The voicemail was brief and to the point: “Georgs, you mustcome and sample the new cheese from Pieter.”
The caller was Tammy Miller at Country Cheese in Ajax, my neighbourhood cheesemonger in Durham outside Toronto. I stopped by a few days later, and right away sent an email to Pieter van Oudenaren at Mariposa Dairy in Lindsay, Ontario:
“Wow, Pieter, Thea is a stunner! Tell me more so I can spread the word to Canadian cheese lovers.”
To the point, Thea is an outstanding bandaged cheddar made with Ontario sheep’s milk by the Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve division of Mariposa Dairy where Pieter has had a hand in developing aged cheese like Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar and Tania Toscano Sheep Cheese over the last nine years.
Hand-crafted in small batches using premium sheep’s milk from Miklin Farms near Georgina, Thea Bandaged Cheddar is made in the old world way by wrapping the cheddar wheel with cheesecloth which helps to age the cheese and preserve the flavour.
Aged nine months in a humidity-controlled aging room, the cheese yields a woody and buttery aroma, a sharp nutty profile with subtle caramel undertones. It has the sought after crystallization of a well-aged cheddar with a firm but creamy texture.
As Roxanne Renwick, a cheese specialist in Toronto, puts it: “Thea is rich and creamy yet full of tyrosine crystals. Sweet, salty and slightly tangy.”
The name Thea (along with the names Luuk, Taavi and Zander of truckles made at Mariposa Dairy) is a common Dutch name. It reflects the Dutch heritage of the VandenBerg family, Mariposa founders and owners, and the Dutch reputation for great cheese.
Cheesemaker Pieter van Oudenaren was born and raised in Bobcaygeon, a short drive from Lindsay. His parents emigrated from the Netherlands in the 1950s. The family name comes from Oudenaarde, a Flemish city in Belgium. Pieter’s father, Harry van Oudenaren, who is turning 95 this month, owned and operated an auto repair garage in Bobcaygeon for many years. Pieter took over the business and operated it for 27 years before the cheesemaking bug took hold nine years ago.
Since then, it has been one award after another for Lenberg Farms cheeses, including Grand Champion honours for Thea at this week’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.
“What’s your secret in making such fabulous cheese?” we asked Pieter.
“A secret is a secret. In the words of Monty Python, ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers.’ I have been blessed with a great company and owners to work for and with. Good components, co-workers, a wife that supports and prompts me, and consultants that have helped me along the way to help me to tweak the recipes.”
Pieter describes himself as a learner: In recent years, he’s learned to sail a boat, drive a horse and carriage, and make maple syrup, in addition to making award-winning cheese.
He and his wife, Grace, who is executive secretary at Mariposa, have two daughters.
Miklin Farms in Georgina is owned by Mike and Linda Thompson and operated with their children, Anna, Laura and Joe. The Thompsons have been farming sheep for 29 years. They currently have 1,000 breeding/milking ewes, milking 500 at a time year round. The breed of sheep is Rideau crossed with East Friesian.
Thea is hand-made in relatively small quantities and thus is in limited distribution. Here are cheese retailers in Ontario that carry Thea:
We lower the curtain on 2014 with Vanessa Simmons, respected cheese sommelier at Savvy Company in Ottawa, recalling the 12 Canadian cheeses that made the year memorable for her palate. Check out her tasting notes and make up your shopping list for the next visit to a cheese shop.
His Louis d’Or is Grand Champion in the cow’s milk variety cheese class. Pionnier, made with a blend of cow’s and sheep’s milk in collaboration with Marie-Chantal Houde of Fromagerie Nouvelle France, is Grand Champion in the goat and sheep milk variety cheese class.
The 18-month Farmstead Gouda made by Adam van Bergejik of Mountainoak Cheese is Reserve Grand Champion in cow milk.
Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar made by Pieter van Oudenaren of Lenberg Farms/Mariposa Dairy is Reserve Grand Champion in goat and sheep milk.
Grand Champion in cheddar cheese is Black Diamond Mild Cheddar made by Parmalat Canada, now part of Groupe Lactalis, the world’s largest dairy producer. Parmalat dominated all cheddar categories except:
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
Canadian cheesemakers won 30 ribbons in the 2013 American Cheese Society Judging & Competition in Madison, Wisconsin, in early August, competing against 1,794 cheeses submitted by 257 producers in the Americas—the largest competition in the history of the ACS.
Twenty-three of the 30 ribbons were won by 10 Québec cheesemakers, four being first-place ribbons, two for Agropur Fine Cheese and one each for Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, represented by Fromages CDA, and La Moutonnière.
Two Ontario producers, Mariposa Dairy, represented by Finica Food Specialties, and Quality Cheese, won first-place ribbons as well.
Best of Show was won by Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont with the Winnimere, an extraordinary take on the French mountain classic Vachering Mont d’Or. Made with raw milk from the farm’s Ayrshire cows, Winnimere is wrapped in cambium cut from the spruce trees on the farm and washed in a beer from a neighbouring brewery. It’s available only January through June.
Here are the Canadian winners:
OPEN CATEGORY – FRESH UNRIPENED CHEESES – MADE FROM SHEEP’S MILK OR MIXED MILKS
We bring the curtain down on 2011 with friends in fromage recalling the memorable cheeses that crossed their palates this year. It’s a tradition at CheeseLover.ca we started last year.
Interestingly, two friends selected the same stand-out:
Lindsay Bandaged Cheddar, Mariposa Dairy:
Lindsay Clothbound was the best new Ontario cheese I tasted this year. Beautifully balanced flavour, everything you would expect in a great clothbound cheddar in texture and flavour—with a terrific goat bonus at the end. —Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario
Lindsay Bandaged Cheddar, Mariposa Dairy:
New to Ontario’s cheese scene and winning awards already, Mariposa’s twist on bandaged cheddar is an aged hard goat’s milk cheese, slightly dry and crumbly, with significant earthy, but distinct “meaty” flavor. —Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company
Vanessa named three other memorable cheeses of 2011:
Jersey du Fjord, Les Bergeries du Fjord:
My memorable cheese this year is definitely the Jersey du Fjord, aged 10 months, a 20-kg English Cheshire-inspired cheese that was one of the 16 Champions at the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, a first prize and silver medal overall at the Quebec Caseus Awards. —Alain Besré, Fromagerie Atwater and Aux Terroirs
2011 was my year to celebrate Old World classics. Iconic Spanish cheeses, such as sultry smoky Idiazábal and cool minerally Valdeón were big hits, as were rare treasures from tiny shops in Toronto, including Danish Esrom (Stinky! Umami!) and Portugal’s Serra da Estrela—a tangy, wobbly, grassy wonder. —Julia Rogers, Cheese Educator, Cheese Culture
Hail to the blues!
At what point do we stop developing our taste buds? For years, I have fought with the blues, only to find it actually works to try something 25 times! I have now come to the other side and crave the blues. No cheese board is complete without them. So what blue converted me? Saint Agur. How can you resist that double creamy, lovely balanced blue served with a beautiful glass of Karlo Estates Van Alstine Port. Hail to the blues! Bring them on in 2012! —Jackie Armet, Cheese Co-ordinator , The Great Canadian Cheese Festival
Lady Jane, Farm House Natural Cheeses:
I first fell in love with this cheese at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton when I tried it during one of the pairing sessions. It looks like the best, most beautiful buttermilk-y cheesecake, with a texture that is such heaven in your mouth. Lady Jane is one of my favourite new finds of 2011. —Wendy Furtenbacher, Blogger, CurdyGirl
At CheeseLover.ca, the most memorable moment in cheese of 2011 came when we first tasted Laliberté, the triple-cream cheese made with whole organic cow’s milk at Fromagerie du Presbytère. Such rich dairy delight!
Other taste hits of the year just ending:
Bliss, Monforte Dairy:
Cheesemaker Ruth Klahsen never ceases to amaze with her creations. This Brie-style pasteurized sheep’s milk is pure bliss.
Goat Cheese Curds, Monforte Dairy:
Be prepared for bursts of farm flavours when you pop these squeaks into your mouth.
14 Arpents, Fromagerie Médard:
Every time we taste this soft-ripened cheese we get religion and want to make a pilgrimage to the Lac Saint Jean in Quebec where Rose-Alice Boivin Côté and her family work wonders.
—Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-head-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, wonders what outstanding cheeses he’ll encounter in the New Year.
There are more wines to taste than is humanly possible in one evening and all kinds of fancy food to sample, but pulled pork was the clear winner in our hearts and stomachs at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo in Toronto this week. Not just any pulled pork but a perfect parfait served up at Hank Daddy’s Barbecue stand.
For cheese lovers, there is a diverse selection of tastes to be had at the Gourmet Expo which runs till Sunday:
Cypress Grove Cheese from Northern California and Sobeys Ontario team up to present a divine plate of four goat cheeses made by Mary Keehn, one of the founders of the artisan-cheese movement in the U.S.
A delicious selection of classic and contemporary goat cheeses is available at the stand operated by Ontario Goat Cheese.
Devil’s Rock, a creamy blue cheese from Northern Ontario, and squeaky cheese curds are front and center at the Thornloe Cheese stand.
Lindsay Bandaged Cheddar was named Grand Champion about a year after it was introduced by Mariposa Dairy of Lindsay, Ontario—and began winning awards, including Best of Show, Runner-up, at the American Cheese Society.
Camelot, a new goat-milk cheese introduced by Upper Canada Cheese of Jordan, Ontario, only a few months ago, was named Reserve Champion and its other new cheese, Nanny Noire, placed second in mold-ripened class.
Mariposa Dairy dominated the goat-milk cheese competition, winning or placing in five categories.
Upper Canada’s goat cheeses are made only with milk from a rare herd of Lamancha goats pastured at Gord and Melanie Wood’s Idyllwood Farms near Keene, Ontario, and cared for by the entire Wood family. Says Lauren Petryna, head cheesemaker:
“This fresh, pure milk is then transformed into Camelot and Nanny Noire. Camelot ages for two months in our cellars, while camembert-style Nanny is rolled in ash, allowed to develop its bloomy rind and is ready to be enjoyed within weeks.”
Here are the top three in the mixed-milk class of the annual competition at the Royal:
Canadian cheesemakers did remarkably well at the 2011 American Cheese Society Conference and Competition in Montreal this week, winning close to one-quarter of ribbons up for grabs. Best of all, Mariposa Dairy with Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar and Fromagerie du Presbytère with Louis d’Or won Best of Show honors.
D. AMERICAN MADE / INTERNATIONAL STYLE
Cheeses modeled after or based on recipes for established European or other international types or styles – Beaufort, Abondance, Gruyère, Juustoleipa, Caerphilly, English Territorials, Leyden, Butterkäse, Monastery styles, etc.
3rd Cabot Creamery Cooperative, MA
Cabot Unsalted Butter
S. CHEESE SPREADS
Spreads produced by grinding and mixing, without the aid of heat and/or emulsifying salts, one or more natural cheeses
SA: Open Category made from all milks – Spreads with flavors using a base with moisture higher than 44%
3rd Appleton Creamery, ME
Chevre Wrapped in Brandied Grape Leaf
V. WASHED RIND CHEESES
Cheeses with a rind or crust washed in salted brine, whey, beer, wine, other alcohol, or grape lees that exhibit an obvious, smeared or sticky rind and/or crust – Limburger, Pont l’Evêque, Chimay, Raclette, Swiss Appenzeller or Vignerons-style, etc.