Avonlea: Rich and robust with a lovely hint of Spud Island

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar was named Canadian Cheese of the Year at the 2016 Canadian Cheese Awards.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar’s recipe comes from the Orkney Islands, north of mainland Scotland, with the cheese made in the style of traditional English cheddars by Cows Creamery of Prince Edward Island.

Scott Linkletter, who started Cows Inc. in 1983 by famously making ice cream, was visiting the Orkneys with his wife 15 years ago when they were so taken by the local cheese that he cajoled a Scottish cheesemaker into sharing the recipe. The recipe became the foundation for the Cows signature cheese, Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, introduced in 2006. Ten years later, Avonlea was named Cheese of the Year at the Canadian Cheese Awards.

While developing the recipe for the clothbound cheddar, Linkletter and head cheesemaker Armand Bernard created a second cheese, PEI Cheddar. Other cheddars, such as Appletree Smoked, followed.

How Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar is made by Cows Creamery in Prince Edward Island under the guidance of head cheesemaker Armand Bernard.

Milk of Holstein cows from small local farms in the rolling hills of Prince Edward Island is gently heated—but not pasteurized—to allow beneficial microbes to thrive and give depth of character and flavour. The salt air and iron-rich soil of Prince Edward Island combine to add flavour and quality to the cheddar.

Cows makes Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar in 10 kilograms wheels, and ages it for 12 to 16 months at 10–12 degrees Celsius and 90% humidity.

The multi-award-winning cheese gets the “clothbound” name from traditional cheddar-making technique of wrapping it in cheese cloth, a method that originated in Somerset, England. The town of Cheddar, where cheddar cheese gets its name from is in Somerset.

The name Avonlea comes from link between Prince Edward Island and Anne of Green Gables. As Scott Linkletter explained to Sue Riedl of The Globe and Mail: “We thought that was a great name because of the connection with Anne of Green Gables. At the time of Anne, this is the way cheese would have been made.”

COWS Ice Cream has been a family tradition on Prince Edward Island since 1983. From a small kiosk on the famous Cavendish Boardwalk, the COWS brand now has seven locations across PEI, two in Nova Scotia, two in British Columbia and one each in Alberta, Ontario and Beijing, China. The COWS brand has expanded over the years with cheese and butter lines, as well as the popular COWS-themed merchandise.

Cheesemaker Armand Bernard pulls a sample from a wheel of Avonlea to monitor the aging process.

The Linkletter family has also invested in Raspberry Point Oysters with oysters being shipped across Canada, USA, Japan and Denmark. The oyster line started as a bit of a hobby for Scott Linkletter, who used to harvest oysters with his father near his summer home on New London Bay.

But the man is a serial entrepreneur, if there ever was one, as he also has launched Anne of Green Gables Chocolates, BOOMburger and Moo Moo BBQ Grilled Cheesery, among other ventures.

How does Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar taste? Among Canadian cheddars, quite unique, truly exceptional.

The flavours and aroma are rich and robust, fruity and nutty, with a hint of baked potatoes, as befits a cheese made on Canada’s spud island, Prince Edward Island. The texture is firm, slightly crumbly as the cheese ages beyond 12 months.

It’s an outstanding Canadian cheese, perfect for cheese boards and snacking. Stick a wedge in your glove compartment for your next road trip.

Check with your favourite cheese shop for availability or order online for convenient and safe home delivery:

You can order boxed selections of cheese and butter direct from Cows Creamery in Charlottetown by clicking here.

You can also order Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar via Amazon.ca.

Enjoy!

—Georgs

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

Back to school with David Asher to learn natural cheesemaking

Making Mozzarella at home sounds mighty appealing! All photography by Kelly Brown.

Hey, hey, hey, I’m going back to school! (See update in PS below.)

I’m enrolled to take a class in natural cheesemaking with the man who wrote the book on the subject, David Asher. He is an organic farmer, farmstead cheesemaker, cheese educator and author based on one of the gulf islands off British Columbia.

David Asher: Guerilla cheesemaker.

David runs the Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking, exploring traditionally cultured and organic methods of cheesemaking. His workshops, online and in person, teach a cheesemaking method that is natural, DIY, and well suited to the home kitchen or artisanal production.

I’m enrolled in Introduction to Natural Cheesemaking: Rennet Cheeses, Camembert & Mozzarella. The idea of making tasty Camembert at home really appeals to me.

To prepare, I’ve been reading The Art of Natural Cheesemaking, the book in which David outlines his philosophy of “guerilla cheesemaking,” covers the basic elements of cheesemaking, includes 35 easy-to-follow recipes and instruction on sourcing good milk, including raw milk, making rennet—and making good cheese without it, avoiding additives and chemicals, and much more.

The Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher.

Learn more about the book and order it for convenient home delivery via Amazon at our Bookstore at CheeseLover.ca.

The one-day online class I’ll be taking is designed to give a basic understanding of the philosophy of natural cheesemaking. We’ll learn about raw milk’s microbiology and how to cultivate an effective starter culture from it; how to curdle milk with natural rennet; how to make a basic rennet cheese; how to ferment that cheese and stretch it into a fresh Mozzarella; and how to age the same cheese into a Camembert with a natural white rind.

I cannot wait to try my new-found skills in our home kitchen. I’ll be sure post a report here.

Other upcoming online classes include:

  • Introduction to Natural Cheesemaking: Dairy Fermentation – Kefir, Clabber, Yogurt, Crème Fraiche, Cultured butter.
  • Introduction to Natural Cheesemaking: Rennet Cheesemaking & Pasta Filata Cheeses, Stracchino, Camembert, Mozzarella, Burrata, Queso Oaxaca.
  • Introduction to Natural Cheesemaking: Soft Goat/Sheep cheeses, Fresh and Aged, Chevre, Brebis and Faisselle; the affinage of cheeses like Crottin, Valencay, and Saint Marcellin.
  • Advanced Class in Natural Cheesemaking: Blue Cheeses, Stilton, Bleu d’Auverge, Surface Ripened Blue.
  • Advanced Class in Natural Cheesemaking: Alpine Cheeses, Raclette, Tomme, Tomme de Chevre, Ricotta.

Class size is limited to 30 students. Cost is US$100 per session. Some scholarships are available for the English language classes for agricultural students and interns, as well as BIPOC.

A beautiful tomme in the hands of the maker.

Click here to learn more about online classes at The Black Sheep School of Natural Cheesemaking.

Click here learn more about The Art of Natural Cheesemaking and order the book for convenient home delivery via Amazon at our Bookstore at CheeseLover.ca.

All images courtesy of Kelly Brown.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca. He’s enamoured with the idea of making Camembert at home. We shall see what we shall see.

POSTSCRIPT:

Talk about learning a lot about cheese!

A day spent with David Asher—even online—has my head spinning with everything I learned during an introductory class to natural cheesemaking, with the emphasis on natural.

Going in, I thought I knew a fair bit about cheese. Not so!

Now, at least, I know about backslopping, claber, kefir grains, freeze-dried fungal spores, and, in a new, all-encompassing way, fermentation.

Prior to the class, I scanned The Art of Natural Cheesemaking, David Asher’s book, manifesto and guide. Now, I plan to slowly read and study every word about “using traditional, non-industrial methods and raw ingredients to make the world’s best cheeses.”

After years of enjoying artisan and farmstead cheeses, and few industrial ones, too, a whole new world may be opening for me.

If you’re at all interested in learning more about cheese, I heartily encourage you to consider David Asher’s book and taking one of his online classes. He’ll open your eyes to a whole new world in cheese.

As for me, I was going to take a crack at making Camembert at home but I might start with Mozzarella as no ripening period is needed to make a fresh cheese. I know from past experience that maintaining humidity at 90% can be a steep challenge for an apartment-dweller like me.

Stay tuned!

 

Louis d’Or 3 Ans: Taste the difference affinage makes

Cheesemaker Jean Morin with award-winning Louis d’Or at Fromagerie du Presbytère.

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.

Pat, the Swiss-made robot, lifts, brushes and rotates 40-kilo wheels of Louis d’Or. Photo courtesy of https://www.gastrotraveling.com/

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.

After 36 months in affinage, protein crystals provide Louis d’Or with delightful crunchies.

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

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.

Old Growler Gouda: Well worth the drive to Nova Scotia

Old Growler: Complex and delicious, like nutty browned butter layered with caramel.

We love the way Willem van den Hoek writes about the Gouda he and his wife Maja have been making for 40 years on their farm overlooking the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia:

When our cheese reaches the ripe old age of a year or so, its textures have become rather short (the cheese crumbles or breaks when cut) and developed a pleasant, crunchy feel (from crystals that start to form) in the mouth.

The flavours have greatly intensified and words like intense, piquant or sharp, come to mind, but also fresh and clean. That’s when we start to refer to our cheese as Growlers (old, very old, really very old)

They are real dynamite when served sliced, on crackers, fresh bread (white or whole wheat) or steamed breads, like black pumpernickel, or grated on dishes like pastas and pizza.

And as they continue to age they eventually compare to a Parmesan­—hard, brittle, intense, great for grating.

By that time, in two to five years, we call it Hammer and Chisel cheese.

The Old Growler Gouda that we purchased last August while visiting That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm has definitely matured into Hammer and Chisel Cheese! Our wheel was made on March 22, 2018, two years and one month ago. It is indeed hard as a well-aged Parmigiano, with its pale gold paste dotted with crunchy, white lactate crystals.

Willem van den Hoek on a sign welcoming visitors to That Dutchman Cheese Farm.

When it comes to flavour, think complex and delicious, imagine nutty browned butter layered with caramel. The finish lingers ever so nicely . . .

The distinctive shape comes from the traditional Dutch gouda mould, or form, known as Kadova. Milk from neighbouring farms is heat-treated rather than pasteurized, thereby keeping some of the original flavours of the milk.

The rind is a classic, buttery yellow and coated in Plasticoat that protects the cheese while aging, but allows it to breathe, a vital aspect for maturing a natural-rind cheese.

Over four decades of cheesemaking, Willem and Maja have won many awards, including Best Canadian Gouda in 2016 for Old Growler and Best Canadian Gouda in 2014 for Mild Gouda. Then there is Willem’s extraordinary blue cheese, Dragon’s Breath, but that’s another story.

These days, daughter Margaretha and her husband play a greater role at That Duchman’s Cheese Farm but Willem is rarely absent from the make room when cheese is being made.

Margaretha van den Hoek in one of several aging rooms on the farm.

We mentioned Bay of Fundy earlier as a way of locating the farm but it actually overlooks Cobequid Bay west of Truro, Nova Scotia, east of Bay of Fundy itself.

It’s a must-stop for anyone visiting Nova Scotia. If you live outside the province, it’s the only way to purchase van den Hoek cheeses. Blame archaic Canadian laws governing inter-provincial trade. That Dutchman is too small to afford the cost of federal licensing and distribution.

The cheese shop on the farm is huge, displaying all the cheese made by the van den Hoek family, other artisan cheesemakers around the region, and many other tasty items. One wall is a viewing window into the make room.

Animal and Nature Park is not to be missed at That Dutchman Cheese Farm.

If you visit That Dutchman, be sure to allow a couple of hours to stroll around the animal and nature park complete with Scottish Highland cattle, emus, donkeys, pigs, and lovely gardens.

 —Georgs Kolesnikovs

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

Thea: Stunning bandaged sheep cheddar from Mariposa Dairy

Award-wining Thea Bandaged Sheep Cheddar made at Mariposa Dairy.

The voicemail was brief and to the point: “Georgs, you must come 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.

Cheesemaker Pieter van Oudenaren with young wheels of Thea in the aging room.

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.

The Thompson family in the milking barn at Miklin Farms in Georgina.

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.

Anna Thompson holds a lamb in her arms at Miklin Farms.

Thea is hand-made in relatively small quantities and thus is in limited distribution. Here are cheese retailers in Ontario that carry Thea:

Ask your cheesemonger to order Thea if she doesn’t carry it.

Distributors are Finica Food Specialties, Fromages CDA, Glen Echo Fine Foods, La Ferme Black River and Worldwide Specialty Foods.

Le Pizy: Truly outstanding Québec farmstead cheese

Le Pizy: Outstanding farmstead cheese from Fromagerie La Suisse Normande.

We’ll go for months without Pizy, and then, when we taste it again, we fall in love all over again.

There is no question Le Pizy, created by Cheesemaker Fabienne Mathieu at Fromagerie La Suisse Normande in St.-Roch-de-L’Achigan, Québec, is one of Canada’s best farmstead cheeses. When it comes to aroma, flavour and texture, Pizy is simply outstanding, and pretty in appearance, too.

We were first introduced to Pizy while spending too much money on cheese one afternoon years ago at Marché Jean Talon in Montréal in the company of Vanessa Simmons, arguably Canada’s leading cheese sommelier.

Try and buy Le Pizy at the upcoming Artisan Cheese Night Market in Toronto.

Vanessa’s tasting notes tell all:

Pizy has and remains one of my favourite top 10 Canadian cheeses, for sure. It’s even better if you keep it past the best-before date on the package by at least a week or two or more.

The cheese has more yeasty notes when it’s young which develops into more of a mushroomy, slightly nutty flavour as it ages. It’s very pretty, with the most delicate hue of champagne.

This small, soft, surface-ripened pasteurized cow’s milk cheese is fashioned after the Swiss Tomme Vaudoise, due to its shape (small wheel) and size (only ½-inch thick). Le Pizy has a thick bloomy ivory rind, with a rich, dense, paste coloring between ivory and pearl. Experience big milky, fresh field mushroom aromas and a fresh lactic taste with a sweet tang when it’s young, softening out as it ages.

The hand-crafted cheese produced at Fromagerie La Suisse Normande represents the marriage of two cultures, Swiss and French. Cheesemaker Fabienne Mathieu comes from Switzerland, husband Frédérick Guitel who manages the farm comes from Normandy in France.

Their resulting cow, goat and sheep’s milk products are a marriage made in heaven. Cheeses are made from animals raised on the farm, in true “fermier” (farmstead) fashion.

Meet the Suisse Normande family, left to right : Fabienne (mother), Magaly, Bénédicte (both daughters work at the fromagerie), Freddy (father) and Thibaut (son who works at the farm).

Of their five children, three want to ensure the continuity of their parents’ work: Bénédicte and Magaly at the fromagerie and Thibault on the farm.

The fromagerie began its activities in 1995 on the farm 50 kilometres north of Montréal.

Fromagerie La Suisse Normande will be represented by Plaisirs Gourmets at Canada’s Artisan Cheese Night Market on June 6 in historic St. Lawrence Market’s Temporary North Hall in Toronto.

  • Fromagerie website: https://www.lasuissenormande.com/?lang=en_US
  • Distributor website: http://fromagesduquebec.qc.ca/en
  • Night Market information and tickets: http://www.cheeseawards.ca/night-market/

 —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.

Cheesemaking technology rescheduled to June 8-12

A student in the Cheesemaking Technology course at University of Guelph learns how to pour Camembert-style cheese into forms.
A student in the Cheesemaking Technology course at University of Guelph learns how to pour Camembert-style cheese into forms.

Here’s your chance to get real cheese smarts.

The University of Guelph has been offering some version of its cheesemaking course since 1893, though its present professor, Art Hill, began teaching his Cheesemaking Technology Short Course with the Food Sciences department in 1986.

The  acclaimed course—designed for artisan and commercial cheesemakers, cheese hobbyists, and government and sales personnel who work with cheesemakers—focuses on the science and technology of cheesemaking. Students attend lectures and apply the principles learned in a cheesemaking laboratory.

“The focus is on understanding the manufacturing principles of technological families of cheese, rather than becoming expert in the manufacture of particular cheese varieties,” says Professor Hill. The program is offered annually in the spring and runs for five days. The next course offering runs from June 8-12, 2015. Those interested can visit the course website.

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A cheese lover’s tour of B.C. creameries set to start

A 2013 Buick Verano Turbo serves as the Cheesemobile for our B.C. Cheese Tour.
A 2013 Buick Verano Turbo serves as Official Cheesemobile for our B.C. Cheese Tour.

Francis has his Popemobile, CheeseLover.ca has its Cheesemobile.

It’s a luxurious Buick Verano Turbo to whisk us around British Columbia over the next three weeks. The mission is to see how much artisan and farmstead cheese we can enjoy—reporting on our tasting adventures here and on Facebook and Twitter.

As much as we look forward to sampling cheese new to our palates (and generally unavailable in Ontario), we especially look forward to getting to know the men and women who make the cheese. At our first stop, at Golden Ears Cheesecrafters, we’ll be getting into the make room to help make cheese curds.

Here’s the itinerary for the inaugural B.C. Cheese Tour, roughly in order of the routing we plan to take:

B.C. Cheese Tour II, perhaps in 2014

Starting with any of the above that we won’t be able to visit this summer and continuing on to

B.C. Cheese Tour III will focus on Vancouver Island:

Click here for Google Map showing all 25 artisan cheese producers in B.C.

Much thanks to General Motors Canada for providing the Buick Verano for our B.C. Cheese Tour.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca and founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

How many Canadian Grand Prix finalists have you tasted?

Cheesemakers from British Columbia to Prince Edward Island submitted a record 225 cheeses in 19 different categories in the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, this country’s most prestigious cheese competition sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada.

A jury of eight cheese experts gathered in Montreal for a closed-door session a week ago to select 58 finalists that exemplify the world-class cheese being produced in Canada. Two cheesemakers—Fromagerie du Presbytère of Québec and Sylvan Star Cheese of Alberta—dominated the finalists with six selections each.

The 2013 Grand Champion and category champions will be unveiled at the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Gala of Champions in Montreal on April 18. The competition is restricted to cheese made with cow’s milk.

The first time many of the winners will be available for tasting and purchase by the public in one place will be at the third annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 1-2 in Picton in Ontario’s Prince Edward County.

Here are the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix finalists, with cheese shown left to right in order of listing:

FARMHOUSE CHEESE

ORGANIC CHEESE

FRESH CHEESE

FRESH CHEESE WITH GRILLING PROPERTIES

SOFT CHEESE WITH BLOOMY RIND

SEMI-SOFT CHEESE

WASHED OR MIXED RIND CHEESE (SOFT, SEMI-SOFT AND FIRM)

FIRM CHEESE

GOUDA

SWISS-TYPE CHEESE

MOZZARELLA (BALL, BRICK OR CYLINDER)

BLUE CHEESE (VARIOUS RINDS, WITH OR WITHOUT VEINING)

FLAVOURED CHEESE WITH ADDED NON-PARTICULATE FLAVOURINGS

FLAVOURED CHEESE WITH ADDED PARTICULATE SOLIDS AND FLAVOURINGS

MILD CHEDDAR (AGED 3 MONTHS)

MEDIUM CHEDDAR (AGED 4 TO 9 MONTHS)*

*Four finalists were elected in this category due to a tie between two scores.

OLD CHEDDAR (AGED FROM 9 MONTHS TO A YEAR)

AGED CHEDDAR (MORE THAN 1 YEAR UP TO 3 YEARS)

AGED CHEDDAR (MORE THAN 3 YEARS)

The Canadian Cheese Grand Prix is sponsored and hosted every two years by Dairy Farmers of Canada, celebrating the high quality, versatility and great taste of Canadian cheese made from 100% Canadian cow’s milk.

“Canadian cheese makers from coast-to-coast are producing top quality, impressive cheeses,” said Phil Bélanger, Canadian Cheese Grand Prix jury chairman. “The diversity we saw within the 19 categories really showcases how evolved this craft has become in Canada. From aged Cheddars to organic cheeses, cheesemakers from across Canada are taking it to the next level and are the envy of other cheesemaking nations.”

The jury members had the envious challenge of tasting all 225 cheeses and naming three finalists in each category. Tasting began with the milder cheeses and progressed to the more full-bodied varieties. Jury members carefully observed, touched, smelled, and tasted each cheese and evaluated them based on very specific criteria including flavour, texture and body, colour, appearance, and salt content.

The Canadian Cheese Grand Prix began in 1998 to promote achievement and innovation in cheesemaking and to increase appreciation for fine quality Canadian cheese. The competition celebrates the proud tradition of the diverse cheeses made in Canada with cow’s milk ranging from Gouda to Blue cheese.

All eligible cheeses must be produced in Canada, bear the 100% Canadian Milk symbol on their packaging and be available for purchase at retail.

Click here for photos of the judging action.

KISS works for Newfoundland cheesemaker Adam Blanchard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo, you don’t need a million dollars to start making artisan cheese commercially. The proof is in the photo which shows how Adam Blanchard does it at Five Brothers Artisan Cheese, Newfoundland’s only artisanal cheese company. As Kelsie Parsons discovered:

Adam doesn’t have an expensive pasteurizer, a huge vat or other impressive equipment. His production facility consists of a commercial kitchen where he makes cheese in stock pots on the stove top and he cuts the curds with a fillet knife. He ages his cheeses in reworked refrigerators. Five Brothers produces mozzarella, queso fresco, cheddar, brie and the occasional blue.

Kelsie crossed Canada last summer visiting cheesemakers to gather material for an upcoming book on the Canadian artisan cheese scene. He’s a guest blogger at Cheese and Toast maintained by Sue Riedl. Click here for Kelsie’s take on new Canadian cheesemakers to watch. His post is the source of the photo and anecdote published here with thanks.