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
–Vanessa & the Savvy Team
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.
Suggested Pairing: This would be great cheese on a charcuterie board to accompany cured meats by our friends at local artisan producers – Seed to Sausage, Meat Press or Dolce Lucano.
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 slices of your favourite local artisan bread (I suggest Seed Bread from True Loaf Bread Co. or Art-Is-In Bakery’s Crazy Grain)
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.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings
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!