This month’s Savvy Cool Curds selection pays tribute to the Canadian Cheese Awards, and the best artisan cheeses in Canada. Launched in 2014 by Georgs Kolesnikovs, founder of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, and staunch supporter of the Canadian artisan cheese industry, the Canadian Cheese Awards are the first of their kind, inclusive of all milk types and all provinces across our nation. AND Georgs is a Savvy Cool Curds subscriber too!
Judging for the Canadian Cheese Awards takes place every second year. Beyond many category winners there is one ultimate champion, named Cheese Of The Year. It was just announced that this year, Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, from COWS Creamery in Prince Edward Island took home the of Cheese of The Year title. Our long time subscribers will remember Avonlea as we sent you 2 chunks of it in the Savvy Cool Curds February feature.
This month’s selection is from those cheesemakers who only have a few types of cheeses – not enough for a full feature in Savvy Cool Curds. The other award winners will be showcased in upcoming months. Stay tuned!
In your Savvy Cool Curds you will find…
…hard-to-find and delicious award-winning artisan cheeses including:
-Sabot de Blanchette (Natural)
-Le Paillasson de L’Isle D’Orléans
-Dragon’s Breath Blue
Crazy for more medal winning cheeses?
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
Vanessa & the Savvy Team
Canadian Cheese Award Winners
by Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier
Canada is home to over 1500 different varieties and types of cheeses. While not all of them are considered artisanal, about half make that grade. There are also a handful of cheese awards through a number of industry organizations, recognizing the crème de la crème of cheeses in various categories, however The Canadian Cheese Awards is the first and only cheese competition in this country that considers all milk types such as cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo from all provinces. This means cheeses are made with 100% natural Canadian milk, with no artificial colors, flavours, preservatives and no modified milk ingredients.
Earlier this year, on February 18 & 19th, 12 judges (myself included!) gathered at the University of Guelph, Department of Food Science, for a two-day cheese tasting experience like no other, presided over by Dr. Arthur Hill.
So many cheeses…
A whopping 301 entries were submitted by artisan cheesemakers from British Columbia to Prince Edward Island, and all the provinces in between. There is an official process for cheese submission, which remains anonymous to both judges and the general public. Cheesemongers and cheese industry professionals manage the reception and storage of cheese to ensure secrecy and that quality is maintained during the judging process. Judges are recognized in the industry for their deep expertise in artisan cheese.
Overall the goals of The Canadian Cheese Awards are to determine and promote the best cheeses in Canada for all milks, to provide honest and constructive feedback to cheesemakers on their cheeses and create a symbol of excellence in Canadian cheese that consumers and the industry alike will recognize.
A winning recipe
Judging happens in teams of two in each of 17 categories, one person evaluating aesthetics and one evaluating the technical aspects of each entry. Both consider aroma, appearance, texture and flavor. Marks are given by the aesthetic judge for superior qualities of those 4 areas. Marks are deducted by technical judges for any faults noticed in the cheese. Both strive to uncover nuances of terroir, character, flavor profile, and differences that make the cheese standout and unique, worth of being best in it’s class. Not just any old cheese makes the grade. This is very similar to how we decide which cheeses and cheesemakers make it to Savvy Cool Curds – we want to WOW you! At the end of two days of tasting over 301 cheeses, 78 finalists rose to the top, in 31 categories including contenders for Cheese of the Year.
The who’s who of the Canadian cheese industry gathered in April at the Time Supper Club in Montreal for the Awards Ceremony, naming all category winners and Cheese of the Year –Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, followed by a packed-house Awards Tasting Gala for the general public and media (we’ll make sure all Savvy Cool Curds subscribers get an invite for 2018!) and giant cheese tasting party!
Put your tasting hat on!
We’re thrilled to bring you Fromagerie F.X. Pichet Le Baluchon (2014 Cheese of the Year winner) – born of a love story which dates back to when the owners Michel Pichet & Marie-Claude Harvey of Sainte-Anne-De-La-Pérade, Québec were high school sweethearts, and reunited later in life. Fromagerie La Suisse Normande’s Sabot de Blanchette (2016 Best Soft Cheese) is a stunning little goat milk pyramid from Lanaudière, Quebec (a quick stop off Hwy 40 on the way to Montreal). Old Growler and Dragon’s Breath Blue from That Dutchman’s Farm from Upper Economy, Nova Scotia are rare finds in Ontario. Le Paillasson de L’Isle D’Orléans, said to be the first cheese
produced in America, of Fromagerie de L’Isle D’Orléans, Quebec is a fun grilling cheese experience…it is no wonder it was awarded 2016 Best Grilling Cheese.
•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!
Best Bloomy Rind Cheese 2016
Inspired by their European cultures (Swiss & French), this fromagerie’s products are a marriage made in heaven and leaving their mark in Québec. Cheeses are made from goats raised on the farm, in true “fermier” (farmstead) fashion.
Tasting 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 & white, firm towards the center, & acidity and yeasty tang on the palate.
Suggested Pairing: Try with a crisp dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris. Enjoy spread on fruit & nut crackers, smeared with seasonal compote (rhubarb or strawberry).
Best Grilling Cheese 2016
Paillasson is special cheese somewhat like an uncooked marshmallow, its unique character doesn’t fully shine until it’s fried or grilled, lending to its melty (but not melted) properties. Best always served warm.
Tasting Notes: This fresh, unripened semi-soft grilling cheese has milky aromas. When heated in a skillet or over a grill, flavors go from bland to boom becoming all melted butter and toasted nut, complete with the crispy bits we all love (just like your favorite grilled cheese without the bread!)
Suggested Pairing: Enjoy sliced wedges with spicy chorizo on a toothpick as a snack, wrap with prosciutto as an appetizer, serve as a side or centerpiece garnish to a local mixed green salad.
Best Farmstead Cheese 2016
Best Organic Cheese 2016
Cheese of the Year 2014
Le Baluchon is an example of organic products, created through systems and processes that are more sustainable and harmonious with their environments (soil, animals, people, and plants). Generally lower tech operations and milk sourced from pasture-based farms (if not their own) is used where animals are free of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers or chemicals.
Tasting Notes: Le Baluchon is a farmstead, washed-rind, certified “Québec Vrai” organic raw cow’s milk cheese aged for 60 days. Notice harvest colors of apricot/orange/terracotta in the rind with a thin white dusty layer that develops as the cheese ages. Inside, a bright golden yellow semi-firm creamy paste showing small holes glistens in sunlight. Made OKA-style, it has similar characteristics: a gritty textured rind, toasted hazelnut flavors, and pungent barny aromas.
Suggested Pairing: Melted as Raclette or enjoyed with an oaky Canadian Chardonnay.
Best Gouda Cheese 2016
Old Growler is a more mature (and the most popular) of The Dutchman’s Goudas. Born of a surplus of older cheeses, they decided to name it, and sell it at eighteen months.
Tasting Notes: Traditional aged Gouda characteristics starting to show – more pale gold hued open paste with eyes (pinholes) and crystals forming, firm to hardening texture, malty aromas developing with much stronger & lingering caramel flavor over milk with a bit of bite.
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.
Best Blue Cheese 2016
A rare find and multi-award winner, Dragon’s Breath Blue is a closely guarded family secret.
Tasting Notes: Unique in shape and size, these small cylinders of blue cheese are aged only a few weeks then coated with wax for ripening another 2-6 months. The flavor and texture varies by season, more buttery/creamy in the summer months with higher fat content in the milk. Note sharp blue flavor, moist texture with fruity notes, and little blue veining depending on exposure to air. Tip: Pop a small slice of the top off and leave it uncovered for 24-48 hrs. to develop more blue veining.
Suggested Pairing: Pair with a Canadian Gamay or Pinot Noir. Melt wedges into phyllo pastry squares and garnish.
With Sabot de Blanchette…
Spring Salad with Honeyed Rhubarb and Goat Cheese
The Ottawa Citizen’s Laura Robin
¾ lb. (340 g) rhubarb (about 7 slender stalks),
cut into ¾-inch (2-cm) pieces
¼ cup (60 mL) honey
½ cup (125 mL) walnut halves
2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
2 Tbsp (30 mL) white balsamic vinegar
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 bunches arugula (about 12 cups/3 L), tough stems removed
1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
½ cup (25 mL) goat cheese, crumbled
3 Tbsp (45 mL) fresh snipped chives (optional)
Preheat oven to 450 F (230 C) with racks in upper and lower thirds. On a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, toss rhubarb pieces with honey. Roast on upper rack until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, on another rimmed baking sheet, toast walnuts on lower rack until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Let rhubarb cool on pan. Cool walnuts, and then chop coarsely.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Toss arugula and fennel with the vinaigrette. Top the salad with the rhubarb, walnuts, goat cheese and chives.
With Le Paillasson de L’Isle D’Orléans…
Grilling Cheese with Cranberry & Pistachios
1/4 cup (60 mL) unsalted shelled pistachios
3 Tbsp (45 mL) sugar, divided
1/2 cup (125 mL) frozen cranberries
1/2 cup (125 mL) cranberry juice
8 oz. (250 g) Canadian grilling cheese – Le Paillasson de L’Isle D’Orléans
In a small skillet, toast pistachios on medium heat with 2 tbsp. (30 mL) sugar. Cook until sugar becomes golden brown and sticks to pistachios.
Transfer to a parchment-lined plate. Once pistachios have cooled, coarsely chop.
In a small saucepan, mix cranberries, cranberry juice and remaining sugar. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 5 minutes or until cranberries are tender. Using an upright or hand blender, purée mixture until smooth.
Heat a non-stick skillet on medium heat. Grill cheeses for 3–4 minutes on each side. You can also place cheeses on a parchment-lined baking sheet and grill in the oven, preheated to 450°F (230°C), for 4–5 minutes on each side.
Serve hot on top of cranberry coulis, garnished with crispy pistachios.
With Le Baluchon…
Tartlets with Baluchon and Caramelized Onions
12 Tartlet Crusts (Store-bought)
250 ml (1 cup) Le Baluchon Cheese, rind removed, grated
250 ml (1 cup) of 15% cream
1 pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
45 ml (3 Tbsp) butter
250 ml (1 cup) pearl onions
30 ml (2 Tbsp) sugar
15 ml (1 Tbsp) balsamic vinegar
15 ml (1 Tbsp) fresh rosemary, chopped
Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C).
Bake tartlets for 10 minutes or until crusts are golden.
Whisk cheese, eggs, cream and nutmeg in the food processor until the mixture is smooth. Add salt and pepper.
Fill tartlets with the cheese mixture.
Garnish with caramelized onions.
Bake for 10 more minutes or until the filling is golden.
In a large frying pan, melt the butter and brown the onions for 5 minutes.
Add the sugar and the balsamic vinegar.
Continue cooking for 5 minutes until the onions are caramelized and add the rosemary.
With Old Growler…
Gouda Asparagus Pesto
¼ 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) Canadian Aged Gouda – Old Growler, finely grated
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.
With Dragon’s Breath Blue…
Marinated Hangar Steak with Dragon’s Breath Blue Cheese
Hangar steak (recipe works great with flank, skirt, tenderloin and any grilling beef you choose).
½ cup red wine
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp dried thyme or rosemary
2 tsp dried basil
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Romaine hearts, torn into bite sized chunks
1 sweet red pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
1/2 English cucumber, chunked
Dragon’s Breath Blue Cheese
Chef Craig Flinn’s Awesome Vinaigrette
3 anchovy fillets
1 shallot, very finely minced
1 clove garlic, minced to pulp
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
For the vinaigrette:
Smash anchovy fillets in a bowl with a fork and add the shallot and garlic.
Add the mustard, lemon juice & zest, vinegar, salt & pepper and whisk until smooth. Add the oil in a slow steady stream while whisking until the vinaigrette is smooth and emulsified. Makes ¾ cup and will keep refrigerated for a couple of weeks.
For the steak/salad
In a large Ziplock bag, combine all the marinade ingredients and blend well. Add the prepared hanger steak (or whatever other cut you choose), coat well with the marinade and massage. You can let the meat marinate on the counter for a couple of hours before grilling or refrigerate for up to 48 hours. If refrigerating, bring the meat to room temperature before cooking.
To grill with bbq/ grill pan/ electric grill/ broiler… whatever you have – heat to high and grill for 3-4 minutes, turn the meat, lower the temp a bit and continue to grill for 4 minutes for medium rare. That’s how long for flank steak, but hanger steak being thicker will require more time. Turn the heat down to medium so it will not char, and turn every 4 minutes until done to your liking.
Remove from the grill and place on a plate, flipping the hot side (closest to the grill) on top and refrigerate for 5 minutes. Then slice on the diagonal, across the grain to serve.
While the steaks are grilling, place the torn romaine hearts and chunks of red peppers & cucumbers into a large serving bowl. Toss with vinaigrette.
Once the steaks are sliced, place them on top of the salad and crumble the cheese over top.
Enjoy your Savvy Cool Curds!