After almost a decade of research, learning and teaching about cheese, Ian Treuer is turning his passion into a career.
“I was looking for a hobby,” Treuer said. “I don’t really drink, so beer making was out. I made my first cheese at home eight years ago.”
As of February 15, Treuer is the owner of Winding Road Artisan Cheese in the County of Smoky Lake, Alberta. He purchased the existing Smoky Valley Artisan Cheese business after working there part-time in 2012-2013. It is located 20 minutes from the town of Smoky Lake and 90 minutes from Edmonton.
Treuer and his business partner/mentor, who works behind the scenes, have rebranded and changed the product line for the launch of Winding Road Artisan Cheese. Treuer is the cheesemaker, bringing his experience as home and professional cheesemaker, teaching cheese making classes and co-ordinating the first ever Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in 2015.
“I enjoy both the science and the art form,” Treuer said of cheesemaking. “There’s something about starting with a liquid and turning that liquid into a solid. I love working with the curds.”
When Treuer started his road to artisan cheese making, he followed Australian blogger Gavin Weber’s “Little Green Cheese” posts. Weber also creates cheese in his home kitchen. Now Treuer follows many cheesemakers on Instagram. Much To Do About Cheese is Treuer’s own popular blog about home cheesemaking.
“I’m inspired on a daily basis,” he said. “I’m a fan of Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese in Woodstock, Ontario. It was a thrill to meet Shep Ysselstein, the cheesemaker, at last year’s Cheese Festival,” he said.
Pending licensing and inspections, Treuer hopes to start making cheese in March. His long-term goal is to obtain federal as well as provincial licenses.
Winding Road cheeses will be made using a thistle enzyme rather than traditional rennet.
“This will help give our cheeses unique flavors and hopefully set us apart from other cheeses produced in Alberta,” said Treuer.
To begin with, Treuer will be the cheesemaker with his business partner helping with administration, marketing and sales. Their initial market will be cheese enthusiasts in Alberta and eventually across Canada. The cheeses will be cow-milk cheeses, but they hope to team up with local goat dairies as well.
The first cheeses ready for sale will be:
- Queijo Fresco – A traditional Portuguese fresh cheese made using thistle (cardoon) enzyme.
- Fromage Blanc – A lovely light, spreadable cheese that is a perfect substitute for Chevre, for those who don’t like goat cheese, and cream cheese.
- Lactic Bloomy Rind Cheeses – A washed rind cheese to be ready two to three months after they start production, and a firm cheese to be ready in six to seven months.
The partners hope to process between 1,000-2,000 litres of milk per week. They have a 300-litre vat, so Treuer said he is focusing on quality over quantity.
This quality Treuer believes will come from the unique enzyme found in the Cardoon plant, allowing him to make unique “Made in Alberta” cheeses. One of his long term goals is to get licensed Federally so he and his partner can help put Alberta in the minds of cheese lovers when people talk about Canadian cheese.
Follow Ian Treuer’s progress on Instagram at @MTDACheese. A company website, www.windingroadcheese.com, should be up and running by May.
—By Joanne Fralick
Joanne Fralick is a cheese lover and freelance writer who lives with husband and son in Prince Edward County. She’s also Promotions Specialist for The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.