Best Bites: The seven most memorable cheeses of 2022

Maggie’s Christmas Cheese Ball/La Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères.

We bring the curtain down on 2022 with the help of friends in fromage recalling the most memorable cheese that crossed their palates during the past 12 months. We add our favourites, too.

Check out the tasting notes and make up your shopping list for the next visit to a cheese shop or, better yet, right to the cheesemaker. If you like, you can order online for convenient home delivery.

Let’s begin with cheese educator and cheese sommelier Vanessa Simmons, our BF in fromage:

My most memorable cheese taste of 2022 is Maggie’s Christmas Cheese Ball by Maggie Paradis of La Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères. Not only does Maggie make a variety of amazing goat, sheep and cow milk cheeses, but she and her husband, shepherd Christian Girard, are passionate, talented and wonderful people.

This coveted, sell-out cheese makes an appearance once a year for the holidays and is a combination of Maggie’s locally made cow and sheep milk cream and hard cheeses with a few added extras like scallions, lemon juice and sriracha that deliver its zing and umami, savoury flavour. Finished with crushed pecans for festive flair, it’s the best, silky, cheesecake-like cheese ball you will ever enjoy—made with love.

Pair with a local oaky Chardonnay, caramelized onion, bacon or apricot/peach jam and your favourite crusty baguette or sourdough bread and you have an instant party on your hands.

Gurth Pretty is a professional chef and cheese connoisseur whose goal is to show to Canadians and the world the delicious cheese produced in Canada. He combined his love for Canada and his passion for cheese to write The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal and Fine Cheese and The Definitive Canadian Wine & Cheese Cookbook, co-written with Tony Aspler. These days he owns and operates Lakeview Cheese Galore in Mississauga, Ontario.

Greystone/River’s Edge Goat Dairy.

One of my most memorable cheese this year was Greystone, produced by Katie and Will at River’s Edge Goat Dairy. They use the milk from their herd of goats, located at their farm near Arthur, Ontario.

The appearance of this ash-coated, white bloomy rind goat ball reminds me of a French Bonde de Gâtine cheese. As Greystone ripens, its paste becomes creamier and develops a more noticeable goat aroma.

It is a delicious artisanal farmstead cheese!

Jackie Armet is a longtime friend in cheese who has worked with me as cheese co-ordinator at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and then the Canadian Cheese Awards. A graduate of the Professional Fromager program at George Brown College in Toronto, Jackie lives in Prince Edward County and offers in-person tutored tastings and consulting services via Cheese Experience.

Wildwood/Stonetown Artisan Cheese.

My most memorable and impressive cheese this year is Wildwood made by Stonetown Artisan Cheese in St. Marys, Ontario. It was given to me as a mystery cheese and I felt it was from Europe. It has all the features that make Comte and Appenzeller outstanding. It could certainly be a challenger to the throne.

For Debbie Levy, longtime cheese educator, the cheese experience of the year was delivered by Blue Moo made by COWS Creamery of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

Blue Moo/COWS Creamery.

We are fortunate in Canada to have some great blue cheese makers and now I have added Blue Moo to the list. Love the texture of this triple cream. Although it’s a milder blue, there is something about its buttery savoury notes that just has me reaching for more!

During a cross-Canada road trip this year, we spent the better part of a day with Chef Dustin Peltier in the tiny make room at Loaf and Honey in Winnipeg learning about the trials and tribulations of producing Golden Prairie.

Golden Prairie/Loaf and Honey.

The recipe and method behind the cheese dates back to the 1700s in Trappist monasteries in France. It has been made in Manitoba by Trappist monks at Notre Dame des Prairies monastery since 1918, since the 1940s by Brother Alberic. When Dustin Peltier learned Brother Alberic, then in his 80s, planned to stop making Fromage de la Trappe, he was determined to continue the tradition. He spent a year being mentored by Brother Alberic, aiming to continue making the cheese in its traditional way, with raw, unpasteurized milk.

Unfortunately, Dustin ran into a bureaucratic maze at Manitoba Agriculture, which prevented him—or any other artisan producer in the province—from using raw milk in cheese production. Thus, he was forced to use non-homogenized, pasteurized organic cow milk in the making of Golden Prairie. The cheese is still hand-washed daily and aged for 60 days before being released to the public.

Golden Prairie has a unique flavour profile, with a touch of tang and loads of dairy. Only available for purchase in Manitoba at selected cheese shops.

During our camping trip to the Rockies, we also visited an old friend in cheese, Ian Treuer, now cheesemaker at Lakeside Farmstead Cheese in Sturgeon County just north of Edmonton. Here we found two memorable cheese tastes of 2022:

Chaga Cheddar/Lakeside Farmstead.

We’ve already reported on how the world’s first Chaga Cheddar came to be with its unique appearance and distinctive flavour, all the result of cheddar curds soaking in a bath of chaga tea before being molded, pressed and aged for up to seven weeks. The resulting cheese is beautifully marbled and has a creamy texture and mild, nutty flavour.

Clothbound Cheddar/Lakeside Farmstead.

The other memorable cheese we discovered was Lakeside Farmstead Clothbound Cheddar, a truly full-flavoured cheddar. Each wheel is made in the old-world tradition, hand-wrapped with cheesecloth, then sealed with wax and carefully aged for a minimum of one year. Clothbound Cheddar exhibits delightful nutty, fruity/citrus and caramel/sweet undertones with a complex and lingering finish. It has some crumble and crystallization providing a desirable mouth feel. All in all, it’s really delicious.

Lakeside cheese is available only in Alberta at present, from selected cheese shops and a retail store at the farm open Wednesday through Saturday.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever. Follow him on his travels across Canada on Substack at On the Road, Across the Sea.

 

 

Grand Trunk: Savour the aroma and flavour of the Swiss Alps

Grand Trunk wheel and wedge
Try and buy Grand Trunk and other award-winning cheeses from Stonetown Artisan Cheese at Canada’s Artisan Cheese Night Market in Toronto on June 6.

Grand Trunk is a best-seller for good reason: It tastes great, it really does!

Grand Trunk, the most popular cheese made by Stonetown Artisan Cheese in St. Marys, Ontario, is named after the historic railway bridge of the former Grand Trunk Railway in St. Marys.

On the outside of the cheese, the rind does have an old rustic look, just like the historic bridge.

But cut open a wheel and inhale the aroma. You’re immediately transported to the Swiss Alps where the fragrance of alpine meadows fills the air, mingling with a robust aroma of dairy.

Place a piece in your mouth and let it melt. It’s so rich and creamy, so packed with layers of flavour, with a nice balance of salt.

Grand Trunk is aged six to nine months and more. The older the better the taste, we say.

That’s award-winning Grand Trunk, the pride of cheesemakers Jolanda and Hans Weber who came to Canada in 1996 from their native Switzerland, with three children in tow, to begin a new life in St. Marys on their own dairy farm.

“Having previously worked in the Swiss Alps, it was always our dream to produce delicious, high quality cheese reminiscent of the renowned Swiss mountains and made from our own milk,” the Webers explain. “With a profound commitment to creating cheese of the highest quality, and the support of our family, as well as Ramon Eberle, a Master Cheesemaker from Switzerland, our humble dream became a reality.”

Fresh milk comes from 250 Holstein cows—who sleep on beach sand all year round. Two sons, together with their families, look after the cows while Jolanda and Hans handcraft the farmstead cheese: “In order to obtain a great taste, the milk is unpasteurized and has no additives. This ensures the cheese is pure and natural.”

The milk is thermized, which means its heated to reduce spoilage bacteria with minimum collateral heat damage to milk components. Artisan cheesemakers prefer thermization to pasteurization as the former does not cause changes in flavour.

The taste of place is definitely the Swiss Alps, although the cheese is made in Southwestern Ontario.

You’ll have a chance to meet Jolanda and Hans and sample their delicious cheese at Canada’s Artisan Cheese Night Market at historic St. Lawrence Market’s Temporary North Hall in Toronto on June 6.

“We will bring our award-winning cheeses like Wildwood, Homecoming, Farmstead Fontina, Farmstead Emmental and, of course, our most famous cheese, our Grand Trunk. We also make some goat milk cheeses and we will bring our Amazing Grey. The recipe for Amazing Grey is the same as for the Grand Trunk but with goat milk.”

Grand Trunk, which is aged six to nine months, was crowned Grand Champion in Specialty Cheese at the 2018 British Empire Cheese Competition.

Jolanda and Hans Weber with Master Cheesemaker Ramon Eberle.

Grand Trunk tastes excellent in sandwiches or just on a cheese platter with fruits, dried meat and rustic bread. It is a great cheese for fondue or grilled cheese sandwiches. Due to its unique flavor, the cheese pairs well with both red and white wines.

 —Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheesehead-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, is chairman of Canadian Cheese Awards and director of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. He’s hardly ever met a cheese he didn’t like.