Ruth Klahsen has been making cheese at Monforte Dairy for 16 years now. Regularly, she has knocked it out of the park with winners like Toscano and Abondance. Add Waltzing Matilda to that list. Made with the rich milk of water buffalo, the flavour profile of the Camembert-style Waltzing Matilda can only be described as gorgeous, as silky smooth delicious.
There are actually two Matildas: Waltzing Matilda features a delicate layer of vegetable ash under its bloomy rind while Matilda in the Buff is the same cheese without the touch of ash.
As Ruth writes on her website:
This Water Buffalo Camembert will make you decide where your loyalties to the name Matilda lay. Tom Waits’ gravelly rasp, or a patriotic love of Australia? For an elegant dinner party, choose the Waltzing Matilda with a delicate layer of ash under its bloomy rind. For the more casual family affair, the Matilda in the Buff will do just fine. Both of these cheeses age beautifully and become supple and creamy in their hinter years (weeks). Honey pairs perfectly with their nutty flavor.
The soft cheese comes in 200-gram rounds, made with water buffalo milk from the Isaac and Israel Wagner farm in Ontario’s Amish community around Aylmer. The ash is, to satisfy federal regulations, imported from France.
At Monforte Dairy in Stratford, Ruth writes, we’re convinced the small things do indeed make a difference, that agriculture is best practiced on a human scale, and that our cheeses, each in its own way, reflect something a little deeper than the technology behind mass manufactured food—a little of the poetry and passion of life itself.
Speaking of poetry and passion, here is the legendary Tom Waits performing the song that inspired Ruth to name her cheese Matilda:
Rock-music author Daniel Durchholz once said Tom’s voice sounds “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car.”
We agree and, thus, in the interest of public service, we feel obliged to present the lyrics here. Besides, wasted and wounded never sounded so good!
Wasted and wounded, it ain’t what the moon did I got what I paid for now See ya tomorrow hey Frank can I borrow a couple of bucks from you To go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, You’ll go waltzing Matilda with me
I’m an innocent victim of a blinded alley And I’m tired of all these soldiers here No one speaks English, and everything’s broken and my Stacys are soaking wet To go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, You’ll go waltzing Matilda with me
Now the dogs are barking and the taxi cabs parking A lot they can do for me I begged you to stab me you tore my shirt open And I’m down on my knees tonight Old Bushmills I staggered you buried the dagger in Your silhouette window light To go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, You’ll go waltzing Matilda with me
Now I’ve lost my Saint Christopher now that I’ve kissed her And the one-armed bandit knows And the maverick Chinaman, and the cold blooded signs And the girls down by the strip tease shows, go Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, You’ll go waltzing Matilda with me
No, I don’t want your sympathy the fugitives say That the streets aren’t for dreaming now manslaughter dragnets and the ghosts that sell memories They want a piece of the action anyhow Go waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, You’ll go waltzing Matilda with me
And you can ask any sailor and the keys from the jailor And the old men in wheelchairs know that Matilda’s the defendant, she killed about a hundred And she follows wherever you may go Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, You’ll go waltzing Matilda with me
And it’s a battered old suitcase to a hotel someplace And a wound that will never heal No prima donna the perfume is on an Old shirt that is stained with blood and whiskey And goodnight to the street sweepers the night watchmen flame keepers And goodnight Matilda too
Tom Traubert’s Blues “Waltzing Matilda”
Album: Used Songs
Click here to order Matilda and other Monforte Dairy cheeses online for home delivery in Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Niagara. Or check with your favourite cheese shop.
Ruth Klahsen of Monforte Dairy was honoured with the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne this week for implementing a Community Shared Agriculture micro-financing model to raise capital to build a new plant in Stratford, Ontario. The award comes with a cash prize of $75,000.
“I am so thrilled and so honoured.” Klahsen said in accepting the award. “We want to take that award and we want to give it back. So what we intend to do with the money is to set up a cheesemaking school here at Monforte and that’ll start in February next spring. Because what we really need in the industry is education and depth and understanding of regulations so that we can do safe, wonderful products that are as good as Europe. And so a school becomes so important.
“The school becomes the coolest thing that we can do and I’m so excited about the potential of that. And the potential for what that can do to Ontario as far as just making really, really good cheese . . .
In 2008, when rent at Monforte Dairy’s location skyrocketed, the artisanal cheesemaker faced the challenge of securing enough money to build a new facility. So Monforte turned to its biggest believers—its customers.
It sold shares in denominations of $200, $500 and $1,000, redeemable in cheese. While many farmers have turned to community-supported agriculture to finance their operations, this is the first time the model had been attempted by an Ontario food processor. Monforte customers came through, purchasing nearly 900 shares totaling more than $400,000. The money helped pay for one-and-a-half acre of land in Stratford and a new, purpose-built environmentally sustainable cheesemaking plant.
This year, Monforte is on target to reach $2 million in sales, with the help of cheese aficionados determined to keep their favourite producer in business.
If you ask Ruth Klahsen, how she got into making cheese, she’ll tell you, in that self-deprecating way she has: “I’m just an old broad who had a mid-life crisis!”
We bring the curtain down on 2012 with friends in fromage recalling the memorable cheeses that crossed their palates this year. In alphabetical order, here are 20 outstanding cheeses of the year just ending—and one terrific cinnamon butter:
Any cheese made by Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese
Regardless if I’m eating his curds or the harder aged cheeses Shep Ysselstein is best known for, his cheeses never disappoint, they’re always outstanding bites to remember. He is truly a talented cheesemaker to watch. —Wendy Furtenbacher, Blogger, CurdyGirl
Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, COWS Creamery
I was in P.E.I in the summer and finally got to meet Scott Linkletter, owner of COWS Creamery, and Armand Bernard, the cheesemaker. Ate Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar (still good everytime I have it) looking out over New London Bay as the sun was setting. —Sue Riedl, Cheese Columnist, The Globe and Mail
Bella Casara Mozzarella di Buffala, Quality Cheese
Discovered shortly after my trip to Italy when I was experiencing serious fresh cheese withdrawals. Enjoy the fresh, mild, milky flavor and smooth silky texture of this oh-so-versatile cheese made from Ontario buffalo (Yes, water buffalo) milk. The small, soft, delicate hand-pulled rounds pair perfectly with both sweet and savory accoutrements. Click here for more tasting notes. —Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company
Black River 8-Year Cheddar, Black River Cheese
While many Black River cheddars have a characteristic bitterness, the 8-year has lost this. It is incredibly thick and smooth in the mouth, rich and nutty, with a hint of caramel. —Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario
Brie Paysan, Fromagerie de la Presbytere
It’s been consistently beautiful this year, especially when ripe. If purchased, folks should hold it for an extra while. This is my favourite example of “vegetal” notes in a cheese. —Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company
Downey’s Cinnamon Honey Butter
My personal favourite this year is Downey’s cinnamon butter. It was a breakfast favourite of my youth, and I knew the family that made it in upstate New York. Through sleuthing with Gerry Albright and Sue Riedl, it turns out this is a heritage Canadian product! Many people remember McFeeter’s Honey Butter. The McFeeters licenced honey butter to the Downeys in Eastern Ontario. The Downeys later moved the company to New York. Whether you like the history or not, it is an awesome breakfast treat on toast. Sobeys is very happy to offer this heritage Ontario product again—now made in Pennsylvania. —Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario
Figaro, Glengarry Fine Cheese
My favourite Canadian cheese of late has been Figaro, by Glengarry Fine Cheese, because it is unique (though I believe modeled after a style of Robiola) and risk-taking (very moist, difficult to package and transport) and absolutely delicious (yeasty aromas, complex texture, musky finish). —Julia Rogers, Cheese Educator, Cheese Culture
Golden Blyth, Blyth Farm
A delicious, mild goat’s milk Gouda produced by Paul van Dorp near Blyth, Ontario —Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Deli Cheese, at Loblaws
Grey Rush, Primeridge Pure
I’m a sucker for the plain as it is so versatile, but I find myself craving the chili, and this summer I was blown over by the frozen cheesecake made with their exceptional cream cheese. —Wendy Furtenbacher, Blogger, CurdyGirl
Sensations Applewood Smoked Cheddar, aged 2 years, Sobeys
A thermalized cheddar made in Québec. Like a campfire, you can taste the nuance. Would be perfect with a single malt! —Andy Shay, Cheese Buyer, Sobeys Ontario
Sorcière Bien Aimée, Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères
A soft, unctuous goat’s milk cheese is new to the luxurious lineup of Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères cheeses. Click here for my tasting notes. Again, keep until it’s soft and ooey-gooey good. —Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company
Wendy’s Own Camembert
A sheep’s milk Camembert that I made in a class at George Brown taught by Ruth Klahsen. I was not expecting success, but one out of the five cheeses I affineured actually turned out well. I was really proud of myself. —Wendy Furtenbacher, Blogger, CurdyGirl
You know you’re becoming a true caseophile when . . .
. . . your parents start asking what kind of cheese you want for your birthday.
. . . the GPS unit in your car is programmed to always lead you to the cheese shop.
. . . you stub your toe and angrily yell “Idiazabal!”
. . . you wish Chanel would finally come out with a fragrance that smells like Brie de Meaux.
. . . you fantasize about Kraft going bankrupt.
. . . your spouse, based on what you often mumble in your sleep, suspects you’re having a torrid affair with some Italian hussy named “Taleggio.”
. . . you enjoy holding your socks to your nose because it reminds you of Limburger.
. . . you seriously wonder what cheddar from giraffe’s milk might taste like.
. . . you have to say to your wife “Oh, that bra! Sorry dear, I thought you were asking about the Slow Food Movement. Try looking in the clothes drier.”
. . . you proudly refer to yourself and fellow pecorino aficionados as “pecorheads.”
. . . your spouse puts her foot down and simply refuses to allow you to convert the entire basement of your home into a cheese cave.
. . . you sincerely hope Louis Pasteur is burning in Hell.
. . . you have a reoccurring erotic dream involving a goat and a tub full of warm curds.
. . . your colleagues are beginning to believe you’ve joined some bizarre cult that worships Thunder Oak Gouda.
. . . you believe Saturday is the best day of the week because you get to taste cheese at George Brown College.
. . . your vision of Hell includes the image of Ronald McDonald pushing a cheese cart.
. . . your expectant wife unequivocally rejects your idea of naming the child “Pliny the Elder.”
. . . your spouse catches you on the Internet, in the middle of the night, ogling pictures of Montgomery Cheddar.
. . . you book off sick at work so you can surreptitiously attend a local cheese convention.
. . . you mumble “Mildly lactic on the attack, a little barny, notes of citrus, lingering nuttiness on the finish.” Then, you open your eyes to discover the Baskin-Robbins staff behind the counter staring at you in utter disbelief.
. . . you stop going to church and begin turning to your cheesemonger for spiritual advice.
. . . you dream about living in a house shaped like a Valencay.
. . . you have a nightmare about a large piece of Cabrales biting you back.
. . . you embrace your spouse and tenderly whisper, “Je t’aime ma petite Chabichou du Poitou.”
. . . you dream of one day seeing Max McCalman on Dancing with the Stars.
Perry Manti, a teacher by profession, was in the first graduating class of the Professional Fromager program at George Brown College in Toronto. The Toscano in the photo above was two to three months old when he purchased it at Monforte Dairy: “I rubbed it every week with Kalamata olive oil. I aged it in my cantina for an additional three months. The rind became soft and edible. The paste became somewhat darker than a typical Toscano and developed a fruity aroma.”
Perry presented the aged cheese to Monforte where it became the inspiration for Athena: “Quite frankly, I thought their final version was better than mine. It turned out well for them, as they sold out.”
Monforte Dairy in Stratford, Ontario, will become a cheese school for eight weeks in February and March with eight students studying and practicing the fine art of artisan cheesemaking.
Ruth Klahsen, Monforte’s owner and lead cheesemaker (photo above), will share the curriculum with Neville McNaughton and Evelyn McManus.
McNaughton, widely known in the cheese business as Doctor Cheese, owns and operates CheezSorce in St. Louis,, Missouri, a consulting and training firm. His experience in cheese goes back 35 years to his native New Zealand. He has many clients in Canada.
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.
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.
If you ask Ruth Klahsen, owner and lead cheesemaker at Monforte Dairy, how she got into making cheese, she’ll tell you, in that self-deprecating way she has: “I’m just an old broad who had a mid-life crisis!”
The real story is that Ruth is a graduate of the inaugural class of ’83 at the Stratford Chefs School where she also teaches cheesemaking. Her cuisine is well-known to patrons of premier restaurants Rundles and the Old Prune in Stratford, Ontario.
For 11 years, from 1990 to 2001, Ruth was the Chef and Manager of the Green Room of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival responsible not only for the entire smooth functioning of the kitchen but also the special on-site catering. When she walks into the Festival today, she still gets hugs from Festival staff and actors. She’s the one who bolstered their bodies and souls with truffles and caviar and anything their hearts desired . . . sometimes on the sly.
While at the Festival, Ruth dreamed of being a cheesemaker and made her own chèvre.
But managing a big operation took its toll and when budget restrictions conflicted with Ruth’s strong principles, she threw in her apron and apprenticed at a local sheep milk dairy.
By 2004, Ruth and a partner opened Monforte Dairy (refinancing her house for the start up money) and started making sheep-milk cheeses in a rented facility in Millbank, Ontario, just north of Stratford.
The partnership dissolved early on but Ruth continued making cheese and Monforte soon became known as southwestern Ontario’s premier artisanal cheese company. Ruth, clad in her vintage apron, sold her signature Toscano and other cheeses at numerous markets in the GTA, quickly gaining fans and followers among foodies, chefs and people who like cheese and remembered when almost every small town in Ontario had a dairy. Monforte doubled sales every year.
Known for its range of extraordinary cheeses, Monforte has become supplier of choice to five-star restaurants, leading wineries and progressive food retailers throughout Ontario. In the fall of 2009, Ruth was invited to the State dinner for Prince Charles and Camilla at Rideau Hall where her cheese was featured on the menu.
Not one to follow the well-worn path and no fan of bureaucracy and procedure, Ruth made the tough decision in January 2009 to pull out of the facility where she was making Monforte cheese, striking out on her own to realize her dream of creating a permanent home for Monforte. Monforte Renaissance 2010, a revolutionary microfinancing campaign through Community Shared Agriculture (CSA), was conceived to raise the capital to build Monforte’s new dairy.
CSAs were offered at three different levels—$250, $500 and $1000—paying out in cheese over five years. Close to $400,000 was raised from her loyal customer base—people who both love Monforte cheese and want to add their support to microproduction, sustainable farming and just food. Ruth has always said the farmers from whom she buys milk have to earn enough to afford piano lessons for their kids.
And the dairy got built. And the party thanking the subscribers and community is now the stuff of legend.
Located at 39 Griffith Road in the heart of an industrial park in Stratford, the dairy has a store front and garden and the sexiest, blingiest, edgiest paint job around thanks to installation artist Corinne Carlson and the graffiti artists at The Loft in Toronto.
Monforte has added cow’s milk cheese to the repertoire of sheep and goat cheese, crackers and charcuterie from the pigs fed Monforte whey. Faced with financial “pinch” in January 2010, Ruth once again appealed to her supporters for help. Within a week her supporters came through with a loan of $100,000.
Says Ruth in her blog, “What a privilege it is to be in this place at this time.”
When you meet Ruth Klahsen, ask her why the integrity of ingredients matter, why turning milk into cheese is a craft, why the bond between and farmer is important‑and worth preserving. Then stand back and listen.
Maureen Argon, a widely published writer, was fortunate to work as the “shepherdess” at Monforte Dairy keeping the community in know during Monforte’s Renaissance year. Maureen now is the Chairman of Chairman Mo Media, a digital consultancy where she helps business people use social media to spread their message.
Brebichon, Les Fromages du Verger:
A young 350g farmstead sheep milk cheese made with apple juice added to the curd and washed with apple juice from their own orchard. First prize in washed rind cheese category at 2010 Quebec Caseus Awards. Provincially licensed.
—Alain Besré, Fromagerie Atwater, often called the godfather of the Québec artisan cheese movement
Jersey Blue, Städtlichäsi Lichtensteig:
A 100% Jersey cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland made by Willi Schmid. So beautiful you almost don’t want to eat it, just gaze at it. But, mamma mia, when it gets into your mouth! What a cheese, WHAT a cheese! —Russell Gammon, Executive Secretary, Jersey Canada
Le Foin d’Odeur, La Moutonniere:
Soft surface-ripened sheep’s milk, sweet, mushroomy and herbacious. When ripe, like licking buttered popcorn from your fingertips!
—Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company
Monforte Dairy Cottage Cheese:
Georgous small cream colour curds that play on your tongue like caviar and are so fresh they sqeek lightly on your teeth.
—Andy Shay, Cheese Consultant
At CheeseLover.ca, the most memorable moment in cheese of 2010 came when we first tasted Vacherin Mont d’Or, a singular seasonal cheese of Switzerland that delivers an amazing explosion of aroma and taste—so rich, so gooey.
Other taste hits:
Miranda, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser:
Cheesemaker Fritz Kaiser, who kick-started the Quebec artisanal cheese movement in the 1980s, says Miranda is one of the many cheeses he produces that he’s most proud of. That says a lot, when one considers he makes Le Douanier, Port Royal, Raclette, La Soeur Angele, Le Saint Paulin, among others. We especially liked the rustic flavours of Miranda.
Celtic Blue, Glengarry Fine Cheese, and Bleu d’Elizabeth, Fromagerie du Presbytère: Two very different blue cheeses that demonstrate how far blues made in Canada have come since the days Roquefort ruled. Three cheers for Blue Canada!
Empire Cheddar, 7-year, Empire Butter & Cheese:
There are so many fine older cheddars made in Canada, but Empire’s oldest offering stands out in memories of cheese tasted during 2010.
—Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-head-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, wonders what outstanding cheeses he’ll encounter in the New Year.