Posted by VanessaFriday, May 27th, 2016
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!