Oka: Unique aroma, divine flavour, rich history

First made in 1893 by Trappist monks, Oka is the most iconic of all Canadian cheeses, known the world over.

Flashback to November, 1960, Deux Montagnes, Québec:

A young monk entered the guesthouse dining room at Abbey of Notre Dame du Lac bearing a large platter. He gently placed it in the centre of the table where eight of us were sitting. The platter appeared to be piled high with big chunks of pale yellow pineapple.

Pineapple in the middle of November in a Trappist monastery in Québec? I was mystified. Despite the no-talking rule, I turned to the man on my left and whispered: “Qu’est-ce que c’est?”

“Fromage” was his curt reply, followed by “Ssshhhh!”

Fromage? I could handle cheese first thing in the morning, my first morning as a guest at the monastery. After the blessing and signal to begin eating, I didn’t hesitate to reach for a big chunk and popped it in my mouth.

“Oh, my goodness!” I could hardly hold back exclaiming out loud. I had never tasted a cheese so buttery, so creamy, so delicious. So many more chunks followed the first that I hardly had room for the farm-fresh scrambled eggs that were served for breakfast.

And so it came to pass that I was introduced to Oka cheese when the Trappists still made it. Indeed, that morning was the moment my passion for artisan cheese was ignited.

Flashback further, to February, 1893:

Brother Alphonse Juin arrives at the Abbey of Notre Dame du Lac—known as Oka Abbey after the small village on the northern bank of the Ottawa River, northwest of Montreal, on Lake of Two Mountains, where the Ottawa has its confluence with the St. Lawrence River.

Abbey of Notre Dame du Lac aka Oka Abbey: At its peak, the abbey was the permanent home to as many as 200 monks, who belong to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, commonly known as the Trappists.

The monastery was struggling, unable to make ends meet. Brother Alphonse had been sent from the Abbaye de Bellefontaine in France (from which the Oka monks originated) with a recipe for Port-du-Salut cheese created by Trappists a few years earlier. Brother Alphonse tweaked and adjusted Port-du-Salut recipe, creating a unique Quebec cheese that went on to win first prize at the Montreal Exhibition that same year.

Imagine the shock of judges at the exhibition to be presented with a unique semi-soft, washed-rind cheese when only cheddars ruled the day!

The Oka Trappist cheese continued to win awards and recognition. Soon, it became immensely popular, assuring the financial stability of the monastery. Today, it’s clearly the most iconic of all Canadian cheeses, known the world over.

Fast forward to 1981:

Agropur, Canada’s biggest dairy co-operative purchases the Oka cheesemaking operation from the Trappist monks and builds a state-of-the-art plant next door to the monastery. Eventually, an expansive retail store is opened, showcasing Oka cheeses and artisan products from across Québec. (Which makes a visit to Oka really worth your while.)

Over time, the product line is expanded beyond the original Oka cheese to include Oka Classique, Light, Raclette, L’Artisan, L’Artisan Smoke, Mushrooms, Ashed and Brother Alphonse.

The original Oka with the somewhat plain label remains my favourite and is closest to what I recall first tasting so many years ago.

Fast forward to October, 2006:

The monks, by now world-famous, announce they are selling Oka Abbey and moving to a smaller home in the forest 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

A local non-profit group will transform the monastery into a tourism and education centre. The Abbey of Notre Dame du Lac includes a large grey stone monastery and a dozen buildings nestled on 270 hectares of forested land. The monks also own farmland.

Thousands of people from around the world have visited the abbey to attend mass, meditate and enjoy the bucolic peace and quiet. The abbey has long welcomed men and women seeking short-term retreats, and also runs a monastic guest program for men interested in experiencing monastic life.

At its peak, the abbey was the permanent home to as many as 200 monks, who belong to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, commonly known as the Trappists. But the community has dwindled over the past generation, and only 28 monks, the majority of whom are older than 70, live at the monastery.

Fast forward to today:

Oka is semi-soft, washed-rind cheese with an edible copper-orange rind. It has a distinct aroma—some might call it pungent, especially as the cheese ages—and a relatively mild, creamy and buttery flavour.

My tasting notes say: Creamy and sweet. Nice touch of umami. Hints of mushrooms and nuts. Velvety and supple mouthfeel.

Regular Oka, as shown, is the closest I recall in taste to when the Trappists still made the cheese.

While Oka was once made from raw milk fresh from the abbey’s farm, today it’s made from pasteurized milk. Master cheesemakers used to wash the wheels with brine by hand to promote proper aging. These days, the process is facilitated by machines that allow for a more homogenous production and limit rind contamination.

The secret to the flavour and iconic aroma lies in the complex microbiology of the rind, found only in the cellars of the former monastery. The cheese is made in a state-of-the-art plant next door but still aged in the old monastery cellars.

Meanwhile, deep in the forest northeast of Montreal:

When the Trappists left Oka to escape suburban sprawl, they left behind an oversized, aging building. Their new Trappist abbey, L’Abbaye Val Notre-Dame, nested in the forests and rolling hills of the Lanaudiere region and known for its cutting-edge ecological architecture, has been heralded as the 21st-century monastery. But, more importantly, it has become pivotal in the monks’ sweeping spiritual renewal.

L’Abbaye Val Notre-Dame northeast of Montreal, the striking new home for the Trappist monks of Oka.

Moving here has made the Trappists rethink their relationship with their environment, as the community must earn its living from manual work. It’s no longer possible to take care of 3,000 apple trees or 2,500 sugar maples like they used to do in Oka. The monks have instead learned to tap the nurturing powers of the surrounding 187-acre forest.

Since 2014, the monks have transformed and commercialized edible forest products. They have discovered the riches of the abbey’s backwoods. At the monastery’s gift shop, one can find larch needles, marinated fiddleheads and products made from milkweed, next to the more usual chocolates and caramels. For the Val Notre-Dame monks, the forest holds a precious bounty. Occasionally, they even share a meal made entirely of ingredients harvested on their estate.

Meanwhile, out in Manitoba, the Oka story takes a twist:

In their own way, Winnipeg chefs Dustin Peltier and Rachel Isaak are continuing the Oka tradition with the recipe that was entrusted to Brother Alberic at Our Lady of the Prairies Monastery at Holland, Manitoba, and he in turn passed it on to the chefs after training Dustin in cheesemaking.

Dustin and Rachel are making the cheese, albeit with pasteurized milk. Obtaining provincial approval to use raw milk proved too onerous and costly.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca. He’s never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever.

 

 

Boursin: Creamy, garlicky, tasty—and versatile

My love affair with Boursin started maybe 40 years ago, when it was still an imported delicacy from France, so creamy and so garlicky. Now made in Canada, and even though manufactured on an industrial scale, the garlic and herb Boursin is very similar to what I recall enjoying so many years ago.

Which is to say the love affair continues.

It’s easy to understand why beguiling Boursin may well be the most popular flavoured soft cheese in the world, now sold in some three dozen countries.

Boursin was developed by French cheesemaker Francois Boursin in 1957 in Normandy. He was inspired by a traditional fromage frais dish in which dinner guests use bowls of fine herbs to season their own cheese.

A major newspaper in France reported incorrectly that Boursin’s cheese was flavoured with garlic. It was actually a competing cheesemaker who had introduced the garlic cheese. The newspaper article generated such interest and demand for garlic Boursin that the cheesemaker spent two years developing a garlic-flavoured cheese—which was introduced in 1963 to quickly become a household name across France.

Not only was Boursin an excellent cheesemaker, he had marketing smarts. In 1968, Boursin made history as the first cheese featured in a TV ad campaign. It featured famous French comedian Jacques Duby cast in the role of the first “Boursinophile,” a cheese lover unable to resist the alluring taste of Boursin whatever time of day or night. Waking in the middle of the night, he rushes to the fridge in his pyjamas yelling for Boursin over and over again.

You may recall seeing Boursin commercials on Canadian TV, for example:

More than 50 years later, Boursin now is available in seven flavours, with garlic and herbs being the most popular. The original recipe has changed little:

Pasteurized cow milk and cream, culture, garlic, salt, fresh and frozen parsley, white pepper, and fresh and frozen chives.

Since 2011, Boursin has been made in Canada in St. Hyacinthe, Québec, by Agropur, the Canadian dairy co-operative, for Bel Cheese Canada , the Canadian arm of Bel Group, the France-based multinational. Agropur also produces Bel’s other popular cheeses, The Laughing Cow and Mini Baby Bel.

Boursin is sometimes dubbed a Gournay cheese, Gournay being the name of the region in Normandy where Boursin was first made. The cheesemaker used the name when he was first asked to classify the cheese for customs purposes

Why is Boursin so popular?

  • The taste is irresistible, especially if you like garlic.
  • The small 150-gram wheels looks perfect.
  • The flavour balance between creamy and savoury is just right.
  • That slightly granular mouthfeel has one smacking lips. The finish lingers nicely.
  • The price point, as Boursin is so widely available including at discounters like Costco and Walmart, is affordable and appealing.

And it is such a versatile cheese. Great for snacks, wonderful for appetizers, excellent for cooking, just the thing for a picnic, as the slogan says, “Bread. Wine. Boursin.”

We keep Boursin in the cheese fridge, pretty well year round. Recently, we cooked with it, making a truly delicious stuffed chicken breast.

We seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika and stuffed the breast with Boursin, sautéed spinach and a dusting of Parmigiano. Baked at 375F for 30 minutes. Served with a garden salad.

We also transformed leftover mushrooms into lovely appetizers: Sautée mushroom stems and spinach, then add Boursin and mix until creamy. Stuff the mushroom caps and top with Parm. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes.

Although Boursin is so readily available and affordable, one of these Covid Days we’re going to try making it at home, following this simple recipe:

We’ll let you knows how it turns out. If you have made it at home, let us know in comments below.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca. He’s never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever.

Adoray: Silky smooth, creamy and loaded with umami

Adoray: Just enjoy it with a spoon, but be sure to first give it at least two hours at room temperature.

Silky smooth and creamy, with loads of umami, that’s Adoray, a soft cheese with a mixed rind, wrapped with spruce bark.

What’s umami, you ask? Umami comes from the Japanese word for delicious, umai. Umami translates roughly to “deliciousness” and often stands in for “savory” or “meaty.”

It was only 30 years ago that umami was recognized as a distinct taste, one of the five basic tastes, the others being sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness. It was only in 2006 that University of Miami neuroscientists were able to locate the taste-bud receptors for umami, validating the existence of the fifth taste.

Scientifically speaking, umami refers to the taste of glutamate. Glutamate, or glutamic acid, is a common amino acid in vegetable and animal proteins—and cheese.

L’Adoray is made with pasteurized cow’s milk by Fromagerie Montebello located on the Québec side of the Ottawa River one hour east of Ottawa.

Unique among Canadian cheeses.

The cheese dairy was established in 2011 following the meeting of two men, Alain Boyer and Guy Boucher. Having worked as a cheesemaker in the past, Boyer dreamed of owning his own cheesemaking business. Understanding that such a project would be difficult to bring to fruition on his own, he was fortunate to meet Guy Boucher, an accountant by training, who dreamed of owning his own business. Boucher took on the financial aspects of the enterprise while Boyer looked after cheesemaking.

Fromagerie Montebello officially opened its doors in June 2011. Located in the former Louis-Joseph Papineau seigneurie, Fromagerie Montebello makes fine cheeses in a nod to the famous 18th century politician.

Cheesemaker Alain Boyer, co-founder of Fromagerie Montebello.

L’Adoray has an orangey rind and an ivory-coloured, supple and creamy paste. Strapped with spruce bark, it features lactic, woodsy aromas and slightly spicy flavours of butter, wood and straw.

The cheese was introduced to the public upon the Fromagerie’s fifth anniversary in 2016. It’s named for the grandfather and father of Cheesemaker Alain Boyer: Adorice and Raymond.

The silky result is a wonderful mouth-feel packed with umami flavours. One could easily over-indulge.

Nathalie Schofield, who works with me at Canadian Cheese Awards as liaison with cheesemakers in Québec—and who adores Adoray, recommends pairing it with a Riesling or a sweeter white like a Gewürztraminer or Viognier.

This style of cheese, wrapped with spruce bark, has its roots in Europe, the classic example being Vacherin Mont d’Or.

It’s difficult to miss Fromagerie Montebello as you enter the village of the same name one hour east of Ottawa.

L’Adoray has a rustic rind, pinkish in colour. The small, 160-gram wheel has a beautiful ivory paste with a silky sheen. Soft and gooey. Medium nose, with a savoury forest-like aroma. There is a hint of spicy damp hay on the palate, there is a taste of bacon in the rind. The cheese literally melts on the tongue, with much smacking of the lips long afterward.

A unique Canadian cheese, generally available in stores and shops, distributed by Aux Terroirs.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheesehead-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, is chairman and founder of Canadian Cheese Awards and founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

 

Laliberté: Arguably, the best bloomy in all of Canada

Award-winning Laliberté: Made by Cheesemaker Jean Morin and his équipe at Fromagerie du Presbytère in Québec.

Laliberté is triple crème that will blow your mind and palate. Think aromatic, decadent, with an exquisite hint of mushrooms and wild flowers. It’s made by Jean Morin, cheesemaker extraordinaire, and his équipe in a former Roman Catholic rectory—thus, the name Fromagerie du Presbytère—in Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick two hours east of Montréal.

The milk comes from the family dairy farm across the street from the rectory now creamery. Jean Morin is a fourth-generation dairy farmer, the fifth generation now works the farm, too, with a sixth generation in the toddler phase.

Award-winning Cheesemaker Jean Morin at work.

The farmstead cheese took a year and a half to develop and is made with cow’s milk provided by a mix of naturally raised Jerseys and Holsteins.

When asked what the secret is to making award-winning cheese, Morin, answers simply: “Good grass and no silage.” He elaborates: “Happy, healthy cows. It all starts with the milk, and the care we show the cheese as we make it.”

Laliberté was judged Grand Champion at the recent Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. At the most recent Canadian Cheese Awards, it was named Best Bloomy Rind Cheese.

“This cheese truly distinguished itself in texture, taste and overall appearance. Its exquisite aromatic triple cream with its tender bloomy rind encases an unctuous well-balanced flavour with hints of mushroom, pastures and root vegetables,” says Phil Bélanger, Canadian Cheese Grand Prix jury chairman.

Jackie Armet, cheese co-ordinator at Canadian Cheese Awards, spotlights Laliberté “because it is simply delicious. It has so many rich qualities for a soft bloomy rind cheese. Delicate but bold in flavour with a lovely creamy finish and always t

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Jāņu Siers: Midsummer means making cheese at home

Jāņu Siers still wrapped in cheesecloth as it cools. Brown eggs give the caraway-speckled fresh cheese a yellow hue.

The sweet smell of dairy in the house that comes from making cheese at home is one of my favourite things. Holding milk at 90 to 95C for 15 minutes so curd separates from whey is a sure way to create that warm and wonderful aroma.

The summer solstice has me preparing to make a caraway-speckled fresh cheese Latvians call Jāņu Siers.

Here are the ingredients: 3 litres of whole milk, 1 kilo dry pressed cottage cheese, 150 grams butter, 4 eggs, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds, and 1 tablespoon salt. After I make the cheese, I’ll add a few photos at the bottom of the post about the process.

In Latvia, my native land, the cheese is a core element in celebrations marking the summer solstice, a festival called Jāņi. I like the cheese too much to eat it only once a year, so often I’ll make it also at midwinter and giving small wheels as gifts to family and friends at Christmas.

Here’s what I posted about the cheese a few years back:

Jāņu siers, what kind of cheese is that?” you ask. It’s a caraway-speckled fresh cheese that I make at home.

Jāņu siers in Latvian, my native language, is, literally, John’s cheese in English. In Latvia, for more than a thousand years, it has been made at the summer solstice to mark the midsummer festival of Jāņi. That festival is celebrated on June 23 by Latvians all over the world on the eve of St. John’s Day. For many, it’s the most important holiday of the year.

In Latvia, farms are bedecked with garlands of oak and birch branches and meadow flowers. Nearly everyone leaves the city for the open air so that the shortest night of the year can be spent in the merry company of friends in the country. Bonfires are lit, special songs are sung, dancing is a universal element during the festival. The traditional caraway-seed cheese and lots of beer are on the menu.

This TV commercial for Aldaris beer will give you a taste of the festivities on Jāņi:

Tradition has it that this is the one night of the year that you must never sleep. Girls pick meadow flowers to make wreaths for their hair, while men named Jānis get a bushy crown of oak leaves around their heads. (Jānis is the most popular male name in Latvia and comparable to John.)

Eating, singing, drinking and dancing ensue the whole night long. Although the sun sets briefly, it doesn’t get dark in the higher latitude of Latvia and everyone must be awake to greet the rising sun in the morning. A naked romp into the nearest lake or river is a must for men—and the women who cheer them on. Young couples like to go into the forest and search for the legendary fern blossom. Or so they say. And when you greet the morning sun, you have to wash your face in the grass’s morning dew, which on Jāņi morning is said to have particularly beneficial properties.

The reality for me this year was that I tried to make more Jāņu siers than before and used a large lobster pot to heat the milk to 90-95C rather than my usual heavy saucepan. Very hard to keep milk near the boiling point for 15 minutes in a thin pot, I discovered to my dismay, without scorching the milk, thus, three small wheels I made won’t be shared with friends as behind the taste of cream and caraway there is a hint of burnt.

On the bright side, Jāņu siers is always eaten with butter (and never on bread), and I love butter almost as much as cheese. Lay on enough butter and the slight scorched taste dissipates. Consume with enough lager and the cheese tastes as good as it should.

Incidentally, I have not repeated the error of trying to keep milk at 90-95C in a thin lobster pot!

Here are photos of the process I used this year:

Here are the ingredients: 3 litres of whole milk at least 3.25%, 1 kilo dry pressed cottage cheese, 150 grams butter, 4 eggs, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds and 1 tablespoon salt. Look closely at the label of the cottage cheese and ensure it says “dry pressed” and not merely “pressed.” We neglected to do so.
Mix eggs with cottage cheese. Brown eggs are generally more yellow, which is preferred. We only had white eggs available.
Gently heat the milk to 90-95C and add the cottage cheese mixture. Hold at 90-95C for 15 minutes or so until curd separates from whey. If you use dry pressed cottage cheese, the whey will be more greenish than ours.
Wet the cheesecloth before lining a sieve and emptying the curd and whey. Twist the resulting bag of curd and squeeze to drain most of whey.
Warm the pot again, add butter and caraway seeds, then add the curd and salt, and begin mixing in circular fashion until curd forms a ball and no longer sticks to sides of pot. It will take 10 minutes or more.
Wet another cheesecloth before lining a sieve and emptying the ball of cheese. Divide into two or three portions if you prefer smaller wheels. Place on a plate, with the knot in the cheesecloth underneath the cheese. Add second plate and weigh down in fridge overnight.
The next day, remove cheesecloth and wrap cheese in plastic. Store in fridge until it’s time to enjoy. Some people say a week is the right time for the cheese to age to perfection, but we can never wait that long.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, was born in Latvia but has lived in Canada most of his life, in Ontario, Quebec and the Northwest Territories. He did spend most of the 1980s living, working and sailing in California.

Curated artisan cheese box for home delivery

Aux Terroirs will deliver a box of seven curated cheeses to your home in Ontario or Quebec for $80 all up.
Are you thinking about ordering cheese online for home delivery for the first time?
We can attest it’s an excellent way to get your fromage fix in these Covid Times. Check out the growing list of Canadian cheese producers, distributors and retailers offering home delivery on the Cheese Lover Shop Online page.

Aux Terroirs, a leading Quebec-based distributor of fine cheese, charcuterie and other gourmet foods, has put together a #stayathome box of Canadian artisan cheese curated by Erin Harris, chef, cheesemonger and now author widely known as The Cheese Poet.

The Cheese Poet Box includes one piece each with tasting notes of seven outstanding cheeses:

Le Fleurmier: A soft cheese with a bloomy rind produced by Laiterie Charlevoix, it has a rich and velvety texture and a fruity, nutty flavour.

Le 1608: A hard cheese from Laiterie Charlevoix made with the milk of the Canadienne breed of cows, a breed unique to Canada that first arrived with French settlers between 1608 and 1670. Smooth, unctuous, melt-in-your-mouth deep yellow paste, delicate yet complex buttery flavour.

La Moutonnière Feta: A marinated sheep-milk feta made by Fromagerie la Moutonnière, it presents a very white paste that is creamy yet crumbly. It features fresh milk aromas with finely spiced lactic and tangy flavours.

Azimut: An aged goat cheese, a tomme, made by Fromagerie Lait Grand Cru. The flavour of this firm cheese has a hint of fleeting sweetness, more pronounced buttery notes and a nuttiness that lingers longer in the mouth.

Cow’s Creamery 2-year Cheddar: The pride of Prince Edward Island, this all-natural cheddar features a smooth texture, rich flavour and tangy bite. A gold medal winner in the World Championship Cheese Contest

L’Adoray: Made by Fromagerie Montebello, it features an orangey rind and an ivory-coloured, supple and creamy paste. Strapped with spruce bark, it features lactic, woodsy aromas and slightly spicy flavours of butter, wood and straw.

Urban Blue: Made with Nova Scotia cow’s milk, the double cream Urban Blue delivers mushroomy, umami flavours without being pungent or salty. Inspired by Gorgonzola, Urban Blue is an approachable, versatile cheese with a tasty natural rind made by Blue Harbour Cheese near Halifax.

Shipping and applicable taxes are included in the $80 price. Available for home delivery in Ontario and Quebec. Click here to order.

Waltzing Matilda: Poetry, passion and Tom Waits

Waltzing Matilda: Water Buffalo Camembert from Monforte Dairy, silky smooth and delicious.

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:

Cheesemaker Ruth Klahsen. Photo Jo Dickins.

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 Waits
              • 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.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheesehead-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, is chairman and founder of Canadian Cheese Awards and director and founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

 

Fromagerie du Presbytère delivers cheese in Ontario

In these Covid Times, we are delighted to learn that more and more Canadian cheese producers are opening online shops and offering home delivery of artisan and farmstead cheese.

Fromagerie du Presbytere is one of the first Quebec cheese dairies to make the move.

Click here to reach the fromagerie’s online boutique. It’s in French but easy to navigate.

For the Cheese Lover directory of Canadian producers, distributors and retailers who take orders online and offer home delivery, visit the Shop Online link in the menu across the top of the page or click here.

Cheese Festival and Night Market future unclear

Feels so strange . . . and empty. This is the first first week of June since 2011 that we have not been hosting either The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Prince Edward County or Artisan Cheese Night Market at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

Here’s a video shot at the very first Cheese Festival in 2011, as a promotion for the 2012 event. The video perfectly captures the spirit of Cheese Lover events.

The final Great Canadian Cheese Festival took place in 2017. The Artisan Cheese Night Market was held in 2018 and 2019. Who knows what the future will bring, especially in these Covid Times?

Stay informed about future cheese events by signing up to follow CheeseLover.ca by email in upper right.

In the meantime, a really good selection of Canadian cheese can be ordered online for delivery to your home on the Shop Online page.

 

Afrim Pristine: A passion for cheese, a love of cooking

Maître Fromager Afrim Pistine in the cheese cave at Cheese Boutique in Toronto.

For the Love of Cheese: Recipes and Wisdom from Cheese Boutique, by Afrim Pristine, Maître Fromager at Cheese Boutique in Toronto, is much more than a cookbook. Yes, 164 of its 214 pages are devoted to recipes but even those pages are chockful of cheese knowledge and anecdotes from Afrim’s lifelong devotion and passion.

He was born into the business that began as a convenience store in the Bloor West Village in the 1960s, eventually growing into the Cheese Boutique on Ripley Avenue, Toronto’s pre-eminent retailer of fine cheese and gourmet foods.

Afrim started working at the store when he was eight years old. Three decades later, there is no one, arguably, with a higher profile and deeper knowledge of cheese in Toronto.

Afrim’s father, Fatos Pristine, built the business by cultivating relationships with the city’s outstanding chefs. Afrim has taken those relationships to the next level. Many are his close friends, many have contributed to recipes in the book. The list reads like a who’s who of chefs: from Michael Bonacini, who wrote the foreword, to Claudio Aprile and Chuck Hughes, Mark McEwan, Jonathan Gushue, Anthony Walsh and Daniel Bolud, to Bob Blumer who describes the “spine-tingling gastrogasm” of enjoying Époisses.

But when I asked Afrim what is the one recipe of the 79 in the book that I must try, he recommended his mother’s Gatto di Patate. How he knew we love potatoes in this house almost as much of cheese, I don’t know, but Modesta Pristine’s recipe delivered deliciousness in spades, as you can read here.

For the Love of Cheese is available for convenient online purchase and contactless delivery at the CheeseLover.ca Bookstore.

The wisdom portion of the book’s subtitle starts straightaway, after an introductory history of Cheese Boutique, with Cheese 101, Afrim’s take on all you need to know about buying, storing and enjoying cheese. He covers all the bases in a straightforward, useful manner.

Afrim, like most cheesemongers worthy of the name, is often asked to name his favourite cheese—an impossible question, really, given the thousands of tasty cheeses on the planet. His response is to identify his top 10 cheeses of all time, in order of preference, no less.

The man loves to cook: Afrim Pristine working a wood stove at Fogo Island Inn.

We won’t reveal the entire list but will allow that Parmigiano-Reggiano is clearly the first cheese named—“The king of cheeses, end of story”—while two Canadian cheeses make the list:

  • #7. OKA
  • “Simple, straightforward, with the perfect amount of stink.”
  • #10 FRESH CHEESE CURDS
  • “Go, Canada, go!”

Then follows a section on all 55 cheeses used in the book’s recipes—which results in a handy directory of possibly the 55 tastiest cheeses in the world.

Afrim does love to cook, as witnessed by the feature in Foodism magazine.

If you love cheese and enjoy cooking half as much as Afrim Pristine, For the Love of Cheese is the book for you.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, cheesehead-in-chief at CheeseLover.ca, is chairman and founder of Canadian Cheese Awards and director and founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.