Except when it affects us humans, aging can be a wonderful thing. It’s what transforms shlock into fine wine, it’s what turns a good cheese into a great cheese.
In cheesemaking, the process of maturing cheese is called affinage. It usually occurs in a cellar or climate-controlled room where temperature and humidity are carefully managed.
But Jean Morin took the concept further: First, he bought the village church. Then, he turned it into a state-of-the-art space for aging Louis d’Or and other cheese.
He paid $1 to purchase the Roman Catholic church in Sainte Elizabeth de Warwick, Québec, in 2015, across the street from the family dairy farm, Ferme Louis d’Or, and then poured $1 million into the conversion for affinage.
The church is adjacent to the former rectory which Morin purchased in 2005 to start up Fromagerie du Presbytère. (Presbytère is the French word for rectory.) Cheesemaking takes place in the former rectory which also houses fromagerie offices. The expansive new retail store is just down the street.
The former church can house up to 3,000 wheels of Louis d’Or. They are looked after by Pat, the name given to a $300,000 Swiss-made robot that lifts, brushes and rotates the 40-kilo wheels of cheese. Since the aging space is more than five meters high, the robot not only ensures uniformity but also protects employees from the hazards of doing it manually.
You can watch Pat in action in this video produced by the Ottawa Citizen:
“Even by using new cutting-edge technologies, we will never make concessions on the quality and authenticity of our artisan cheeses,” says Jean Morin. “We are and will remain artisans. We always take the same care to prepare each cheese using milk from our family farm.”
The robot may be cutting edge, the temperature and humidity controls state of the art, but the vat in the fromagerie make room has roots in Neolithic times around 9,000 B.C. The vat is made in France with copper, an element with thermal conductivity 20 times more efficient than stainless steel.
Many of the classic European cheese, such as Gruyère, Comté, Emmentaler and Parmigiano Reggiano, are made in copper vats. In fact, AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) regulationas require it. As far as we know, Fromagerie du Presbytère is the only Canadian cheesemaker using a copper vat.
The net result of all of the above is a truly outstanding cheese, one that has won many awards for Jean Morin and his équipe at Fromagerie du Presbytère, including Cheese of the Year at the most recent Canadian Cheese Awards.
Here’s what Cheese Sommelier Vanessa Simmons of Ottawa, a friend of ours in cheese, has to say about Louis d’Or:
Made in monster-sized 40-kilogram wheels, this washed-rind raw cow milk cheese is cooked, pressed and aged from 9 to 24 months with extra care taken during the ripening process. Resulting is a smooth, rich-textured paste encased in an antique gold, amber-colored rind. Aromas range from butter to onion and ripe pineapple. A complex mix of sweet, salty and dominant nutty, meaty flavors finish with a tingle at the back of the palate that lingers thanks to raw milk.
Age Louis d’Or another 12 months and all that aroma and flavour only elevate the taste experience to a sublime degree. It’s rich and creamy, with floral notes and hints of nuttiness, a wonderful example of Canadian cheese at its finest.
If your favourite cheese shop doesn’t carry Louis d’Or, order it online for home delivery in Ontario and Québec.
Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca and founder and director of Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens, the biggest cheese judging and competition in the land.