Celebrating with Canadian cheese is one of the simplest ways I know to entertain during hectic holidays. Cheese is low maintenance and requires no time or fuss to prepare. It always presents well, but best of all, when chosen with care, is guaranteed to be the highlight of party conversations and special memories for years to come. This month’s holiday issue of Savvy Cool Curds spotlights a selection of cheeses for easy entertaining.
2016 was another busy year for Canadian cheesemakers. With more events, competitions and awards, producers and tasty cheeses on the scene than ever, deciding on only a few will be the hardest chore you’ll have on your “to do” list. Read on for holiday tips with Canadian Cheese and last minute gift ideas!
In your Savvy Cool Curds you will find…
…very special and hard-to-find artisan cheeses including:
Apprenti Sorcier 200g
Milkhouse Tomme 200g
Muskoka Bliss 200g
Christmas Cheese Ball 200g
Looking for more awesome Canadian cheese for holiday entertaining?
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
by Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier
Entertaining with Canadian artisan cheese is the easiest whey to add a cheesy element to your holiday plans this festive season. Give cheese as a hostess gift or for that hard to buy for name on your list, introduce a cheese course to your holiday meal either as a stunning appetizer to kick things off or as a lazy finish, or pull together a quick wine & cheese tasting as a cocktail party substitute. Here are some of my quick tips:
Top Tips for Entertaining
1) Think of your audience
Who are you entertaining and for how long? Will a meal or other snacks be served? When in doubt choose small soft wheels of cheese (buy a few to have on hand, they make wonderful hostess gifts too).
2) Be a Savvy shopper
Buy from a reputable cheese shop as close as possible to your celebration. Ask for a fresh cut wedge. In Ottawa, look for artisan cheeses at Serious Cheese, The Piggy Market, Thyme & Again, The Red Apron, Jacobson’s Gourmet Concepts, the Ottawa Bagelshop and throughout Ontario at fine grocery stores such as Farm Boy.
2) Mix & mingle
Consider taste, style and texture or region, milk type (cow, sheep, goat, buffalo) or category (fresh, soft, semi-soft, washed, firm, hard, blue). 3 to 5 cheeses display well on a board or serve one stellar cheese as an appetizer or dessert. Buying cheeses that look different offers visual appeal. 5-10gms/cheese/person is a good rule of thumb.
3) Serve with star treatment
Serve at room temperature. Offer one knife per cheese. Don’t cut up small pieces in advance. Use an interesting wooden board, cross cut log, plate, slate or marble tiles or tiered trays for visual appeal. Keep it simple so the cheese will shine.
4) Compliment your cheese
Serve specialty breads, gourmet crackers, fresh seasonal or dried fruits, figs, dates, raw or toasted nuts, olives, caramelized or pickled onions or milder charcuterie items as accompaniments.
5) Add wine or craft beer
In general beers and white wines pair best and more often with a wider variety of cheeses. Remember balance is key. For help on selecting wines & craft beers give our experts a call 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926)
6) Talk it up
What do you see, smell and taste? Share your experience. Compare notes. Conversations around the cheese board create lasting memories of your event. Cheese has evolved from being solely an ingredient to the focal point of a party, as it’s the perfect food to bring people together.
7) Take time to enjoy every nibble
Slow down and savor each morsel. The holidays are a special time of year to make merry with friends, family (and cheese!). Take a break from hosting to enjoy yourself and the company of your guests.
Cheese Tasting Notes
Below are Vanessa’s tasting notes and photos for each cheese in your Savvy Cool Curds, along with additional tidbits of interesting information, suggested food pairings & recipes to try too!
Maggie Paradis of La Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères is the wizard behind Apprenti Sorcier (translated as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”), a soft, surface-ripened pasteurized mixed sheep and cow milk cheese sold in small wheels.
Tasting Notes: A thick, bright white bloomy rind and rich, runny, ivory paste produce wild mushroomy aromas mixed with buttery, finger-licking, salty flavours.
Suggested Pairing: Have a loaf of crusty baguette on hand if your piece is ripe — you’ll need it to “mop up” until the cheese is all gone! Top with chutneys, relishes, caramelized onions, cranberries, nuts, maple syrup or honey/rosemary for a quick appetizer.
Stonetown Cheese Homecoming
One of Ontario’s newest “cheeses on the scene”, Stonetown Cheese’s Homecoming is already making headlines as a finalist in the “Best New Cheese” category at the Canadian Cheese Awards and first prize at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair recently. I love the quote on their website “Life is great, cheese makes it better”. We wholeheartedly agree!
Tasting Notes: Homecoming is a semi-soft, washed rind, Swiss alpine style farmstead cheese. Made with fresh unpasteurized Holstein milk it has mild earthy flavor profile.
Suggested Pairing: Great as snacking or grilled cheese, pair with unoaked Chardonnay or Semillon.
The hardworking team of Cait and Kyle White from Smiths Falls makes Milkhouse Tomme lovingly from their own flock of British Milk Sheep. They are proud to have full traceability from animal to market of their milk and their cheese.
Tasting Notes: Milkhouse Tomme is a beautiful, rustic raw sheep milk cheese with a natural rind styled after French Tomme de Savoie. It’s a tasty package of richness, with a dense interior texture and herbal and grassy notes on the nose and palate.
Suggested Pairing: Great paired with Sauvignon Blanc or oaky Chardonnay and dolloped with a stone fruit (peach, apricot) preserve.
Muskoka Bliss is a seasonal cow milk cheese from Stonetown Cheese in St. Mary’s, Ontario. Gorgeous on a cheese plate for holiday entertaining.
Tasting Notes: Muskoka Bliss comes in an attractive package of dark eggplant colored wax. On the inside find mild, buttery milky flavors with a hint of cranberry fruit.
Suggested Pairing: Pair with a light red (Gamay or Pinot Noir) and fruit/nut crackers.
Maggie’s Cheese Ball
Maggie Paradis of La Fromagerie Les Folies Bergères makes these rare, seasonal cheese balls once a year. They’re a guaranteed sell out but we managed to secure some for our coveted Savvy Cool Curds subscribers.
Tasting Notes: Maggie’s cheese ball is a combination of both local cow and goat’s milk mixed with a variety of ingredients to add zing and extra flavor such as lemon juice and scallions all rolled in crushed pecans for a gorgeous finish.
Suggested Pairing: Enjoy on it’s own (even by yourself without sharing!) with a hearty sourdough bread or Parisian baguette. Pair with a Cabernet Sauvignon or local brew for extra enjoyment. Or, do as I do, eat it right off the spoon – it doesn’t last long in my house!
NOTE: you may see a crease of blue on the inside of the packaging…don’t despair, this is not mould, rather it is the extra pieces of CFAI approved cellophane (aka Saran Wrap) crunched tightly into the vacuumed pack bag!
Recipes to enjoy with the featured cheeses
With Apprenti Sorcier…
Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions
Recipe adapted & Photo Credit: Epicurious
2 Tbsp. (1/4 stick) butter
8 cups sliced onions (about 4 large)
1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. sugar
1 8-inch-diameter 32- to 36-ounce Brie
2 baguettes, sliced
Melt butter in heavy very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, sauté until just tender, about 6 minutes. Add minced thyme, reduce heat to medium and cook until onions are golden, stirring often, about 25 minutes. Add garlic and sautée 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup wine; stir until almost all liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over onions and sauté until soft and brown, about 10 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup wine; stir just until liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Unwrap Brie and place on a shallow small round baking dish (for presentation). Cut away only top rind of cheese, leaving rind on sides and bottom intact. Return to dish, rind side down. Place dish on baking sheet. Top Brie evenly with onion mixture. Bake until cheese just melts, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a platter. Surround with baguette slices.
With Stonetown cheeses…
Cheese Fondue for Two
Recipe & Photo Credit: Stonetowncheese.com
a loaf of French Bread
1/2 clove of garlic
160 g Grand Trunk, grated
160 g Wildwood, grated
80 g Homecoming, grated
2 tsp. cornstarch
Cut French bread into 1″ cubes and set the table before you start heading the fondue.
Rub the caquelon (fondue pan) with half a clove of garlic, cut into small pieces and leave in the caquelon (fondue pan).
Mix Grand Trunk, Wildwood and Homecoming with cornstarch in caquelon (fondue pan), add wine and lemon juice.
With constant stirring, heat up until the cheese is melted and creamy. Add kirsch brandy (optional), season with pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Place the caquelon (fondue pan) over a small spirit burner to keep the fondue at boiling point.
Dip the bite size, cubed French bread into the fondue using a long handled fork.
Stir the fondue every time you dunk a piece of break so the fondue does not burn to the bottom of the caquelon (fondue pan).
With Milkhouse Tomme…
Recipe & Photo Credit: Laura Robin – The Ottawa Citizen
6 medium potatoes
2 large red onions
2 to 4 cloves garlic
Dash olive oil
½ lb. bacon or pancetta
Dash Sherry or white wine (optional)
5 to 8 oz. Milkhouse Tomme, cut into small cubes
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
1 cup 18% (half-and-half or light) cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Slice potatoes 1/4-inch (1-cm thick) and cook in boiling, salted water about 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain, set aside.
Slice the red onions 1/4-inch (1-cm) thick, lengthwise, from the root to the tip, and fry with chopped garlic and a dash of olive oil over medium heat until soft.
Roughly chop bacon or pancetta and add to pan with onions and garlic. Add a dash of sherry or white wine and scrape to deglaze pan. Simmer until bacon is cooked and onions are caramelized.
Layer half the sliced potatoes in a buttered 9-by-13-inch (23-by-35-cm) glass baking dish. Sprinkle half of the bacon-and-onion mixture over. Repeat both layers. Sprinkle cubed Tomme on top.
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour, mix, and cook briefly, then gradually stir in milk and cream. Cook, stirring, until mixtures thickens and almost boils. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour sauce over potatoes and cheese in dish.
Bake uncovered on the middle rack of oven for 25 minutes, or until cheese is puffy and slightly golden and sauce is bubbling.
With Muskoka Bliss…
Brie, Cranberry and Pancetta Phyllo Bites
Recipe & Photo Credit: Popsugar.com
Coconut oil spray
1/2 pound pancetta, finely diced
1 roll of phyllo sheets, defrosted
Pinch of cayenne pepper
5 ounces brie (substitute Muskoka Bliss)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease three mini muffin tins with cooking spray. Cook pancetta until crisp.
Place one piece of phyllo dough on a flat surface. Spray with coconut oil. Place another sheet on top; repeat four more times for a total of six sheets. Spray top piece of dough with coconut oil. Using a pizza wheel, cut dough into 3-inch squares. Tuck into mini muffin tins. Repeat two more times until you have 36 shells.
Bake for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Reduce heat in oven down to 300°F.
For the cranberries: Place cranberries, water, sugar and pinch of cayenne in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the berries are reduced, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Divide cheese into 36 even pieces. Place in bottom of each shell. Top with a little bit of cranberry sauce. Pop into the oven for five minutes or until cheese has melted.
Sprinkle with crispy pancetta.
Last Minute Cheese-y Gifts…
With only a few sleeps until Christmas, here are some easy ways to take care of those last minute presents for the “nice” cheese lovers on your list dreaming of a cheesey Christmas!
Personal-sized Raclette or fondue for two
A gift card from a local cheese monger or fine food shop
A selection of hand crafted jams, chutneys, jellies, preserves or charcuterie
A chunk of natural honeycomb to enjoy with Canadian cheese
Canadian Cheese A Guide by Kathy Guidi
A subscription to Savvy Cool Curds…of course!
A gift certificate to a Savvy Event to discover craft beers, artisan wines and Canadian cheese
Tickets to the Great Canadian Cheese Festival, Picton, June 3 & 4th, 2017, Canada’s biggest cheese show
A set of cheese knives
A handmade cutting board or live edge boards for serving
A Cheese Sommelier hosted in-home cheese tasting experience – call us on 613-SAVVYCO to get started!
A “cheesemaker for a day” experience at a local producer
A cheese journal to track tasting notes and favourites
Cheese paper for storing Canadian cheese
Local craft beer, artisan wine to go with cheese