility knives using wood and metal found around the family farm. With the help of YouTube, they plan to teach themselves to build a forge and try their hands at knife making during their down time.
The Kennedy brothers will bring a special version of the J.K. Fries stand to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 3-4, with a braised-beef poutine, an artful take on the iconic, indulgent dish that his father made famous when he became the first Canadian chef to introduce poutine on a fine-dining menu.
“It’s an elevated version of the classic Quebecois poutine,” Nile explains. “We use braised, tender beef in a thick, salty, flavourful gravy and in place of cheese curds we’re using an aged cheddar from Monforte Dairy, who make a really nice cow’s milk cheddar.”
Meanwhile, Jamie Kennedy is hosting a fabulous feast at his Prince Edward County Farm on Saturday evening as part of his popular Summer Dinner Series. Award-winning cheesemakers Jean Morin and Marie-Chantal Houde will be among the lucky 55 guests—with their fromage featured on the cheese plate.
When he’s not slinging their much-loved poutine dishes to hungry festival-goers, Nile is eager to explore what’s new at this year’s Festival. He’s attended the past few years both to work and to observe.
“What’s great about the Cheese Festival, especially with all these local producers coming, people can taste all these amazing cheeses and it gives them ideas about what’s possible,” Nile said.
“More and more these days, people are interested in sourcing locally, but they might not realize how much is available and how many varieties are available so close to home. The Festival is great for that.”
Patty won the tickets in a draw from among the last 50 subscribers to sign up for CheeseLover.ca in the box in the upper right of the blog home page.
Patty lives in Kitchener, Ontario, is retired and has loved cheese since childhood. Her favourite style of cheese is Swiss.
Here’s what is included in a complimentary Weekend VIP Pass to the seventh annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario, on June 3-4, 2017.
More than 500 foods and beverages for sampling and purchase, including 200 artisan and farmstead cheeses.
Chance to meet Canada’s outstanding cheesemakers face-to-face, including from the best of Québec.
Informative Cheese Seminars on a variety of topics. Rush seating.
Express access to more than 100 exhibitors and vendors, including specialty foods, small-batch wine, craft beer, craft cider and—NEW!—spirits. Admission at 10 a.m., one hour before show opens to public.
SWAG! An insulated Festival tote bag for your purchases and a souvenir Festival glass for sampling wine, beer and cider (19+).
Local VQA wines and cider available for purchase by bottle or case (19+).
Dairy Farm, with animals and displays, including the sweetest water buffalo you’ll ever meet.
Food Court, featuring—NEW!— J.K. Fries and Braised-Beef Poutine from Jamie Kennedy Kitchens.
Live music by Starpainters trio in the Prince Edward County Pavilion.
Ample FREE parking.
In the upper right of the blog page, enter your email address to be notified of new posts at CheeseLover.ca. You’ll be entered in a draw for a pair of tickets to the 2017 Great Canadian Cheese Festival. One winner drawn from every 50 new subscribers.
Live music by Starpainters trio in the Prince Edward County Pavilion.
Ample FREE parking.
More than 5,000 cheese lovers are expected to attend, sampling and purchasing close to 200 different cheeses made by artisan producers from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It’s the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada, indeed, in North America, with an estimated 500 foods and beverages in total on offer.
Cheesemakers, specialty food producers, small-batch wineries, craft breweries and cideries, and other exhibitors and vendors have reserved 100+ booths making the event at the Picton Fairgrounds one of the biggest artisan food markets in Ontario.
Super Saturday (June 3) or Super Sunday (June 4): All attractions listed above PLUS EXTRAS such as informative Cheese Seminars, an insulated Festival tote bag for your purchases, a souvenir Festival glass for sampling wine, beer and cider (19+), live music and more. Super Ticket $50 plus tax per day.
BEST BUY: Weekend VIP Pass (June 3 and 4): Admission Saturday and Sunday with VIP access at 10 a.m., one hour before show opens to public. PLUS reserved seating at informative Cheese Seminars. Includes all attractions listed above PLUS EXTRAS such as Cheese Seminars, an insulated Festival tote bag for your purchases, a souvenir Festival glass for sampling wine, beer and cider (19+), live music and more. Weekend VIP Pass $75 plus tax.
The Festival’s main attraction, the Artisan Cheese & Fine Food Fair, is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and 4. Families are welcome. Children 15 and younger FREE when accompanied by an adult. Special pricing for groups of 10+.
There is so much to do at the Cheese Festival—and in must-visit Prince Edward County—that you’ll want to make a weekend of it. Check out featured accommodations in Prince Edward County, Belleville and Kingston at http://cheesefestival.ca/where-to-stay/
Picton Fairgrounds is located in the heart of Prince Edward County, south of Belleville in Bay of Quinte Region. One hour from Kingston, two hours from Toronto, three hours from Ottawa and New York State, and less than four hours from Montreal.
Cheese lovers in your life will appreciate a holiday gift of tickets to the 2017 Great Canadian Cheese Festival, the biggest artisan cheese show in North America.
We will send you a personalized gift certificate (upon receipt of your ticket order) for the ticket recipient. The certificate will be a PDF that you can forward by e-mail or print for giving in person.
The seventh annual Festival takes place June 3-4, 2017, at Picton Fairgrounds, in must-visit Prince Edward County, Bay of Quinte Region, near Belleville, Ontario.
Holiday tickets are available for the Saturday portion of the festival at $50 plus HST each.
Admission includes access to more than 130 exhibitors and vendors offering more than 500 foods and beverages, an insulated Festival tote bag for your purchases, a Festival souvenir glass for sampling wine, beer and cider (19+), Cheese Seminars (rush seating), Dairy Farm, Food Court, and live music. Ample FREE parking.
Click here to place your order. Please allow five days for the arrival of gift certificates.
The name Derek MacGregor is quite synonymous to the local food scene in Ontario. His food philosophy is all about simplicity and fresh quality ingredients, especially Canadian cheese. The concept of farm to table is true to his heart, having grown up in a small community near Cornwall surrounded by fresh foods and grandmas who were exceptional cooks in the kitchen. He is a firm believer of embracing the local food community and has created great rapport with many of the farmers, cheesemakers and artisans.
Chef Derek states that shopping local supports our local economy and when in season, the local produce is so fresh, often picked that morning and quite regularly organic or pesticide free.
As chef of Le Chien Noir in downtown Kingston for just shy of 10 years and in restaurant kitchens for the past 20 years, there has been a change in this chef’s life. He joins Seed to Sausage as production manager and. most recently, he steps up to the plate at the Grilled Cheese Chowdown at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on the Sunday of a two-day-long cheesy affair from June 4-5 at the Picton Fairgrounds. The challenge? To compete alongside thee chefs making grilled-cheese sandwiches for 1,000 cheese lovers as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Chef Derek’s passion for food is still as strong as ever and he admits that his transition to Seed to Sausage was by need of change of scene as the pressure of running a line nightly was beginning to take a toll. A strong sense of loyalty and friendship with founder Michael McKenzie solidified his next move all while still continuing to work with good food. His love for food allows him to continue his journey and inspire others around him to come together.
With the title of chef also comes a love of cheese—fond of goat and sheep’s milk cheeses, Derek has always impressed with this characuterie boards and dishes in the past. Of course picking one favourite Canadian cheese is quite the tough decision; his favourites include Grey Owl, Alegretto, and Seine d’Helene as well as a hometown cheese from Glengarry with its 4-year-old Lankaaster.
Chef Derek will be quite the contender at this year’s Grilled Cheese Chowdown and a crowd favourite with his enthusiastic spirit. As a proud locavore, he certainly is a prime choice for the competition.
Support Derek MacGregor this weekend June 4-5 at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton because, really, who doesn’t love grilled cheese? For complete information and tickets, please visit cheesefestival.ca.
—Rosalyn Gambhir A food writer and photographer who calls Kingston home. She blogs about food, fashion and other good things life at www.rosalyngambhir.com.
Wilton Cheese is a family tradition built on artisan cheese manufacturing—ensuring old fashioned, full-bodied natural flavours are still present today when you have a bite. With a wide selection of cheddar and variety cheeses, each one has been made with the utmost care and attention to ensure a premium product for your palate. It is a taste that has not changed since Wilton started making cheese in 1867.
The Jensen family purchased Wilton Cheese, originally operated as a Farmer’s Cooperative, in the 1970s when one of the stipulations of the purchase was that the factory maintains its original name. The Jensen family has honoured that request. Still quaint in size, production in Odessa is rather large for this well-known cheese factory catering to retail outlets across Eastern Ontario and restaurants in Kingston.
A popular choice by many in the area, such as Chef Eric Brennan of Le Chien Noir Bistro in Kingston, the Wilton cheese curd is like no other with its creamy texture. Perfect to nibble on its own or indulge in a gooey poutine with shredded duck confit, the options are almost endless and we say it is darn good! But let’s not forget the aged cheddars that Wilton is also most commonly known for. Our favourite is Wilton’s aged white cheddar, a cheese that is aged naturally as it is placed underground in temperature-controlled storage coolers. A true delight, like wine, cheese generally improves with age.
A day trip to Wilton Cheese is well worth the journey along the Cheddar and Ale Trail, as it still remains one of Canada’s oldest cheese factory—using real milk, guided by master cheesemakers. As a culinary tourist who relishes in locavorism, do make sure to experience the several other artisanal variety cheeses such as Brick with Hot Pepper, Brick with Onion & Garlic, Brick with Olives, Colby and good old Marble! A key aspect to take note of is that Wilton Cheese does not use artificial dyes to add colour to the cheese. Instead, the pulp from the Annatto plant is used to give their cheddar the orange colour. How neat!
Don’t forget to visit Wilton this coming weekend as it will be one of three dozen artisan cheese producers sampling and selling cheese at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton. For complete information and tickets, please visit cheesefestival.ca.
—Rosalyn Gambhir A food writer and photographer who calls Kingston home. She blogs about food, fashion and other good things life at www.rosalyngambhir.com.
Eighteen years ago, Mira Schenkel emigrated from Switzerland with her husband, Uli, to farm and raise a family in British Columbia. Today, she’s the best home cheesemaker in Canada.
Initially, it was Uli who was the cheesemaker in the family but as the demands of the farm in Salmon Arm, B.C., increased and his time for making cheese became limited, Uli convinced Mira to try her hand at it. Four years ago, she made her first cheese.
“While mostly self-taught, I am truly grateful to my dear and hardworking husband for encouraging me to become a cheesemaker and also for his great care and milking of our cows to provide the highest quality milk which makes the cheese special,” Mira wrote in an email. She also credits 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes by Debra Amrein-Boyes, an award-winning cheesemaker at The Farm House Natural Cheeses in Agassiz, B.C.
Along with many other animals the farm, the Schenkels have four family cows, two Jerseys (Amber and Peekaboo) and two crossbreds (Belle and Brittney) that provide the fresh unpasteurized milk from which Mira make her cheese.
Since making her first mountain cheese four years ago, Mira says she has enjoyed making a variety of cheeses including Gouda, Maasdammer, Camembert and, of course, Clover—all always aged for a minimum of 60 days due to the use of unpasteurized milk.
“The unique flavour of my award-winning Clover cheese features clover and herbs which I bring in from Switzerland,” Mira explains.
The judges loved Clover:
“This raw-milk Alpine cheese has a wonderful clover and grass aroma that comes from the Swiss Clover wash used on the rind. The wonderful golden hue of the paste is dotted with occasional small eyes which developed during ripening that complement the make-up of the cheese. The cheese has a nice clover flavour with hints of honey and finishes with a nuttiness that hints of hazelnuts or roasted almonds. The texture of this cheese is as complex as the flavor. It starts firm but, as you taste it, the cheese breaks down to an almost-fudge like finish.”