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This month’s Savvy Cool Curds hails all the way from Canada’s west coast, as a tasty way to shift into summer. Soft Chèvre is only one of many unique, handcrafted goat and sheep milk cheeses from David Wood’s Salt Spring Island Cheese Company, near Fulford Harbour south of Ganges, nestled among the Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Colombia.
Having discovered this quaint, artisan community almost 20 years ago while on a chartered sailing adventure with Savvy Company’s founder Debbie Trenholm (hmmm…maybe there was an inkling of the business on that trip!), I experienced first-hand how the simple & relaxed lifestyle is the order of the day for the local residents.
… very hard-to-find and delicious artisan goat milk cheese including:
Sold on Salt Spring Island Cheese? Would you like more cheese from this month’s Savvy Cool Curds? Just call our Savvy Team & we’ll arrange a special shipment for you (if it is still available that is!). Put us on speed dial – Savvy Cool Curds Hotline 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Salt Spring Island Cheese Company
by Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier
It’s hard not to fall in love with Salt Spring Island, BC, dubbed a “nature lover’s paradise”. From experiencing remote, pristine beaches to stunning coastal scenery to gorgeous vistas and landscapes one never wants to leave. With the discovery of Salt Spring Island Cheese Company, the hub of this small artist community, a more fitting reference might be “cheese lover’s paradise”.
Salt Spring Island Cheese Company sold their first cheese in 1996. Twenty years later they are true to their roots, having maintained their philosophy of making the best cheese around, of family, pride and a commitment to quality in using only 100% natural ingredients in their cheeses.
All In The Family
David Wood (in photo at right – credit The Globe & Mail) has maintained the business as a small, family-oriented company, even though it started as a one-man show. While he makes cheese less and less these days, all of his children, Daniel, Joshua and Thea are involved in the business in one way or another. And impressively, all of them can make cheese too – they come by it honestly. Daniel particularly remembers back to when he was twelve years old, milking sheep before school, and working in the shop after school and during the summer months while on school break.
Daniel is proud of their unique specialty products. He attributes his passion to his parents’ and to seeing the business grow from when he was a child. To date he’s one of the few who works on Christmas Day and is thrilled to do it too!.
Salt Spring Island cheeses are as much a feast for the eyes as they are pleasing to one’s palate. A rainbow of color and textures from their fresh, equisite garnishes make them most distinct. Creating such a pretty package isn’t without it’s challenges however, each cheese is individually hand labeled, and handpacked which is a lot of manual effort.
With few ingredients, cheesemaking isn’t complicated, it’s all in consistently controling the factors involved such as temperature, milk quality, milk quantity, humidity and timing among other things
In the beginning they had varying amounts of milk from little to a crazy supply availability. The longer a cheese is aged, the more opportunity there is for something to go wrong with it (and for one to find that out through the tasting feedback loop) as in the case of their more aged, Montaña their flagship hard sheep’s milk. Montaña is the company’s labor of love and overall favorite to produce however there is more consistency in making chèvres and the soft cheeses and more guarantee in the supply chain thus their shift in focus from sheep to goat milk. Seasonality also plays a role; recipes have to be adjusted in summer as the fat content of milk changes.
Watch for more to come…
There are a few ideas cooking up in the kitchen at Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. Watch for additional flavours of Ruckles, their delectable soft chèvre marinated in grape seed oil among other new releases. The company also plans to expand slowly into the US.
To sum it up Daniel says “we’re a goat milk cheese company that happens to milk sheep on the side. We put a lot of pride in what we do, a lot of care and effort, with a focus on local, high quality ingredients and to doing things the right way. That’s the difference in our cheeses.”
• Cheese Tasting Notes •
Below are Vanessa’s tasting notes for each cheese in your Savvy Cool Curds, along with interesting tidbits, suggested food pairings & recipes to try too! Photo credits: Vanessa Simmons
Beautifully packaged, the very small round containers are designed to show off a variety of flavors & garnishes including red peppercorns, edible flowers, roasted garlic, rosemary, lemon, chili, tapenade, truffle and basil to name a few. Festive and fabulous for entertaining – these pretty little cheeses make great “alternative” hostess gifts.
Tasting Notes: Inside you’ll find a soft, pasteurized, and unripened goat’s milk chèvre that is smooth, rich and incredibly creamy with a hint of tanginess and mild citrus note.
Suggested Pairing: Serve on homemade crackers, spread on crispy baguette, melt over grilled vegetables, fold into omelets, mash into potatoes, crumble on salad. Enjoy with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc…from Canada of course!
A tasty way to begin an evening is with one of the many flavored varieties of handmade artisan cheeses from this unique cheese maker. Stunning festive on a cheese plate, or as a quick last minute entertaining idea on it’s own.
Tasting Notes: This peppered, soft, pasteurized goat’s milk chèvre is beautifully packaged, topped with whole red & green peppercorns. Smooth & creamy with a hint of tanginess, acidity, and a little spicy kick!
Suggested Pairing: Enjoy on homemade crackers, wrap with smoked salmon, toss into fresh pasta for a quick and colorful dinner fix.
Named after an employee, Romelia is unique among the many varieties of handmade artisan cheeses from Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. It’s rare to find this type of soft, goat milk cheese in Canada.
Tasting Notes: Romelia is a soft, surface-ripened, washed-rind pasteurized goat’s milk cheese, sold in small wheels. Its rind is hand-washed as it ages over five weeks, which intensifies the aroma and flavor, giving it a bright orange/apricot color and “sticky” texture. The paste is smooth, and rich, but toothsome and almost fudgy when young, with tangy, slightly strong meaty flavors. Romelia is best when ripe and runny.
Suggested Pairing: A favourite pairing with this cheese is Michael Dolce Peach Cardamom Jam, or local stone fruit based marmalade. Enjoy with a Canadian Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio.
Tasting Notes: This soft, surface-ripened, pasteurized goat milk cheese has a thin, mixed, velvety, white & blue/grey, bloomy rind developed due to the addition of Penicillium Roqueforti culture (used in making of blue cheese). The paste is creamy white, firm towards the center & slightly softer closer to the rind. Note the goaty fragrance, herbal & mild mushroom scent with a creamy, slightly salty & tangy flavour, slightly stronger than its sister cheese Juliette, which more resembles a mild goat milk brie.
Suggested Pairing: Pair with a Gamay or Pinot Noir red wine. Melt wedges into phyllo pastry squares and garnish with stewed cherries, strawberries or raspberries drizzled with a dash of balsamic vinegar.
With Flower Chèvre…
Empress Honey & Salt Spring Island Goat Cheesecake
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
3 ½ cups Salt Spring Island Goat Cheese
½ cup mascarpone cheese
¾ cup Empress honey (or other local honey)
6 tsp. cornstarch
1 2/3 cup sour cream
6 large eggspinch salt
½ tsp. lemon juice
zest from a ½ lemon
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Ingredients for Cheesecake Base
1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs (for a gluten-free option use gluten-free cracker crumbs)
¼ tsp. cinnamon powder
2 ½ Tbsp. butter, melted
For cheesecake: In a mixer, combine goat cheese, mascarpone, honey and starch until it reaches a smooth paste consistency. Add the sour cream and mix further.
Gradually add in the eggs, salt, lemon juice, zest, and vanilla extract. Mix until combined.
For cheesecake base: Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, and then spread the mix on the bottom of a foil wrapped 6” cake ring. Compact the crumbs and bake at 300 degrees F for 10 minutes. Pour the prepared goat cheesecake mix on the baked base. Bake at 250 degrees F for 45-50 minutes until firm in the center.
Yields 1 6-Inch Round Cake
“This gorgeous cake is rich but not too sweet. The goat cheese adds a lovely tang and the beautiful Empress honey lends a sparkle of sweetness. Serve with a sweet wine, at a table in a bee pen with a chef, a cheese maker, a beekeeper, and a goat named Bess… that’s what we did!” Misconduct Wine Co. in Penticton BC recommends Misconduct Inverno Icewine with this dessert.
With Pepper Chèvre…
Patty Pan Squash Frittata
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
12 patty pan squash
1 dozen eggs
1 bell pepper
1 large tomato
1 package of fresh Salt Spring Island Goat Cheese (Flower or Pepper)
Salt and pepper to taste (omit pepper if using pepper chèvre)
Handful of fresh herbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the stem portion off the squash, leaving the ¾ of the bottom intact. Using a melon baller or teaspoon, scoop out the inside of the squash leaving ¼ – ½ on the outside wall of the squash, and arrange on a baking sheet with parchment.
Sauté onion and bell pepper until they become translucent, add to a large mixing bowl with salt, pepper (omit pepper if using pepper chèvre), eggs, tomato and herbs and half of the goat cheese. Using an immersion blender mix all the ingredients and fill hollowed out squash. Top with remaining cheese. Cook for 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the patty pan.
Serves 12 as an appetizer or 6 as a main.
Chosen because of the rave review on this restaurant’s website. Add your favourite fixings including a thick wedge of Romelia & crispy bacon.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes
2 large eggs (beaten)
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced onion (really really small or burgers will fall apart)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Then add and mix well:
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 kg hamburger meat
Wedges of Romelia cheese
Crispy strips of bacon
Form into balls and then press firmly into patties.
Burgers are always best if cooked over a flame.
Be careful to ensure that they are done all the way through but not over done. When the juice runs clear they are done.
With Blue Juliette…
Recipe & photo credit from thriftyfoods.com
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients for the chutney
2 ripe peaches, halved, pitted, and diced
1 cup pitted cherries coarsely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint or cilantro
½ medium red onion, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Ingredients for the chicken
4, 6oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
125 g. salt spring island lemon sheep cheese (substitute Blue Juliette)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chilli powder
Salt and pepper
Combine chutney ingredients and let stand 30 minutes to allow flavours to meld. With a small, sharp knife, cut a pocket in the top end of each chicken breast.
Slice a wedge of Blue Juliette. Place cheese into into the pocket you made in the chicken. Brush chicken with vegetable oil, then sprinkle with spices and salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat 4-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Divide chicken among plates and serve chutney alongside. A mixed green salad would go nice with the chicken.
Enjoy your Savvy Cool Curds!
Savvy Cool Curds cheese of the month club
Featuring Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères
– April 2016 –
Hey Ewe! The Savvy Team are thrilled to bring ewe April’s Savvy Cool Curds, hailing from the tiny little town of Sainte-Sixte, Québec. Named after the famous Parisian music hall depicting fun and frivolity, La Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères cheeses are a far cry from foolish and continue to be a smash hit on the local cheese scene.
Lots of love, passion and farmstead milk from the East Friesian sheep they raise create a wide variety of yummy cheeses. Maggie Paradis and Christian Girard are proudly “in the business of selling pleasure, not cheese”. Their light-hearted approach to cheesemaking – and life overall – is evident right down to the cancan-dancing sheep with colourful tutus, adorning their logo.
“The Savvy Team is great & having this opportunity to be featured in Savvy Cool Curds is exciting! Anyone who has met Vanessa Simmons quickly learns that she is passionate about Canadian cheese. She has developed strong ties to the cheesemakers & has made countless contributions to promoting local, regional, provincial & national cheesemakers. Savvy Cool Curds subscribers are in for a treat …the best part is that all of the cheese discoveries will be proudly Canadian.”
– Maggie Paradis, owner & cheesemaker, Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères (Quebec)”
… Approximately a kilogram of hard-to-find artisan sheep milk cheese including:
La Petite Folie 150g
La Petite Démone (Fine Herb) 140g
La Sorcière Bien Aimée 200g
Raclette de Brebis 200g
La Coulée Douce 200g
“Fou” (crazy) about Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères Cheese?
Would you like more cheese from this month’s Savvy Cool Curds? Just call our Savvy Team & we’ll arrange a special shipment for you (if it is still available that is!). Put us on speed dial – Savvy Cool Curds Hotline 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or email@example.com
Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères
by Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier
From finishing feta in the make room, to farmer’s market visits to milking sheep in the parlour there is always an adventure to be had in the company of Maggie Paradis and Christian Girard (in photo below), the local “crazy shepherds” (translation) of La Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères. Life is busy for this talented, dedicated, passionate and hardworking couple.
There are lambs to tend, sheep to shear, rams to satisfy, ewes to feed, barns to clean, milks to receive and process, cheeses to make and ripen, markets to attend and a business to run all with the goal of producing the very best possible artisan and farmstead cheeses to be enjoyed by all – and they do it with a huge dose of “joie de vivre”.
Only the best will do
Both have exacting standards. Not one to compromise quality or consistency, Maggie’s cheese must always be good or she won’t make it – pure and simple. Specific cultures and a cheese maker’s patience and care give these excellent results — not rushing any step of the process is crucial.
The high quality of their milk (both from their flock and sourced locally for the goat and cow milk) and the high touch, manual labour involved in her cheesemaking are key contributors to the consistency and excellence of their cheese over time.
Maggie confesses “I am easily bored.” She is always thinking up new cheeses and innovative ways to be efficient in her cheesemaking. Recently, haloumi was born because she had the moulds to make it in, the same used from her cow and goat’s milk cheddars.
And while each cheese has its own challenge in the aging or making or packaging, she believes in simplification and letting nature do its part.
A ladies man…
As shepherd, Christian has a way with the ladies – the couple’s East Fresian ewes that is. Milking twice a day is routine, between the demands of farm and cheesemaking. When I visited their farm this past weekend, I was in awe observing how the sheep shuffled into the parlour and automatically took their places (rewarded with fresh feed – that is his magic!) oblivious to being milked. With a gentle touch and crooning voice, Christian coaxes every last drop of milk out of every ewe’s teat, knowing each of the ladies personally from either front or back end.
Maggie loves a double entendre, thus her naming theme which depicts their personal characters as much as their cheeses, demonstrating they truly aren’t like everyone else. Chèvre Fatale (a spin on Femme Fatale), L’Apprenti Sorcier (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) all are distinct and memorable as well as very visual.
International renowned local artist & friend of the couple Koen de Winter is the talent behind each hand-drawn illustration. One cheese, Raclette, remains yet unnamed! Think about it as you dive into your Savvy Cool Curds – all name ideas are invited!
When asked, Maggie describes herself as a strong, potent cheese that bites back and Christian as a “pâte molle”, calm on the outside & all gooey on the inside. Both perfect in their own “whey.”
As you can see…and soon will taste… there is personality in each of the cheeses made by Maggie and Christian. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
• Cheese Tasting Notes •
Below are Vanessa’s tasting notes for each cheese in your Savvy Cool Curds, along with additional tidbits of interesting information, suggested food pairings & recipes to try too! All cheese photos were taken by Vanessa too.
Award-winning La Petite Folie (meaning a little fun) is the simplest of Maggie’s cheeses to make yet the most labour intensive to package, given the care it takes to preserve the integrity of the cheese. I consider it one of life’s little luxuries, a treat for yourself reflecting the best nature has to offer as a reflection of fresh, rich ewe’s milk.
Tasting Notes: Petite Folie is a soft, unripened pasteurized ewe’s milk cheese with mild lactic aromas, a rich, dense, silky texture and clean, milky-creamy flavours finishing with a hint of citrus.
Suggested Pairing: Pair with a robust grainy or seed bread or Enerjive Quinoa Crackers that we have popped into this month’s box. Mix in with crab, or top with smoked trout or salmon.
Tasting Notes: Chèvre-style soft, fresh, unripened, pasteurized, goat milk cheese that comes in three flavors: plain, fine herbs and roasted red pepper. The texture is like velvet across your tongue and flavors are clean and herbaceous without being overpowering. Finishes with a characteristic tang that lingers. Notice no chalky texture or soapy aftertaste that can be common with many large-scale production goat milk chèvres (key indication of high quality milk).
Suggested Pairing: The sky’s the limit for pairing this cheese – stuff into the center of a homemade burger, perk up a Sunday morning omelet with a dab, or melt into mashed potatoes as your “secret ingredient”.
Inspired by her goat farming protégée and playing off popular TV series “Bewitched”, Maggie Paradis’ La Sorcière Bien Aimée, was born to add a brie type to the wonderful variety of other goat, cow and sheep’s milk cheeses she produces. I love Maggie’s cheeky attitude as she describes the aging of La Sorcière… “The cheese pouts at first, then it will cry, becoming a weepy mess…” My sentiments exactly, only they’re tears of joy in this case.
Tasting Notes: Handmade from whole natural milk, La Sorcière Bien Aimée has a good, clean goaty flavour with a hint of sweet grass and no bitterness, ammonia or aftertaste, even if a little overripe.
Suggested Pairing: A favourite pairing with this cheese is Michaelsdolce’s Spiced Cranberry or Spiced Cherry Jam.
Maggie is on the hunt for an official sexy name for this cheese. Once you’ve tried it pop her a note on Facebook with your ideas!
Tasting Notes: Maggie’s Raclette de Brebis is a pale straw colour, firm yet soft, curd-y & cooked pasteurized sheep milk cheese washed in raspberry wine from local Domain Mont Vézeau. Has a pleasant slightly sweet aroma and herbal, grassy and mild nutty flavours.
Suggested Pairing: Use in a traditional Raclette recipe either as half wheel or small slices. Enjoy melted on toast topped with bacon (suggest Seed to Sausage Black Pepper Molasses Bacon). Pair with unoaked Chardonnay.
Now this is a cheese for chilling out! A reflection of the cheesemaker herself, Maggie is laid-back, chilled, goes with the flow (thus the cheese’s name/label image) and doesn’t take life or herself too seriously (while remaining quite serious about making top notch artisan cheeses).
Tasting Notes: 100% pure pasteurized, firm, small wheel sheep’s milk cheese with an ivory slightly open (shows small holes) paste and thin, rustic, golden-hued washed rind. Creamy aromas compliment rich, milky, slightly toasty and fermented fruit flavours with a grassy finish making it the perfect match for Quebec iced or apple cider as used to wash the rind from neighbouring Verger Croque-Pomme.
Suggested Pairing: Serve shaved on homemade peach or apple pie. Or, as Maggie likes it, a bit aged, crumbly & dry with a good Port.
With La Petite Folie…
Recipe & photo credit: BonAppetit.com
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 3 minutes
2 tablespoons cream cheese (La Petite Folie)
2 tablespoons raspberries, blueberries or blackberries
1-tablespoon honey or agave
Use a frozen whole grain waffle, or freeze leftover homemade waffles between sheets of waxed paper.
Toast a waffle and smear with cream cheese (La Petite Folie).
Using a fork, smash raspberries, blueberries or blackberries on top of the cream cheese (La Petite Folie).
Drizzle with honey or agave. Enjoy!
With La Petite Démone (Fine Herb)…
Recipe & Photo credit: FoodNetwork.ca
Maggie herself recommends the use of La Petite Démone on steak melted as a quick and easy sauce or garnish.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 28 minutes
1 ½ cups Balsamic Vinegar
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of butter
6 (5-6 oz.) filet mignon steaks (each about 1-inch thick)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Salt and pepper to tast
2 oz. soft, fresh goat cheese (La Petite Démone Fine Herb)
Boil the balsamic vinegar in a heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/3 of a cup, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Melt the butter in a heavy, large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper. Cook the steaks to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a baking sheet. Cover the cheese over the steaks and broil just until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with pepper.
Transfer the steaks to plates. Drizzle the balsamic sauce over and around the steaks and serve.
With La Sorcière Bien Aimée…
Recipe & Photo credit: Foodnetwork.ca
Maple season is here! Substitute luxurious La Sorcière Bien Aimée in this recipe and you’ll have a sure-fire crowd-pleasing appetizer.
Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes
1 package brie cheese (La Sorcière Bien Aimee)
1-cup maple syrup
2 apples, finely sliced
½ cup of brown sugar
1 bag Tostitos bite sized round tortilla chips
(or Vanessa’s addition fresh baguette thinly sliced)
Remove rind from top of brie (for easier dipping).
Make slices into the brie and insert apples.
Top with brown sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup and apple as desired.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
With Raclette de Brebis…
Recipe & Photo credit: Dairygoodness.ca
This recipe substitutes sheep milk cheese for the cow’s milk cheese originally used, as it’s a perfect compliment to fresh, seasonal, spring asparagus.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
1 bunch of green and/or white asparagus (3/4 lb. or 350g), trimmed
60 ml homemade Gouda asparagus pesto
8 slices whole wheat bread
4 oz. (120g) of Le Moine Cheese (cut into 8 slices) – substitute Raclette de Brebis
Butter at room temperature
Gouda Asparagus pesto
1/4-cup (60 mL) raw almonds
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch of asparagus (about ¾ lb – 350 g), cut into 1˝ (2.5 cm) pieces
1 1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) Aged Gouda, finely grated (substitute La Coulee Douce or last month’s Back Forty Bonnechere if you have any left!)
In a large saucepan, cook asparagus in salted boiling water for 2 min. Drain.
Spread Gouda asparagus pesto over 4 slices of bread and top each one with 2 cheese slices. (For Pesto – In a food processor, chop almonds and garlic, add asparagus and process until finely chopped, continue to process while gradually pouring in oil, season generously with salt and pepper, and add cheese, transfer to a jar and seal with a lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.)
Add asparagus, alternating green and white, placing the tips in one direction and then the other. (If the asparagus stems are too thick, cut in half lengthwise).
Cover with remaining slices of bread. Butter outside of sandwiches, and cook in a skillet on medium heat for 4–5 min on each side.
Cut each sandwich into quarters and serve with a green salad, if desired.
With La Coulée Douce…
Recipe & photo credit: Christian Begin – IGA
We eat with our eyes first! This gorgeous colors; yet simplicity of this recipe makes you want to devour it! Cut into smaller slices, it’s a perfect pre-BBQ appetizer.
olive oil, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
8 fairly thick slices of La Tomme de Brebis de Charlevoix Cheese (substitute La Coulée Douce)
Honey, to taste
20 very ripe strawberries, quartered
60 ml (1/4 cup) lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
8 basil leaves finely minced
Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F).
Cut baguette into 4 equal-length pieces and then slice each one lengthwise to obtain 8 pieces & brush the inside of the baguette pieces with olive oil. Sprinkle them with freshly ground pepper.
Place a slice of La Tomme de Brebis de Charlevoix cheese onto each one. Drizzle with honey.
Broil until cheese has melted, watching carefully to ensure the bread doesn’t burn, about 2 minutes.
Remove crostini from the oven and top with fresh strawberries.
Drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with minced basil. Serve immediately.
Enjoy your Savvy Cool Curds!
Savvy Cool Curds cheese of the month club
Featuring Back Forty Artisan Cheese
– March 2016 –
Spring is in the air and the wait for bursts of radiant sunshine and colourful bulbs; fresh local produce, picnics and farmer’s markets will soon be over. All of the Savvy Team are celebrating the arrival of spring with Back Forty Artisan Cheese and bring you first of the season, lovingly hand crafted ewe’s milk cheeses for this month’s Savvy Cool Curds.
Jeff Fenwick, owner and cheesemaker at Back Forty is equally as eager to swing into spring.
“For our feature in Savvy Cool Curds, we have allocated a small batch of our Highland Blue, Bonnechere, Flower Station and our highly sought after Madawaska. These cheeses will be among the first that we have produced in 2016 and customers will benefit from our rich & flavorful sheep milk cheese using the highly nutritious milk produced during the spring.”
In your Savvy Cool Curds you will find…
Break into your March Savvy Cool Curds & you will find approximately a kilogram of hard-to-find artisan raw sheep milk cheese including wedges of:
Flower Station approx. 200-250g
Madawaska approx. 200-250g
Highland Blue 150g
Bowled over by Back Forty Artisan Cheese?
Would you like more cheese from this month’s Savvy Cool Curds? Just call our Savvy Team & we’ll arrange a special shipment for you (if it is still available that is!). Put us on speed dial – Canadian Cheese Hotline 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Back Forty Artisan Cheese
by Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier
My Sunday country drive through the rolling hills of the Lanark Highlands brings me to the relocated home of Back Forty Artisan Cheese. It’s been about five years since Jeff and Jenna Fenwick (photo right) purchased Back Forty Artisan Cheese from James Keith embarking on different journey and complete change of lifestyle.
They’re living the dream and loving the balance they’ve achieved between pursuing their passions (for Jeff, cheesemaking, and Jenna, creating hand illustrated screened textiles at jennarose.ca), farming in Lanark County, North Frontenac and enjoying the great outdoors and peaceful tranquility of their remote country location.
Crossing the Chasm
From a cramped 300 square foot kitchen where the husband and wife team were “living in a cheese factory” with whey buckets, equipment and aging cheeses all around their house… fast forward to late 2015 and early 2016.
Now today’s biggest challenge is increasing production to begin to offset the costs of expansion and investment in a brand new facility. They have to learn how to use the new and upgraded equipment all the while and increasing production.
During this learning curve, one of the cheeses refuses to co-operate, giving Jeff a hard time by flattening out rather than keeping its shape (cheese is fickle, especially with the slightly change in milk, or culture, or feed of the animals).
For consistency and quality Jeff works very closely with his two farm partners whose nearly 300 East Freisan and British Milk Sheep ewes will provide him a planned 4000 litres of milk this year, netting approximately 5,000 to 7,000 kgs of handmade cheese….that is a lot of cheese!
More land and space with expanded facilities for production and aging allow Jeff and Jenna to dream even bigger. They’ll be “officially open to the public” on the July long weekend of this year, receiving visitors at their farm for the first time.
Stay tuned for details – as a Savvy Cool Curds subscriber, you will receive VIP invitations to the festivities!
As I write this issue of Curd on the Street, the bar for the tasting room is being crafted. A first and second floor outdoor patio is being designed to be a destination for cheese lovers and nearby cottagers to congregate. Jeff and Jenna hope to develop a new community, partnering with craft breweries, hosting small group classes, farm to table dinners featuring local chefs using ingredients from their own land.
Plans for a rustic guest retreat cabin, hiking and walking trails are also in the works. I’ve thrown in a request for a wood-fired pizza oven (why not?)
On the cheese front watch for Jeff’s soon-to-launch (yet unnamed) Munster-style semi-soft, washed-rind sheep’s milk cheese, with a gorgeous pumpkin-hued exterior. As well, a local beer washed cheese is being experimented. There are plans for a hard aged grana style cheese and a few small batch specialty varieties available only at the farm such as fresh curds, a haloumi/paneer style grilling cheese and maybe even fresh ricotta (we should be so lucky!)
While Jeff will add to his roster of cheeses, he’ll continue to be choosy and handpick his distribution and retail locations to ensure there continues to be a strong personal connection from the cheese back to the farm. We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring to you the first cheese of 2016 from the farm to your table.
Enjoy your Back Forty cheeses!
• Cheese Tasting Notes •
Below are Vanessa’s tasting notes for each cheese in your Savvy Cool Curds, along with additional tidbits of interesting information, suggested food pairings & recipes to try too!
Flower Station, one of the little known Back Forty Artisan Cheeses (we are excited that they made some just for you!), is a Greek-style feta named for a small community in the Lanark Highlands. It’s Jeff’s easiest cheese to craft as it only takes three days from start to finish – making, cutting/salting, and packaging in wedges.
Tasting Notes: At sixty days, Flower Station says spring as a fresh, un-ripened, semi-firm, Mediterranean-style raw sheep’s milk feta. Stored in it’s own whey you’ll find a toothsome slightly crumbly texture. Mild citrus combines with a good balance of salt and fresh milk flavors from these little ivory wedges.
Suggested Pairing: Jenna finds Flower Station the most versatile of their family of cheeses for daily cooking, using it on everything from omelets to pizza. A little will go a long “whey”. We agree!
This is ‘a little slice of heaven’. Hands down the perfect find for the hard-core cheese lover in your life. Rich and luxurious, it reminds of a dense, beautiful piece of cheesecake in both appearance and texture. Eat this cheese first as it is ripe and ready for you to enjoy!
Tasting Notes: The triple cream of sheep’s milk cheeses, Madawaska is a semi-soft, surface-ripened raw ewe’s milk cheese. With its thick, white, almost crust like bloomy rind, and creamy, dense paste you will find mushroomy aromas and full, sweet, tangy, milky mildly grassy flavours linger nibble after nibble.
Suggested Pairing: This is one time for the cheese to stand alone. Or, link with the lightest of white wines (Sauvignon Blanc because of similarities in grassy notes), so as not to overpower.
My earliest and fondest tasting memories years ago, as a then-unripened-cheese enthusiast, is Jeff Fenwick’s Bonnechere, a one-of-a-kind, semi-firm, cooked, and double-hand pressed raw sheep milk cheese. Bonnechere is especially unique inside and out, named for the rugged Bonnechere River and mysterious cave landmarks in the area. Normally aged for about three months before being sold, Jeff prefers this cheese aged for six months…guess what…you are getting the premium wedge of this cheese as the wheels of this 6 month aged cheese was chosen especially by Jeff just for YOU.
Tasting Notes: A beautiful, chestnut patterned toasted rind covers the interior smooth ivory paste. Torching by hand gives Bonnechere smoky aromas with very distinct caramel flavor. With age, these characteristics amplify the tangy, sweet, and fruity body of the cheese. Sour milk lingers with a slight amount of acidity. It’s produced in very small quantities in two to three kilograms wheels with seasonal milk from the smaller of Jeff’s two farm partners.
Suggested Pairing: With its fruit forward flavour profile, enjoy with hard cider or fruit flavoured craft beer. Thick slices, a quarter or half wheel melted and toasted as Raclette are a sure fire party pleaser. Also popular on fig-bread with caramelized onions and grilled.
This is Back Forty’s most popular creation! Named after local Lanark Highlands, it is considered to be one of Canada’s most distinctive artisan blue cheeses. Its artistry was recognized and awarded with a medal at the Royal Ontario Winter Fair. This cheese is a labor of love as Jeff’s favorite to make requiring the most work, including piercing by hand 120-130 times per wheel to promote bacterial growth.
Even if you are not a fan of blue cheese…a bite of Highland Blue will probably convert you.
Tasting Notes: Highland Blue wheels are tall, regal and rustic. As a semi-firm unpasteurized sheep’s milk blue cheese, it has a dense, antique ivory to golden paste with prominent vertical teal-blue colored veining throughout, and a mottled natural rind. Notice a distinct sharpness, salty richness and earthy flavor with a bit of a kick in the piquant finish.
Suggested Pairing: Traditionally, this cheese pairs perfectly with a local ice wine, Late Harvest Vidal, or Port. For a different twist, try an Iced Cider from Quebec, with dried apricots as garnish to bring out extra flavor pop.
With Flower Station…
Recipe & Photo: Ricardocuisine.com
2 yellow beets
2 red beets
1 ¼ cups (310 ml) unbleached all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (125 ml) cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 Tbsp 30 ml) ice water, approximately
1 ¼ cups (310 ml) Flower Station feta cheese, diced
1 ¼ cups (310 ml) 15% cream OR milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp (30 ml) chopped fresh chives
Salt and pepper – to taste
With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 200 °C (400 °F).
Wrap the beets individually in aluminum foil. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until tender. Let cool. Peel and cut into ½-cm (1/4-inch) thick slices. Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse for a few seconds at a time, until the butter is the size of peas. Add the water. Pulse again until the dough just begins to form. Add water, if needed. Remove the dough from the food processor and form into a disk with your hands.
On a floured work surface, roll out the dough. Line a 25-cm (10-inch) quiche plate with a removable bottom. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Place the rack in the lowest position of the oven.
In a bowl, combine 1 cup (250 mL) of Flower Station feta cheese with the cream, eggs, and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into the crust. Place the beets in a rosette shape, alternating colors. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Bake for about 45 minutes. Let stand about for 10 minutes before serving.
Delicious hot or warm. Freezes well.
With Bonnechere and Madawaska…
Courtesy of Alexander McNaughton, Tofino, British Columbia
Good-sized handful of onions or 2 to 3 large leeks, finely sliced
2 – 3 large shallots, minced
Butter for sautéing
Salt and pepper to taste
⅓ cup fresh thyme, destemmed
1 cup (approx) white or red wine, sherry or stock
2 – 3 lbs. (900 g to 1.35 kg) wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles, morels, hedgehogs or angel wings, cleaned and shredded finely by hand (you can substitute store-bought mushrooms)
3 – 5 egg yolks, depending on tart size
1 ½ cup (approx) cheese, such as a Parmesan, manchego or Asiago (Vanessa’s recommendation: substitute Bonnechere for the mushroom mixture & thin slices of Madawaska for the top )
Roll out pastry and chill in tart pan in fridge for up to 30 minutes. (One of Vanessa’s tricks is to make the pastry bigger than I need and fold the crust tightly into a roll, creating a flaky layered crust that’s sure to impress.) Roll out dough approximately 2 inches (5 cm) bigger than your pie shell.
While pastry chills, thinly slice onions and shallots; caramelize with butter in a pan. Add salt, pepper and thyme. Add about a cup of wine, just as the onions/leeks release their sugar and begin to stick for rich, sweet flavor. Once liquid has evaporated, remove onions and shallots; set aside.
Increase heat to high and add small amount of oil and butter; sauté mushrooms until they release liquid and edges are crispy. Mushrooms should be seared hot so they caramelize nicely; remove from heat before they go watery or limp. Once filling components have cooled, combine with 3 to 5 egg yolks (depending on tart size) and generous amount of cheese (Bonnechere – about 1 cup) to bind tart. Top with about ½ cup cheese (slices of Madawaska).
Bake in 400°F (200°C) oven for up to 40 minutes. Be sure that the cheese has bubbled and is crisp before removing the pie from oven.
With Highland Blue…
Recipe & photo credit: Bite – NZ’s home of Food
Blue cheese and venison is one of Jeff’s favourite pairings. A sprinkle of Highland Blue to finish this salad will punch up its WOW factor.
olive oil to drizzle
8 medallions of venison
1 eggplant, sliced 1cm thick
2 red peppers cut into 2 cm thick wedges
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 red onion, peeled and cut into 1cm thick wedges
2 corn cobs, husk removed, cooked in boiling water for 2 minutes
1 basket cherry tomatoes, halved
4 handfuls baby rocket, watercress or mesclun leaves
Raspberry Balsamic Dressing
½ cup raspberries, fresh, or thawed from frozen
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp honey
75 grams of Highland Blue cheese (Vanessa’s addition!)
Heat barbecue on medium to high heat. Rub oil over venison and season with salt. Drizzle eggplant, red pepper, asparagus, corn and red onion with olive oil. Cook venison for 2-3 minutes on each side for medium (do not cook more than medium).
Set meat aside to rest before slicing. Cook eggplant, pepper, asparagus, corn and red onion for 5-10 minutes on barbecue until cooked through.
To make the dressing, shake all ingredients together in a screw-top jar until well combined.
When cool enough to handle, cut corn kernels off the cob using a sharp knife.
To serve, toss salad leaves and cherry tomatoes with barbecued vegetables and venison. Divide between plates and drizzle with raspberry balsamic dressing. Top with crumbled Highland Blue.
Enjoy your Savvy Cool Curds!
Savvy Cool Curds cheese of the month club
Featuring COWS Creamery
– February 2016 –
February is the time to celebrate LOVE – the love of artisan cheese, that is, through Savvy Cool Curds –Canada’s only artisan cheese-of-the-month club. We are udderly in love and absolutely crazy for the craft cow’s milk cheddars you’ll discover, sent with TLC from the hardworking team at COWS Creamery all the whey from Charlottetown, PEI. Hope you like those cheese-y puns!
COWS Creamery cheesemaker Armand Bernard caringly selected and packed our Savvy Cool Curds shipment personally. “We were thrilled to have our products included in the Savvy Cool Curds Cheese of-the-month-club! Working with Vanessa and the Savvy Company has been great & energizing. We appreciate everything they are doing to promote our products & Canadian artisan cheeses in order to get our cheeses enjoyed by consumers.”
We’re equally as excited to have COWS Creamery on board as featured cheesemakers this month. Time to crack open this month’s Savvy Cool Curds and get mooving!
Over a kilogram of hard-to-find artisan cheese including wedges and blocks of:
Craving more COWS Creamery cheddars?
Would you like more cheese from this month’s Savvy Cool Curds? Just call our Savvy Team& we’ll arrange a special shipment for you (if it is still available that is!). Put us on speed dial – Savvy Cool Curds Hotline 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or email@example.com
by Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier
I made a quick side trip following Devour Food Film Fest last fall to catch up with the folks from COWS Creamery. From meeting Scott Linkletter, passionate president to bubbly wholesale manager Andrea White to dedicated cheesemaker Armand Bertrand,visits are always a pleasure, one really feels at home in their company.
My adventure began with Armand’s warm PEI welcome and a tour of the COWS Creamery empire minutes from downtown Charlottetown, PEI. What a treat to watch ice cream making in action – “Wowie Cowie” using all natural, wholesome ingredients lovingly added by hand!
Ice cream & cheese & oysters, oh my!
The COWS story begins with with COWS world famous ice cream launch in 1983. Today they have over 32 flavours. T-shirts followed in 1987 – its was a business opportunity that hatched because shirts kept being sold off the backs of staff due to the popular whimsical images of a local artist.
Did you know that COWS has been producing some of North America’s most sought after oysters since the early 1990’s? I was treated to a quick visit to Raspberry Point Oysters, where I had the good fortune to slurp a salty “Lucky Lime Oyster” fresh out of the bay. Highly recommended on your next PEI road trip!
2006 started cheese production with Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar and COWS Extra Old Cheddar was also born as a fortuitous by-product when it was discovered they didn’t have enough molds for all the curd produced. We are excited to have these in your Savvy Cool Curds…so excited that we doubled up in your parcel!
Scott Linkletter presides over this small culinary kingdom around Prince Edward Island, which today has expanded beyond ice cream, oysters & cheese to now include Anne of Green Gables chocolates & Raspberry Cordial.
Terroir in cheesemaking is defined as a reflection of the milk from the region into the cheese. COWS Creamery cheeses are some of the best examples of Canadian terroir, expressing all that PEI lands offer from salt air exposure to iron rich red soil. Holstein and other variety cows from small farms provide fresh PEI milk that manifest flavors akin to a potato warehouse, making its terroir unique as a tiny blip in a big country but with something in the air and soil that can’t be replicated anywhere according to Armand.
One process – two contrasting cheeses
COWS cheddars are the most amazing contrast in cheeses – beginning with the exact same simple ingredients and cheese production process, yet ending with vastly different results. Once ready, COWS Extra Old Cheddar curds are pressed into 40 kilo blocks, vacuum packed and aged under plastic for 20 months or so. Avonlea clothbound is pressed into molds and receives multi-layers of cheesecloth smeared with lard, aging exposed to air for 14-18 months. Over that time while being brushed, flipped and turned regularly it will lose approximately 10% of moisture contributing to its drier, flaky texture.
Cheesemaker Armand (in photo on left) feels proud every time an award is won, whether at the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, Canadian Cheese Awards, US ACS Competition or on a big stage recently at the World Cheese Awards which was a bit of a shock as it was decided on a whim to enter. Avonlea Clothbound received Super Gold as one of the top 16 cheeses in the world held in the same company as the likes of Keens and Montgomery cheddars that have been winning for generations. To him its a validation of a good recipe right from farm to make process to aging and that they are on the right path. We couldn’t agree more!
Say Canadian cheese!
Armand maintains Canada has one of the best and safest milk supplies in the world which means by starting off with the best product and adding TLC is going to result in fantastic cheese. Looking at all the small producers and niche cheeses made here, quality is improving every year, and with the global recognition of it, Canadian cheese absolutely competes.
• Cheese Tasting Notes •
Below are Vanessa’s tasting notes for each cheese in your Savvy Cool Curds, along with additional tidbits of interesting information, suggested food pairings &recipes to try too!
One of the very best qualities of artisan cheese is their uniqueness. Like children or snowflakes, no two cheeses are ever the same. This holds true for COWS Creamery Extra Old Cheddar, a stark contrast bi-product to COWS flagship cheese Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar. Although hard to believe they are made from the same milk and process, Extra Old Cheddar was born of happenstance due to a surplus of milk and lack of clothbound cheddar molds, the pressing and ripening stages being the only differences in production.
Tasting Notes: Multi-award winning Extra Old Cheddar is a gently heat-treated (unpasteurized) cow’s milk cheese, with a semi-firm, smooth, pale butter yellow coloured paste made using vegetable rennet. It’s nicely balanced for cheddar, with milky aroma, mild fruity and saltiness and not a sharp bite but more a robust, complex, cooked milk flavour that lingers. Cheesemaker Armand advises its “best enjoyed between eighteen and twenty-four months, which concentrates the flavours, giving an “old, traditional, production profile on the palate.” Bernard describes the Extra Old Cheddar as “wholesome, original, historic, and back to what our grandparents used to know”, recommending to “try a bite and let it speak.”
Suggested Pairing: This versatile cheese rises to every occasion, enhancing soups, sandwiches, casseroles and an omelette of all kinds or as cheesemaker Armand likes it, as an accompaniment to an egg sandwich.
This amazing cheese was based on the COWS Extra Old Cheddar recipe, aged for 2 years, Appletree Smoked Cheddar is vastly different in texture and taste profile. Each piece or loaf is cold smoked for 8 hours to enhance the flavor.
2014 – World Championship Cheese Contest – Awarded World’s Best Smoked Cheddar
2013 – Canadian Cheese Grand Prix – Awarded Canada’s Best Flavored Cheese
Tasting Notes: The key to excellent smoked cheddar is to begin with an awesome cheese (and not have the smoke mask an inferior product as some do). Appletree Smoked Cheddar has a beautiful pale caramel exterior. When sliced you can see how the smoke penetrated the cheese. Tasting gives maple, bacon and umami flavors layered over butter.
Suggested Pairing: Add a few slices to a breakfast BLT, melt over homemade or BBQ burgers for an extra je ne sais quoi or enjoy on its own with a craft Porter or Stout beer.
Inspired by a Scottish recipe and English style cheddar & made in the tradition of the colonial times of one of my favourite childhood book series, Anne of Green Gables is award-winning Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, recently taking title to 2015 Best Vintage Cheddar at the World Cheese Awards. Cheesemaker Armand Bernard muses, “we went back in time to bring the flavour forward” and of this, the cheese speaks for itself.”Avonlea Clothbound tops Vanessa’s Canadian best Canadian artisan cheese list.
Tasting Notes: This attractive-looking, tasty cheddar is a complete contrast from the Extra Old Cow’s Block Cheddar, even though they’re made from the same unpasteurized milk. Aged on white fir wooden shelves for 14-18 months at 10-12 degrees & approximately 88-90% humidity, when ripe it shows a natural, waxy-like rind closer to the outside enveloped by a dark grey/brown, aged, weathered-looking cheesecloth covering. Inside is a burst of gold goodness of crumbly texture, with a complex aroma and flavour profile. It’s earthy (think potato) closer to the outside, but with creamy, buttery, sweet & tangy flavours in the chewy center, all at the same time.
Suggested Pairing: Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar is perfect for nibbling on it’s own. Pair with a robust oaky Ontario chardonnay or track down Niagara’s Coyote’s Run Merlot – the pairing with Avonlea was all the rave at at a recent Savvy Event.
Armand’s tip: Avonlea is a household peacekeeper it goes equally well with wine or beer.
NEW! Cultured Butter
Hot off the press (or out of the butter mold as the case may be) and exclusively for our Savvy Cool Curds subscribers is a sneak preview of COWS Creamery newly launched Cultured Butter. Our shipment includes the blocks from the very first batch of COWS Cultured Butter – it’s so early the product packaging isn’t even ready yet (foil will be pink!)
Cultured butter (very European style) is made with active bacteria that are added into the cream the night before and left to let sit and cool. The result is a mildly tangy taste with a touch less salt than normal, giving more of a true creamy reflection of milk flavor but with the same 84% butterfat content as the COWS sea salted, unsalted churned butter.
Tasting Notes: COWS Creamery Cultured butter is the palest of yellows in hue, and has a soft, silky texture on the palate. Flavors are cream forward, followed by a slight tang and finishing with a hint of buttery mashed potato.
Suggested Pairing: Use this special cultured butter sparingly, savouring every moment: a small pat on your favourite fresh-out-of-the-oven homemade blueberry muffins, smeared on grainy toast or pooled melted in a mound of mashed potatoes.
With Extra Old Cheddar…
FoodNetwork.ca by Jamie Oliver
Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
2 clove garlic
50 g unsalted butter
50 g plain flour
500 mL semi-skimmed milk
500 g fresh or frozen broccoli
75 g mature Cheddar cheese (COWS Extra Old Cheddar)
1 kg fresh or frozen cauliflower
2 slices ciabatta or stale bread
2 sprig fresh thyme
25 g flaked almonds
Photo Credit: foodnetwork.ca
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4.
Peel and finely slice the garlic and put it into a medium pan on a medium heat with the butter. When the butter has melted, stir in the flour for a minute to make a paste, then gradually add the milk, whisking as you go, until lovely and smooth.
Add the broccoli (cut up first, if using fresh) and simmer for around 20 minutes, or until the broccoli is cooked through and starts to break down, then mash or blitz with a stick blender (adding an extra splash of milk to loosen, if using fresh broccoli). Grate in half the Cheddar and season to perfection.
Arrange the cauliflower in an appropriately sized baking dish (cut into florets first, if using fresh), pour over the broccoli white sauce and grate over the remaining Cheddar. Blitz the bread into breadcrumbs in a food processor, then pulse in the thyme leaves and almonds. Toss with a splash of oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, and then scatter evenly over the cauliflower cheese. Bake for 1 hour, or until golden and cooked through, then enjoy!
Tip: It’s really good fun to play around with different cheeses in this dish and how they taste and melt. It’s also nice to try different veg instead of cauliflower – for instance, 2–3cm chunks of celeriac, squash, potatoes or leeks would all work a treat. Have a play and see what your favorites are – some veg might take longer to cook than others, so test with a knife to check they’re cooked through before serving.
With Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar…
Recipe from Anita Stewart’s CANADA: The Food, The Recipes, The Stories (HarperCollins Canada 2008) FoodDayCanada.ca
“Savvy Cool Curds…one of the neatest new ways to stock up on some of the finest cheeses in this
fromage-loving country of ours, at the peak of ripeness.” – Anita Stewart
From Anita Stewart…
“As many realize, a recipe can be a chronicle of a way of life. My now 98 year-old mother wrote: “We always called this ‘Dutch-apple pie.’ It was quite a favorite in my growing-up years. I recall vividly my grandmother making it. She was from Prussia. The sour cream came, of course, from the cream can in the cellar. That cream can held the makings of our home-churned butter, sour cream for mother’s biscuits, etc. What was left over was picked up by the creamery truck to be made into butter, which eventually found its way into our local grocery stores.
Today I use Northern Spys, which are often huge…and I just bought a basket of medium sized Greenings, one of the old fashioned apples of southern Ontario orchards. If you’re using a smaller variety like Cortland or Gala, you will likely have to increase the number of apples to 4 or 6. The only prerequisite is that the apples must be from a Canadian orchard. I bake with lard. In my grandmother’s day, she would have rendered her own pigs to get the fat to make the pie shell so crisp and golden. But access to good pork fat is rare these days so I use Tenderflake & the pastry recipe on the package.”
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 80 minutes
Yield: 6-8 servings
One unbaked 9”(23 cm) unbaked pie shell
3 or 4 large tart apples, such as Northern Spys
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
3 Tbsp (45 mL) all purpose flour
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) sour cream
1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon
1 Tbsp (15 mL) granulated sugar (second amount)
Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, thinly sliced (Vanessa’s addition!)
Photo Credit: fooddaycanada.ca
Peel and slice the apples into unbaked pie shell. Reserve 1 tbsp. (15 mL) of the sugar. Stir remaining sugar with the flour, salt and sour cream until smooth. Spread over the apples.
Sprinkle with cinnamon and reserved sugar.
Bake in preheated 425’F(220’C) oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350’F (180’C) and continue baking until bubbling and lightly browned, about 35 – 40 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes to set before serving. Garnish with long curls (made with veg peeler) or thin slices of Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar.
With Appletree Smoked Cheddar…
Perfect for celebrating in February, the smoked cheddar will add a flavour twist to this dish!
Recipe & photo from eatwisconsincheese.com
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
1 large shallot, minced
2 Tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup lager or pilsner beer
4 cups (16 ounces) (Try a Canadian Craft Beer from Savvy Hip Hops!) Wisconsin cheddar cheese, shredded (Substitute COWS Appletree Smoked Cheddar)
1 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Sliced apples, French bread, broccoli, cauliflower florets…even boiled PEI potatoes!
Sauté shallot in butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until tender. Add garlic; cook and stir 1 minute longer. Stir in beer; heat until warm. Reduce heat to low.
Toss cheddar with flour, mustard powder, paprika and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Gradually add cheese mixture to saucepan, stirring constantly between each addition until melted. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer cheese sauce from the saucepan into a warm fondue pot. Keep warm. Serve with apples slices, jalapeno cheese or French bread cubes, broccoli and cauliflower florets.
Enjoy your Savvy Cool Curds!
Savvy Cool Curds cheese of the month club
Featuring Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese
– January 2016 –
To kick off 2016 with a bang, we are thrilled to launch Savvy Cool Curds – Canada’s only artisan cheese-of-the-month club, offering delivery right to your door from a different Canadian cheesemaker every month.
Cheese lovers across the country – like you – are beginning their cheese ladened adventure with us starting with an assortment of delicious alpine-style cheeses from Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese located in Woodstock, Ontario.
I can’t imagine a better “whey” to start a new year than with a resolution to enjoy more Canadian artisan cheese! Gunn’s Hill owner and cheesemaker Shep Ysselstein began dreaming about making cheese in 2003. He too is excited to share his hand made cheese in this month’s Savvy Cool Curds. The reality is that it took him eight years before he even got to the point of making cheese. Now that is ambition!
Shep’s face lights up when he talks about cheese. He’s proud of his heritage and of the fact that Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese is true farm to table. So break open your Savvy Cool Curds and peruse the following pages to get the inside scoop on this budding entrepreneur and passionate cheesemaker.
In your Savvy Cool Curds you will find…
Would you like more cheese from this month’s Savvy Cool Curds? Just call our Savvy Team & we’ll arrange a special shipment for you (if it is still available that is!).
Put us on speed dial – Savvy Cool Curds Hotline 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese
by Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier
Three years ago, I interviewed Shep Ysselstein for the first time about an hour before his bachelor party. Talk about a non-stop life! Fast-forward to today and he’s just as gracious, passionate about his craft and as driven as he was then, yet a little more seasoned.
I caught up with Shep and his wife Colleen (in photo at left) at Gunn’s Hill just as they are completing renovations on their expanded plant as a result of funding awarded to them by the BDC in 2014.
Walking through the large, sterile, stark white, empty but soon-to-be-full aging rooms, Shep’s face glowed with joy as he described his plans for his growing business, each cheese in a new home and plenty more room to grow in order to meet consumer demand (they will easily triple their capacity).
When asked how things have changed over the past years “it’s been a crazy ride” Shep says. In the beginning it was a grind to get their name out there. And then Five Brothers won at the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. Not only did they get traction attached with a great reputation, the media coverage exploded. Retail sales skyrocketed, their phone rang off the hook with grocery stores looking to stock their award winning cheese &they were seeing repeat business because the quality of their cheeses.
A Family of farmers
Gunn’s Hill is located in Oxford County, the heart of Canada’s dairy capital, on family land surrounded by neighbouring Friesdale Farms. Family heritage is apparent in every cheese that Gunn’s Hill makes. Shep’s father is the second generation running the family dairy farm established by Shep’s grandfather. Feed for the Holstein cows is grown on their land. And it is this herd produces the milk for Shep’s cheese.
Given the history of the area, once boasting nearly 100 cheese factories &having the largest regional milk production in Canada, locals are proud to support Shep &his enterprise. Almost half of their retail sales are local, with folks buying cheese or introducing visitors to the shop.
It’s all about the milk
Good quality cheese starts with good quality milk. Shep boasts that the best milk in the land is from his father’s farm. With the expansion of the cheese production facility, Shep expects to be able to use all of the milk his father produces from his herd of 120 Holsteins. Every two days, fresh milk is delivered & cheese is made right away.
Shep explained that 30 wheels of Five Brothers can be produced from 1500 litres of milk. Seasonally, he needs to tweak the cheese recipes to reflect the milk. Interesting to note, at times when the cows are fed a lot of carrots, there are higher levels of beta carotene in the milk, adding a more golden hue. In winter they need to compensate for higher fat content in the milk, in order for the cheese to not be too soft. Cheesemaking is part art & part science.
What’s in a name?
During our visit, Shep explained that the naming process for his cheeses took a year – I equate to picking names for children! I love his philosophy that the names “Need to feel right.” You know it’s going to be good cheese when so much patience, thought & effort goes into choosing the name.
Sometimes tweaking the names is required. In your parcel you have a chunk of Handeck. It was originally spelled Handegg (after the town where Shep learned how to make traditional alpine style cheese). They got tired of so many people asked about “egg” in the cheese, that they changed the name to it’s phonetic spelling Handeck.
If Shep could be a cheese he’d be an aged gouda because his background is Dutch. “I’m not that crazy & fairly even keeled, but not too boring”.
There is no doubt that Shep absolutely loves what he does. He recognizes he’s not in it alone & he’s not the only face of the business. He credits his wife Colleen for her immense contributions with marketing. “I’m a country boy & she’s a city girl. We’re vastly different but it’s a big part of what makes this partnership work”. When I turned to Colleen to ask what makes Shep a successful cheesemaker, she states, “his work ethic, his patience & his passion – in that order”.
Below are Vanessa’s tasting notes for each cheese in your Savvy Cool Curds, along with additional tidbits of interesting information, suggested food pairings &recipes to try too!
Brigid’s Brie has a special place in the hearts of the Gunn’s Hill family. While firm alpine style cheeses are their specialty, they’ve experimented with brie for a while and produce it in small batches.Now perfected, this cheese is not available outside of their own retail store at the factory because of the care it takes to ensure perfect ripening. Lucky for you, we have an “in” & were able to include this special cheese in your Savvy Cool Curds parcel.
This beautiful little wheel only received it’s name a few months ago & is memorable for a number of reasons: St. Brigid is the patron Saint of dairy farmers and milk maids. It is also a tribute to the memory of Shep’s mother-in-law (Colleen’s mother) who recently passed. I am certain that you’ll remember your very first bite of this fresh creamy cheese.
Tasting Notes: A soft surface-ripened cheese with a fresh, dewy, white bloomy rind, and pearlized cream color interior paste that leaves a feeling of luxury in texture. You’ll find this cheese perfectly “a point” (cheese speak: perfectly ripe) when it arrives at your door. Enjoy it’slight, refreshing flavors of sweet cream, butter and light salt with notes of freshly sliced mushrooms.Refrigerate until you serve, then bring to room temperature to experience all this cheese has to offer.
Suggested Pairing: Soft cheeses like this one are elegant enough to enjoy on their own, and in this case it’s important not to overpower the delicate flavors. Pair with sparkling wine or enjoy with a dollop of red pepper jelly or a drizzle of local honey.
Five Brothers is Gunn’s Hill’s flagship cheese. Shep is very proud of it’s accomplishment. A pressed, cooked, washed-rind, pasteurized cow’s milk farmstead cheese that is aged for 5-8 months and honors family as well as Shep’s 4 male siblings – John, Marc, Daniel and David. Take a look at the difference from when it’s right out of the vat (in photo at right)
Winner 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, Firm Cheese Category. Finalist 2014 Canadian Cheese Awards, Firm Cheese Category.
Tasting Notes: An amber-colored, weathered-looking exterior covers these robust wheels featuring a pale straw “open” (cheese speak: with small holes called eyes) interior paste with unique subtle texture & smooth, creamy richness. Flavors remind you of of Gouda (buttery) & Appenzeller (fruity) sweetness ending up almost Cheddar-like (lactic) without the sharpness or characteristic tang.
Suggested Pairing: Perfect for snacking during outdoor winter activities or enjoy with local craft beers during après ski! As Vanessa’s Mom would say, “this cheese goes with anything!”
We are sooooo excited to have this cheese included in your Savvy Cool Curds.In fact, Shep set some wheels aside to make sure that it would be included in your assortment. Only a few wheels of this coveted 18-month cedar-plank aged gouda-style cheese are released in December every year.
If you like it….you and other cheese lovers in-the-know will need to wait another year to get more. Limited production & lengthy aging process makes this cheese a hard-to-find cheese. Enjoy every bite!
Compare it to Five Brothers, and notice the remarkable difference in the aged cheese…then taste the difference of the cheese side by side.
Tasting Notes: Ripened for an additional 10 months, Five Brothers Reserve becomes more rustic in appearance, with its rind developing shades of darker brown. The “eyes” in the paste are more pronounced and tiny crystals are present, a result of the aging process (this is a sign of a good cheese!). Enjoy it’s fruity and malty aroma on the nose. This cheese is complex while keeping its smooth and creamy texture and finishes with a subtle bite. Waves of scotchy, malty and caramel flavors ride over your palate and linger for a long time.
Suggested Pairing: Five Brothers Reserve makes me crave fireside drinking robust red wines (choose something full bodied like Cabernet, Zinfandel or oaked Chardonnay).A little nibble will go along way, try also sipping with an ice wine or even ice apple cider.Enjoy!
Hello party favorite! Who doesn’t like cheese and beer? A match made in heaven combining Shep’s cheesemaking talent with Ontario craft beer maker Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.
Tasting Notes: Beau’s Abbey Cheese is styled after Swiss Mütchli cheese. Shep took his Oxford Harvest Cheese recipe – a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese – then washed it with Beau’s Tom Green Milk Stout which develops its rose to apricot coloured rind around a pale ivory interior and subtle buttery, toasted, hoppy notes.
Suggested Pairing: Our long-time friend & Savvy Fan, Chef Bruce Wood who is the resident chef at Beau’s Brewery suggests of an open faced Reuben sandwich with this cheese & pile on some of his “St. Luke’s Verse” Braised Brisket. Not to be outdone, I have provided my own favourite grilled cheese recipe too.
1500 litres of milk goes into making only 6 wheels of this monster 25 kg cheese. Fashioned after Swiss alpine style cheese Berner Alpkäse and made with milk from the family farm, Handeck (named for the tiny Swiss village “Handegg” where he learned his craft) is Shep’s dream realized.
Category winner, Farmstead Cheese, 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.
Tasting Notes: Handeck is a rustic, washed-rind cow’s milk cheese with a brown spotted, scale-like rind and straw-like interior. Mild grassy notes tease, while fruit takes over, and a long toasty experience finishes.
With Brigid’s Brie Cheese…
The Ontario Table by Lynn Ogryzlo, pg. 207
Total Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
2 lbs. (.90kg) white field potatoes, sliced (about 6 potatoes)
6 slices country bacon, diced
2 Tbsp (30ml) country fresh butter
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp (30ml) fresh thyme
1 cup (250ml) light cream
1 small wheel Ontario brie-style cheese (Gunn’s Hill Brigid’s Brie), cut into slices
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Place the sliced potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold salted water. Cook over high heat until water is boiling. Boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat and drain. Allow to steam dry.
In a small skillet, cook bacon until crispy, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until onions are soft but not browned. Warm cream in a small saucepan for 2 minutes or until warmed thoroughly. Set aside.
Layer one third of the potatoes in a greased 8-inch ovenproof casserole dish. Season well and spread half the onions and bacon over top. Repeat layers. Finish with remaining potatoes. Pour warm cream over top, using the top of a knife to ease sauce between layers if necessary.
Return pork to the pan and add orange zest and juice, stock, water and black peppercorns and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking, covered, on low heat for 3 – 4 hours. Alternatively cook in slow cooker for 6 – 8 hours. Once cooked the meat will shred / pull apart very easily but keep in stock on low heat until ready to serve.
Place the baking dish on a baking sheet to catch the cream if it bubbles over. Cover and bake for 1 hour. Uncover and lay slices of brie on top and bake until cheese has melted and potatoes are lightly browned and tender, about 30 minutes longer. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
With Beau’s Abbey Cheese…
Quick N’ Easy Gourmet Grilled Cheese
From Vanessa’s kitchen to yours!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
8 thick slices Beau’s Abbey Cheese
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
butter at room temperature
12 cooked slices of bacon
1 cup caramelized onions (1 large onion) fresh ripened tomato
Cook bacon until desired tenderness (not to crispy).
Slice thinly and caramelize onions in a pan with olive oil & butter. The trick to perfecting this step is at http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/common-mistakes/article/caramelized-onions-common-mistakes
Cut 8 slices of artisan bread and lay them out side by side. On 4 slices of bread, spread butter on one side. On the other 4 slices, spread the mustard on one side of each (on 4 slices only) and top with a slice of Beau’s Abbey Cheese.
Heat a skillet to medium heat. Add the buttered bread (that side down), and top with a slice of cheese. As it melts, add 3 slices of bacon, 1 slice of tomato, and a tablespoon of caramelized onions. Top with another slice of bread, mustard & cheese side in. Butter the top slice before flipping.
Cook until bread begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Carefully turn the sandwich over (use a spatula to hold it together) and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes until the cheese starts to ooze. Remove, cut in half and serve.
With Five Brothers & Handeck Cheese…
Reprinted with permission from Shep Ysselstein as prepared for Chef Lynn Crawford’s Great Canadian Cookbook
This recipe has special meaning, learned from Shep’s time in Switzerland using traditional cheesemaking methods as it happened 500 years ago. Alpler is the name for those who milk cows and make cheese in the mountains, and the dish using cheeses they made, was usually eaten in the same hut they made it in and slept in.
1 cup (250 mL) macaroni
2 Tbsp (30 mL) butter
1 onion, clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp (15 mL) flour
1 cup (250 mL) (approx.) milk
1 cup (250 mL) heavy cream
1 cup (250 mL) (approx) Handeck cheese (18-month cow’s milk Swiss alpine-style cheese)
2 cups (500 mL) (approx) Five Brothers cow’s milk cheese or Appenzeller cheese
Pepper and nutmeg to taste
In pot of boiling water, cook macaroni; drain.
Add butter to large pan; fry onion and garlic until soft. Add flour (to thicken and bind mixture). Add milk and cream. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is warmed throughout and just beginning to bubble.
Add Handeck and half of the Five Brothers cheese, 1 small handful at a time, stirring constantly, until cheese is completely melted. Do not boil. Allow to slightly simmer; add pepper and nutmeg. If mixture is too thick, add more milk; if too thin, add more cheese. (You can never have too much cheese!)
In buttered baking dish, add half of the macaroni. Pour in half of the cheese mixture; sprinkle on remaining Five Brothers cheese. Add remaining half of macaroni; pour in remaining half of cheese mixture.
Bake, uncovered, in 400°F (200°C) oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.
Enjoy your Savvy Cool Curds!
Love cheese? You’ll love this shopping list! Our Cheese Sommelier Vanessa Simmons compiled this list of her ‘top cheeses of 2014’ for www.cheeselover.ca. It is so delicious that we’re sharing it with you!
Keep this handy for your next visit to one of these artisan artisan cheese shops.
Celtic Blue Reserve
Glengarry Fine Cheese has made another winner! Located in Eastern Ontario just north of the village of Lancaster, they specializing in fine artisan style cheeses from cow & goat milk. This results in delicious, fine cheese that is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted!
Taliah has a welcoming aroma that is clean and earthy. Made from unpasteurized milk (not raw but thermized, meaning it undergoes heat treatment but not at high temperatures as in the pasteurization process). The wheel is aged 10 months to a year. There is a smooth richness in each bite, with the added bonus of those crunchy tyrosine crystals one finds in a the classic Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Vanessa’s tasting Notes: Sweet, clean milk notes woven with a gentle tanginess and a good balance of salt. The finish mirrored what I love in a good, aged sheep’s-milk cheese – mellow, creamy notes that have complexity and length. The texture clinched the deal, crumbly but not dry.
Lenberg Farms Classic Reserve by Celebrity Lindsay Bandaged Cheddar
A special creation from Mariposa Dairy located near Lindsay, Ontario in the City of Kawartha Lakes. This award winning cheese is handcrafted in small batches using premium Ontario goat’s milk, resulting in a unique and delightful cheese. Once the wheel has been crafted, it is carefully wrapped in its bandage to preserve freshness and flavor. After aging in a humidity controlled room for 12 months, the cheese is ready to enjoy.
Perfectly creamy and buttery, with the slight tang of goat’s milk and a hard, crumbly texture, this cheese is a perfect alternative to cow’s milk cheddars.
Vanessa’s tasting Notes: Continues to wow me year after year. Tangy, fruity, yet clean.
The signature cheese from Back Forty Artisan Cheese – a small farm nestled in the heart of the Lanark Highlands. Cheesemaker Jeff Fenwick and his original raw ewe milk cheeses have grown to become favorites of top chefs and cheese lovers alike.
A distinct feature of Bonnechere cheese is the rind that is toasted over an open flame before aging. This painstaking process, traditional for certain Basque cheeses, imparts a delicious caramel essence which permeates the body of the cheeses as it ages, and provides a delicious contrast to the tangy and fruity body of the cheese.
Vanessa’s tasting Notes: One-of-a-kind and very rare to find aged. Packs a punch of flavour with awesome bite on the finish.
Magie De Madawaska
Produced by Fromagerie le Détour in Témiscouate-sur-le-lac in Québec
This soft, washed-rind cheese is made with pasteurized whole milk that comes exclusively from Jersey cows from the Témiscouata region. Its orange rind is shiny, soft and sticky, sometimes displaying white moss spots. Like the rind, the ivory-coloured interior is sticky. It is chalkier at the centre and smoother towards the exterior. Its texture is supple even when the cheese is young, but as it ages, its chalky part fades and the interior becomes smooth and runny.
When it is older, it becomes so runny that it might call for a spoon. Magie de Madawaska has a mild, lactic, woody and earthy aroma that becomes more pronounced with age. Its taste varies from mild to strong, with an earthy, roasted hazelnut and lactic (melted butter) flavour.
Vanessa’s tasting Notes: Runny, lucious, creamy, buttery, nutty and ooey-gooey good when perfectly à point (cheese-speak: fully ripened).
Bella Casara Mascarpone
Crafted by Quality Cheese who specialize in fine soft cheeses – Boccancini, Borgonzola, Mozarella, Riccotta as well as select semi-soft & hard cheeses.
Vanessa’s tasting Notes: Rich, and oh so sinful, with flavors of butter, cream and a hint of sweet dulce de leche (to quote myself!). Hard not to eat right from the spoon.
Another winner by Quality Cheese.
Vanessa’s tasting Notes: Heaven. Pure indulgence. Need I say more?
Sylvan Star Natural Smoked Gouda
Sylvan Star Cheese Farm, of Red Deer Alberta, makes their cheese from heat-treated milk which contains no additives, no antibiotics and is lactose free. They produce Gouda, Edam, sheep Manchego & Gruyere cheese at their farm. They smoke their Goudas to perfection in their own smokehouse – mild or medium, take your pick.
Vanessa’s tasting Notes: Surprising! Hints of bacon, maple and smoke, with an overlay of butter and nut rounding out its smooth and supple texture.
Made by Fromagerie L’Atelier is located in central Quebec and specializing in goat and cow milk cheese.
Vanessa’s tasting Notes: Elegant, delicate, tender, yeasty, gorgeous!
In 2009, Jean-Paul and Marie-Chantal Houde (brother and sister) decided to join forces to develop a dairy barn project and cheese that is structured and rewarding for the family farm, Fromagerie Nouvelle France. Since opening in 2010, Fromagerie Nouvelle France has won more than 18 awards in various competitions, including the Best Cheese From Québec in 2011 and 2014 for their signature Zacharie Cloutier.
Vanessa’s tasting Notes: Soft and sweet, with a hint of sour finish.
Produced by Au Gré des Champs in Québec, is a farmstead artisan-made cheese that is ladled into a mold. It is a month the first raw milk cheeses aged under 60 to be made in Canada.
Vanessa’s tasting Notes: Texture of soft ice cream sandwich with flavours and aromas of fresh sweet milk and grass that lingers and lingers.
In 2005 the old presbytery at Sainte-Elizabeth-de-Warwick was transformed into a cheese production site, Fromagerie du Presbytere…making outstanding artisanal cheeses. The milk from the farm only has to cross the road to get to the fromagerie, which operates 7 days/week.
Laliberté is a triple cream cheese, made with whole milk. Its wonderful bloomy rind surrounds a melting paste with an exquisite creamy mushroom flavour & its name comes from the name of the sculptor, Alfred Laliberté.
Vanessa’s tasting Notes: Cheesecake-like luxury, silky, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
Pace yourself this is a cheese smorgasbord for anyone.
Want to know how to hold onto Summer a little bit longer? Think local and think cheese…your dreams will come true! It’s still summer you can’t deny it when you look around the farmers’ markets still showing off all the local produce while they can.
My latest interview with Leanne Cusack on CTV News at Noon was just like A Cheese Game Show – with Michael O’Byrne claiming to be a ‘mozarella man’ which he might live to regret that as he had the chance to expand his horizons on the set that morning with so many cheeses to sample and so little time!
My cheese story began at a Cordon Bleu cooking class when food prep was going on so we were boiling some milk in the morning and then in the afternoon we had a freshly-made feta cheese to crumble on our salad. My AHA moment for sure. That’s the beginning and the rest, as they say, is history. I’m now a Cheese Sommelier (in my spare time) or if you prefer ‘Maitre Fromagier‘, either term rolls off the tongue quite nicely…rather like cheese in fact.
Let’s Celebrate Canadian Cheese
The best part of my day is often all about cheese. Whenever possible I breathe, smell & eat cheese so I wanted to take you on a little journey to help extend these marvelous summer days. Walk with me along the scumptious Canadian cheese board that I prepared for this TV segment – all made locally – and you will see what I see. Great flavors made lovingly by true artisans of their craft.
Based on a traditional French Recipe from a cheese Called Tomme de Savoie this is a cheese native to the French Alps. Traditionally a skimmed cow’s milk cheese, Milkhouse Tomme is made with a full cream Sheep’s Milk, leading to a richer flavour and creamy texture. The cheese has an edible, natural rind which adds an earthy flavour. Our interest in Tomme de Savoie grew out of the enjoyment of a now retired cheese maker’s take on the classic called “Tomme de Gaston.”
Here’s a story for you…did you know it takes 10L of milk to make 1lb of cheese and that one day when I visited Kyle & Kate the young couple who run the dairy, well we milked a couple of sheep. 14 that is! And those 14 sheep gave us 7L of milk. So the long & short of it is even all the milk of those 14 sheep there isn’t enough to produce 1 lb of cheese. Tough work making cheese, I say.
Inspired by her goat farming protégée and playing off popular TV series “Bewitched” Maggie Paradis’ says that La Sorcière Bien Aimée was born to add a brie type to the wonderful variety of other goat, cow and sheep’s milk cheeses produced by Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères. Not one to compromise quality or consistency, Maggie’s cheese must always be good or she won’t make it – pure and simple.
Handmade from whole natural milk, La Sorcière Bien Aimée has a good, clean goaty flavour with a hint of sweet grass and no bitterness, ammonia or aftertaste, even if a little overripe. The paste is thick, smooth, creamy and silky, wild with mushroom aromas and a salty finish. Specific cultures and a cheesemaker’s patience and care give these excellent results — not rushing is crucial. I love Maggie’s cheeky attitude as she describes the aging of La Sorcière… “the cheese pouts at first, then it will cry, becoming a weepy mess…”. My sentiments exactly, only they’re tears of joy in this case.
One of my earliest & fondest cheese tasting memories is my cheese pick this week, Bonnechere, from local Back Forty Artisan Cheese, hailing from Ottawa Valley’s own Lanark Highlands. I was a young, unripened cheese enthusiast when I discovered Back Forty cheeses years ago, made from raw sheep’s milk & hand-crafted in the kitchen of owner Jim Keith. This special find is named after the rugged Bonnechere River & mysterious cave landmarks of our region.
Bonnechere is one-of- a-kind artisan cheese. It’s a semi-firm, double pressed and unique both inside and out. A beautiful, chestnut patterned toasted rind covers the interior smooth ivory paste. Hand torching gives Bonnecheresmoky aromas and a very distinct caramel flavor. As it ages, these characteristics amplify the tangy, sweet, and fruity body of the cheese. Sour milk lingers with a slight amount of acidity. Produced in very small quantities with seasonal milk, it’s a hot commodity. If you see this cheese, don’t blink, don’t hesitate, snap it up immediately. I suggest The Piggy Market or Serious Cheese as a starting point. Make these cheesemongers your best friend and you’ll never miss out.
Situated along the banks of the picturesque Black River, Black River Cheese remains dedicated to preserving more than a century old tradition of producing real cheese; superior tasting and handcrafted, using only 100% pure fluid milk from Price Edward County dairy farms, and no modified milk ingredients, artificial preservatives or animal rennet.
This amazing bit of sweetness in your cheese will see you through summer for sure! Made by one of Prince Edward County’s two main cheese makers, Black River Cheese, this cow’s milk cheese is a great combo of sweet & salty.
This multi-award-winning cheese from Mariposa Dairy in Lindsay, ON, is preserved in wax to hold all the flavour. Each piece is aged a minimum of 9 months and up to two years. Mariposa waxed goat cheddar will inspire your taste buds to enjoy the nuances of a great cheese and make any occasion memorable.
So many great Canadian cheeses…how to taste them all?
Where to buy Canadian cheese in Ottawa?
In Ottawa, there is so much great local produce that we should take the time and the trouble to enjoy it – take a break from the daily grind and go to farmers markets on the weekend to seek out the freshest produce. That’s where you can meet the people who grow the peaches, talk to the cheesemongers who make the cheese and hear first hand about the bread that is baked fresh that morning.
While the weather is still warm & sunny, visit any number of Ottawa’s Farmers markets which showcase only local produce on Saturdays & Sundays until Thanksgiving. Try each of these, you will probably discover something about each market that will keep you coming back! Parkdale Market, Main Street Market, Brewer Park Market, Westboro Market.
For those of you not in the know, Ottawa has some great specialty shops where you can buy local cheese. Here are just a few of them: Jacobsons at 141 Beechwood in the Rockcliffe/Manor Park area; Serious Cheese at 442 Hazledean in Kanata and Piggy Market at 400 Winston Avenue in Westboro.
Summer Recipe for Peach & Beet Salad
From Vanessa’s Kitchen
Watch it live on CTV News Ottawa
6 Local peaches
Olive oil to toss fruits in
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup local wild blueberries
1/4 cup toasted nuts or seeds of your choice
handful of microgreens
200g fresh chèvre or fresh local feta
Salt & pepper to taste
Slice peaches (skin on) and combine with partially cooked beets. Roast at 400F-425F for about 30 mins.
Let cool then toss together with Upper Canada dried cranberries, local wild blueberries, toasted nuts or seeds.
Put fruits & nut mixture over bed of microgreens and add fresh chèvre (such as Crosswind Farms cranberry organge chevre available at Piggy Market). And voila!
Thanks to my sous-chef Leanne for all her help in producing this summer salad.
Bon appetit & here’s to holding onto summer!
Are you whey keen on cheese? With the largest cheese festival in Canada coming up this weekend (June 7 & 8), we want to help make your visit to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival the best experience yet. You will discover that Canadian cheese is so MUCH more than just cheddar! It will be a fun day meeting & learning from the dynamic people who put their heart & soul into crafting the cheeses. And new this year is a post-fest party Makers+Mongers that we are proudly sponsoring. It will be a fun (and delicious) way to unwind after the festival and mix & mingle with those involved in the cheese biz.
Tip #1 – How to Get There?
Hop on the Savvy Bus bound for The County stopping in at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival for the afternoon, then onwards to visit 2 wineries, then have dinner under the stars at the Makers+Mongers event. Sit back & relax. Let our Savvy Sommeliers take care of all of the details of this marvelous day trip. Pick up points in Ottawa (downtown & west end) as well as Brockville & Kingston. Only 6 spots left. Book your spot on the Bus >>
Tip #2 – Make your ‘Must Try’ list
While you may be blown away with the numbers of different cheeses on display at Cheese Festival, the obvious question is: Where to Start?
Here the list of cheese makers by province to help you map out your trip around the festival.
Tip #3 – How to taste a cheese
It’s certainly not rocket science, yet here is how the pros do it – as easy as Eyes, Nose & Mouth:
EYES – Admire the rind (outside) & paste (inside), the color & texture
NOSE –Take a big sniff – what does the aroma remind you of…A barn? fruit? nuts? earth?
MOUTH –Take a nibble – Do it taste like mushrooms? sour milk? grass? Saltiness? Herbs? Bitterness?
REPEAT & ENJOY of course…
Tip #4 – Be on the look out for these cheeses!
There will be over 200 cheeses…yes you read that right 200! Be forewarned and don’t try to sample them all. In addition to the recent award winners from the All Canadian Cheese Awards, here some to be sure to try at either the Cheese Festival or make sure to seek them out at your local cheese store.
Best of Show: 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Grand Champion
2013 American Cheese Society Category Winner.
Ricotta in Italian means re-cooked. This cheese is made from the leftover whey after making other cheese. This Ricotta reigned supreme, winning against over 225 of Canada’s best cheeses, a first ever for both an Ontario cheese, & fresh category cheese.
My Notes: Fresh, creamy, melt in your mouth. Very light, but rich & very versatile as a simple cheese to eat with a variety of garnishes/ condiments or used in cooking.
Inspired by their Swiss & French cultures, the resulting products are a marriage made in heaven & leaving their mark in Quebec. Cheeses are made from goats raised on the farm, in true “fermier” fashion.
My Notes: This soft-surface-ripened goat’s milk cheese has a unique pyramid shape, with a lovely, natural, slightly wrinkled, soft moldy rind, that on occasion displays spots of blue. The paste is creamy, velvety, firm towards the center & slightly softer closer to the rind. It has a fresh aroma, with a light acidity.
Organic farming techniques contribute to the aromas & flavors in their cheeses, as cows feed from forage fields of aromatic plants & flowers & care is taken to preserve flavors through the milking, handling & cheesemaking processes. One of the only producers of raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days in Canada.
My Notes: Soft, lactic, surface ripened cow milk cheese. A rare find. The skin-like rind reminds Vanessa of intricate ivory lace, while the dense interior has the texture of a soft cream sandwich or cheesecake. Note pronounced flavors & aromas of fresh sweet milk & grass that linger and linger. Finger licking good!
Famous among Quebec cheeses, having won more awards over the years than one can keep track of. Simon Pierre, master cheese maker started off helping out & never left the business! Named as a tribute to his grandfather Alfred Bolduc who started the business 80 years earlier – as shown in the beautiful imprint inset into the rind of the cheese.
My Notes: A true, rustic, organic, raw cow’s milk farmstead cheese made in small batches, pressed & cooked, washed/turned by hand. It has a European style, but with local terroir, as a result of choosing closely the hay from their local Estrie region (terroir!). Note heavy woodsy, herbal & floral aromas, with layers of milky, grassy & buttery complexity on the palette, more pronounced with age.
Named for a mountain across from the cheese shop, not surprisingly big on taste!
My Notes: A semi-firm, farmstead, pale blush-colored washed-rind cheese whose ivory paste becomes suppler with age – softening closer to the rind. Aromas are pronounced at room temp & on the palate experience fruity, salty flavors, sweet & sour cooked milk. Dense texture is perfect for snacking, or melted as grilled cheese.
Owner Jan Schalkwijk, has been making cheese for over fifty years, from The Netherlands to Canada, has always been a dairyman, focusing on cows as a hobby.
My Notes: Named for power & strength, naturally ripened & touted as “lactose-free” after one week due to the cultures used & the varying of temperature from room to higher than average during the first stages of affinage. Aged for two years, it has strong flavors of nut combined with a smooth creamy texture.
Named for its local region (“kaas” the Dutch word for cheese), aged for 14 to 24 months, this extra old batch of Lancaster is from gourmet artisan cheese maker pioneer Margaret Morris.
My Notes: Firm to hard cow’s milk cheeses comes shaped in a loaf or wheel, covered in a waxy rind is a Gouda-style after Dutch farmstead cheese. It’s rich, dense & chewy with intense buttery, fruity, caramelized nutty flavors that linger forever.
My Notes: A beautiful, semi-soft, raw organic cow’s milk blue cheese, it has a natural rind with spots of dark clay. The creamy, silky, straw-colored paste is speckled with slate & blue-green veins throughout. Rich in flavor, with a hint of sweetness, spice & salt, it pairs beautifully with iced wine, cider or port.
New this year we are sponsoring the post-festival party called the Makers+Mongers serving up even more opportunity to mix & mingle with folks in the cheese biz while noshing on gourmet creations. Each dish will feature one of the top winning cheeses from the Canadian Cheese Awards.
Everyone welcome to join the fun.
BONUS TIP #6 – Even more ways to learn about cheese
And be sure to take part in the seminars too – including a Craft Beer & Cheese tasting by our own Savvy Sommelier Debbie Trenholm. And my seminar: The People’s Choice Awards to select your favorite Canadian cheese.
Saturday at 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
The tables are turned…this time you will be the judge as you taste & score Canadian Cheese Awards winners to select People’s Choice for Canadian Cheese of the Year.
Here is your chance to sample the 16 best artisan cheeses made in Canada in a three-hour marathon tasting. Yes…3 hours of nothing but cheese! Evaluate and score them just like a judge would in a competition. You’ll be guided by two experts who served as judges at the Canadian Cheese Awards earlier this year, Vanessa Simmons cheese sommelier at Savvy Company and Janice Beaton, owner of Janice Beaton Fine Cheese and FARM Restaurant, Calgary. Your scores will be tabulated on the spot to then determine the People’s Choice Canadian Cheese of the Year. It will be interesting to compare your choice against the cheese the professional judges named at the REAL Canadian Cheese Awards on April 7 2014 in Toronto.
Tickets: ORDER NOW
Saturday at 2 p.m.
We’ve all been to a Wine & Cheese . . . but might Beer & Cheese be a better taste match?
Join Debbie Trenholm, Sommelier at Savvy Company and founder of Savvy Hip Hops Ontario craft-beer-of-the-month-club as she puts fine wines and craft beers to the taste test. The winning verdict of this Battle of the Taste Buds will be determined after enjoying many chunks of award-winning Canadian cheese paired with outstanding Ontario wines and craft beers. It’s not easy being cheesy, yet one thing is for sure, this tasting will be delicious!
Bonus: All participants will take home complimentary wine and beer tasting glasses.
Tickets: still a few spots left – ORDER NOW
We make it easy to be cheesey!
See you at the fest!
PRESS RELEASE: Come to the annual celebration of ‘all things cheese’ on June 7-8th at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. Award-winning artisan and farmstead cheese from coast to coast will be showcased at the biggest cheese show in Canada, held in Picton, Ontario.
Canadian Cheese of the Year – and the winner is…
Visitors to the festival will be able to taste and purchase more than 125 different cheeses including Le Baluchon, the Cheese of the Year made by Fromagerie F.X. Pichet of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec.
Marie-Claude Harvey, who owns the fromagerie with her husband, Michel Pichet, will be the guest of honour at Makers+Mongers, the Festival’s Saturday evening function celebrating the men and women who make and sell artisan cheese and artisan foods.
Cheesemakers, artisan food producers, small-batch wineries and craft breweries and other exhibitors and vendors have reserved 125 booths in Crystal Palace, Prince Edward Curling Club, the new Artisan Foods Pavilion and Picton Fairgrounds making the event the biggest cheese show in Canada and one of the biggest artisan foods markets in Ontario.
New & improved in 2014
In addition to cheese and more cheese, artisan foods and beverages, the Artisan Cheese & Fine Food Fair on Saturday and Sunday, June 7 and 8, features:
New for 2014: Sales of VQA wines by the bottle or case by wineries as part of the pilot project initiated by the Ontario government to promote locally-grown wines.
New for 2014: Rest and recover from all the sampling in the Festival’s new Presentation Pavilion while listening to local musicians.
New topics: Seminars in the All you Need Is Cheese® Annex presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada as a bonus feature of the
Artisan Cheese & Fine Food Fair. Learn about the best in Canadian cheese at special presentations conducted by leading cheese educator Deborah Levy.
The Festival’s own Cheese Dairy Farm featuring cows, goats, sheep and Yvette, the sweetest water buffalo you’ll ever meet.
A Food Court featuring tasty eats prepared by Urban Herb, Picnic Food Truck and Seed to Sausage.
Sunday, June 8, is Family Day at the Cheese Fair with children admitted free when accompanied by an adult.
Cheese Fair adult admission includes
Access to all sponsors, exhibitors and vendors—with close to 200 products to sample
10 tasting tickets for cheese, artisan foods, wine and beer, valued at $10
Souvenir Festival insulated bag for your purchases, valued at $10
Glass for sampling wine, beer and cider
Admittance on first-come, first-served basis to cheese seminars presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada
Festival Dairy Farm, Food court and FREE parking.
Tickets for The Great Canadian Cheese Festival
The advance ticket price is $36. At the event, the price is $45. There is no fee charged on online ticket purchases. Youth and child tickets for the Cheese Fair are available. All other Festival events are age of majority only.
Special Events & Presentations at the The Great Canadian Cheese Festival
The Tutored Tasting presentations include how to pair artisan cheese with wine, how to pair artisan cheese with beer and a three-hour marathon tasting billed as You Be The Judge: Taste and score the 16 best cheeses in the Canadian Cheese Awards to determine the People’s Choice for Canadian Cheese of the Year. Separate tickets required.
Special events like Gastronomy on the Farm with Jamie Kennedy and Cooking with Cheese Class are sold out already. Still available are tickets for Tutored Tastings, Cheese Tours—one in Prince Edward County, the other in Bay of Quinte Region—and Makers+Mongers.
Picton Fairgrounds is located in the heart of Prince Edward County, south of Belleville in Bay of Quinte Region. One hour from Kingston, two hours from Toronto, three hours from Ottawa and New York State, and less than four hours from Montreal.
The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is produced by Cheese Lover Productions with the generous support of Celebrate Ontario. Dairy Farmers of Canada is Diamond Sponsor and Bay of Quinte Region is Gold Sponsor. Savvy Company is Presenting Partner.
Advance tickets are sold online at www.CheeseFestival.ca. In order to assure a high-quality experience for consumers and producers, ticket sales will be limited, so don’t delay. Save money and avoid the line-up at the door by purchasing tickets in advance.
Details for The Great Canadian Cheese Festival
June 7-8, 2014, Picton, Ontario
Hot off the press! This cheese-y article appeared in the latest issue of Grapevine Magazine loaded with our Cheese Sommelier – Vanessa Simmons – Top 10 Tips on where to find, how to buy & tasting tips on enjoying artisan cheeses.
Navigating the world of artisan cheese is something like dating. You never truly know what you’re getting into until you spend the time, experiment and have several encounters, noticing the person’s character traits, appearance and mannerisms in a variety of situations. Only then do you discover the true personality of an individual or, in this case…a piece of cheese.
Here are 10 ways to really get to know your cheese better:
Chances are you’ll find a cheesemaker at most Ontario farmer’s markets. Visit often, ask a lot of questions and taste something new each time. Seek out jams, jellies, chutneys, honey, charcuterie, pates, artisan breads and crackers as well as ripe, in season produce to complement your cheese. Inquire whether there might be a wheel specially aged or a new cheese in development to test. Experiment.
Visit a local cheesemaker at their production facility
Call first to introduce yourself and confirm availability. If it’s your lucky day, you’ll be able to actually see cheese being made and perhaps participate. One of my earliest and most memorable WOW cheese moments was scooping warm, fresh, soft, moist, silky cheese curds right out of the vat with my bare hands and slurping them up. Pure heaven. To this day I remember the cheesemaking experience at Fifth Town Cheese in Prince Edward County that gave me a true appreciation for the work that goes into producing artisan cheese.
Try a variety of milk types and categories of cheese
Fresh cheeses taste most like the real milk flavor of cow, sheep, goat or even water buffalo milk. Cheeses that are aged longer are more complex with developed flavors that give character. In Canada alone there are over 2000 types of cheese ranging from fresh, soft and un-ripened, soft and ripened to semi-soft, firm, washed rind, cheddar, hard and blue cheeses. Be sure to nibble on them all (even the blues). If you don’t like the cheese’s appearance, close your eyes and taste.
Compare “grocery store” generic brand cheese with artisan cheese
Check the same category of cheese you would buy at the grocery store with what an artisan cheesemaker produces. Note the flavors, texture and characteristics, or more commonly, lack thereof. Read labels to confirm the cheese is made with 100% natural Canadian milk and doesn’t contain modified milk ingredients. You’ll quickly realize the differences and merit of choosing local artisan cheese.
Buy the same cheese from various sources
There are so many opportunities to buy cheese…at the market, cheesemongers, or direct from the manufacturer, to get a sense of what is normal for a particular cheese. Not all cheeses are handled properly through the supply chain and even cheese has a bad or off day every once and a while that will affect flavor, aroma, texture and appearance. My experience judging the Canadian Cheese Awards was a good example of this – some submissions weren’t truly at their best. Buying direct from the cheesemaker will give you a good benchmark to measure against over time.
Track your tastings and do some research
Keep a cheese journal. Note date purchased, date made/age (ask), where you bought it, price, amount, and your thoughts. Record what you see, smell, feel and savor over time (size, colors, texture, distinguishing features, ripeness). List words you use as descriptors such as mushroomy, velvety, creamy, buttery, grassy, vegetal, barny, oozy, gritty, pasty, chalky, smooth, sweet and fruity. Not sure how to describe? Close your eyes and picture yourself in a farmer’s field with the sun shining and see what comes to mind. Check websites and reviews (but be cautious, much of what is published can be re-postings of the content of others). In some cases reviewers are writing about cheeses and pairings they’ve never tasted themselves.
Pair with wine (don’t forget bubbly & rosé), local beer & even cider!
Gather friends, fabulous fromage and your favorite local wine, craft beers and ciders. Conduct a tasting of the cheeses first then mix n’ match with your bevvies and let the games begin. Note popular pairings and throw standard pairing rules out the window.
Sample the same cheese over time
Taste at the beginning of summer, middle/end of summer and over the winter months. Do you notice a difference in flavor, complexity or terroir (reflection of the milk by region)? Record your findings.
If you’re really passionate about Canadian cheese get your curd loving self to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival June 7/8 in Prince Edward County. Canada’s largest gathering of artisan cheese producers offers the best chance to do some serious experimentation with 4000+ cheesy friends. I’ll be there with the Savvy Company team. Track down Canadian Cheese Award winners. While in town visit Black River Cheese, Ontario’s oldest diary co-op. Sample their new-on-the-market honey and wine-soaked cheddars, and popular maple cheddar. Also make it a point to drop by Fifth Town Cheese, who are now under new management and warrant a stop for local products.
Taste, taste, taste!
Of all ten tips, this is the most important in truly getting to know your artisan cheese. Pick a handful of your favorite cheeses and make it a priority to really be mindful and fully aware (like yoga for cheese) of your experience with that cheese over a period of one-year minimum.
How do you know you’ve found “the one”? Keep trying until a cheese gives you an OMG reaction where your eyes pop out of your head, your heart sings, and you experience that oh-so-orgasmic feeling on your palate right down to the tips of your toes. Then repeat & share with friends.
At the end of all of that hard work, you’ll have discovered the cheese love of your life and can continue your journey to explore new artisan cheeses.
This article has been reposted with the permission of Grapevine Magazine.
More about Vanessa Simmons – our Savvy Cheese Sommelier
Vanessa Simmons is the cheese sommelier at Savvy Company in Ottawa, spending countless hours with regional cheese mongers and cheesemakers. Vanessa has studied with Cheese Education Guild (Level 2), Toronto, and Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute, Basic Cuisine Certificate, Ottawa; has worked as a chef and her popular tasting seminars & speaking events throughout Ontario make for a delicious discovery of Canadian artisan cheeses.
She’s been seen & heard on Rogers TV Daytime, CTV Morning Live, CBC Radio & Radio Canada, RubyTV, has been a keynote presenter at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival year over year, a judge at the 2013 Selection Caseus – Le Concours de Fromages Fins de Quebec & inaugural 2014 Canadian Cheese Awards and it’s been noted by The Toronto Star that she is “openly fanatical about artisan cheese”. Follow Vanessa @savvyvanessa or read her popular “Curd On the Street” blog posts.