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Spotlight on Sheep’s Milk Cheese with Best Baa Dairy

sheeps milk cheese

Have you ever tried a sheep’s milk cheese? Some of our favourites come from Best Baa Dairy located in Fergus, Ontario. We love featuring all different kinds of unique Canadian cheeses like these in our subscription boxes.

Best Baa Dairy is a family run business that makes stunning cheese with local sheep milk. Not only do they make artisan sheep’s milk cheese, but their yogurt and ice cream are fantastic too…and it’s all 100% sheep’s milk!  “The days are long but this tremendous family effort is rewarded by happy consumers of our delicious sheep milk products”, says Nicole Bzikot, the dairy’s second-generation owner.

sheeps milk

Nicole and Peter – like the dairy’s previous owners Elisabeth and Eric – fundamentally believe that the viability, as well as sustainability, of the family farm is the backbone of rural communities.  Nicole and Peter continue the family mantra and are committed to the Five Freedoms of farming practiced by farming communities in the UK:

Freedom from hunger and thirst.
Freedom from fear and disease.
Freedom from discomfort.
Freedom from pain and injury.
Freedom to express natural, normal behaviour.

By providing the herd with these five freedoms, they tend to be healthier and the need for medication is rare.

20 Questions with Nicole Bzikot

the woman behind sheep's milk cheese

Not only is Nicole a great cheesemaker, she is also an incredibly interesting person with neat stories to tell about how she got into the cheese biz!

Current Job:
My husband Peter and I are the owner operators.  Peter’s parents started the biz & in January they retired. Honestly though, everyone does a bit of everything!

It’s Wine O’clock. What wine & cheese combo would you like right this minute?
My go-to is the Mouton Rouge, yet it needs a robust red to go with it and with the sun pouring into the cheese shop, I am thinking more along the lines of Rose wine right now.  So that definitely would be best with the Ramembert.

When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
The funny thing is that my background is in textile art.  I met Peter when I bought cheese at the St Laurence Market.  Interestingly, I was selling art supplies and handmade craft items at the time. I never EVER dreamed that I would be living on a farm. The craft part of me stays true as we are crafting cheese here.

What is in a name?
Around here, product names are often highly debated. We take the approach of using silly Sheep-related puns to make them memorable.

What is it about cheese that got you hooked?
Cheese can be political, romantic, and when you travel there is always different types to try.

What lead you down the path to becoming the cheesemaker you are today:
Cheesemaker wasn’t my dream job, but now I realize that I love eating cheese and it is such meaningful work .  It is definitely physical work, I use my hands to create.  The best part is that our customers write regularly to thank you for the products we make.  That fills my soul.

Is there music playing in the cheesemaking facility right now?
Absolutely.  We mix it up all the time.  We have satellite radio and usually we listen to the channel called Spectrum.  It plays a mix of the 70s-80s-90s.

Favorite thing about the local cheese industry:
I love the fact that we know the people & family behind the milk we purchase.  It provides a significant income that allows them to stay on their family farm.

Favorite thing about making cheese:
By the end of the day you have a product that people need & want to keep them healthy. Something tangible.

What is the unglamorous thing about cheesemaking?
I find it funny that anyone thinks this is glamourous. Everyday we wear something just short of being called PJs & a hairnet.

Why did you choose yellow and green wax for your cheeses?
They are happy colours. Green = grass. Yellow = sunshine.

Industry Mentors:
We are humbled by what the cheese that is coming out of Quebec. While we grow, we are always trying to raise our own standards.

What wine region do you want to visit next?
Italy. But honestly, it is hard to get away.

One surprising thing that I’m really good at:
I have always enjoyed leadership through camaraderie.  In addition to Peter and I, there are 8 people on staff.  They are all local (not relatives).  The interesting thing is that we are all friends outside of work too.

When is your birthday:
March 22 – and wouldn’t you know it…my Zodiac symbol is a ram!   

My “Favourite Birthday Meal”
That is easy….spaghetti.  Or fresh lobster, but that is hard to come by here in Fergus.

A funny moment you remember about visitors coming to the cheese shop:
People are shocked when they meet me after chatting on the phone or online.  I am 6 feet tall & have a young face.  I usually get “you can’t possibly be the owner….you are too young!”

What does you daughter think?
She is 9 years old and is very proud of what we do.  She stamps the bags or is on the front line ready to offer samples at Farmers Market. I think she might like to be a shepherdess, like her grandmother.

~ Sheep’s Milk Cheese Tasting Notes ~

We asked Nicole to share her thoughts on her special cheeses:

Feta

This traditional Greek style feta is made from pasteurized and raw sheep milk.  The flavour in both versions is tangy and full, with hints of lemon.  The flavour is more abundant in the raw milk version with greater nutritional value preserved (cheese speak: flavour loss through pasteurization).

It takes upwards of 3 weeks to make this feta, then it is packaged in brine made from the whey.  This delicious cheese can stand on its own or enhance your favourite dish.

Eweda Cru

Beginning with a traditional gouda recipe, this raw sheep’s milk cheese is aged for a minimum of 9 months.  Each wheel is marked with information pertaining to the producer of the milk used.

Each round of this semi-hard cheese weighs approx. 3 kgs.  Why is the wax green?  To represent the grass.  Cut inside and you will find the paste (cheese speak: the cheese) is pale yellow with many small holes.  The texture is slightly crumbly yet smooth on the tongue.  Its rich, earthy aroma leads beautifully towards an explosive, complex flavour.

When savoured, Eweda Cru is nutty at first, then grassy with a lingering finale of creamy freshness.

Mouton Rouge

It’s playful name; this firm cheese is mild yet pleasing, and full of surprises.

The reddish tinged rind encases a pale, creamy yellow paste, dotted with small holes.  The aroma is fresh and grassy.  The nutty rind contrasts beautifully with the mild, slightly buttery inner paste.  A lingering creaminess remains on the palette.  Made in rounds of 1 to 3 kgs that have aged for upwards of 60 days.

Ramembert

Get it?  This sheep’s milk cheese is Best BAA’s version of Camembert.  “We love using puns for our product names…it makes you remember them better” says Nicole, laughing at her own joke.

This small, bloom ripened cheese, has an exterior that is fluffy and white, concealing an ivory white interior.  The paste is creamy and smooth with an earthy, mushroomy aroma.  The cheese is at its best when the sides yield easily to pressure.  Then the cheese oozes goodness!  Store in the fridge when ripe and serve with a crisp baguette, a few grapes and any bold red wine.

Sheep in the Meadow

This lactic cheese has a bloomy rind sprinkled with Herbes de Provence from France. Rosemary and thyme dominate the aroma while mushroomy undertones also are noticed.  Close to the rind, the texture is creamy, and you will find it increasingly firm towards the centre.  Luxuriously smooth, the creamy paste is imbued by the herbs.

It is a versatile cheese that can be enjoyed in its early, fresh cheese stage or in its later ripened state.  Savour it your way!

making sheep's milk cheese
Photo credits: GuelphToday.com

 

~ Recipes to enjoy made with sheep’s milk cheese ~

 

Asparagus Eweda Tart

from Martha Stewart’s kitchen

Ingredients

Flour, for work surface
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
5 1/2 ounces (2 cups) Eweda sheep’s milk cheese, shredded
1 1/2 pounds medium or thick asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet.

With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with cheese. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over the cheese, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Lamb and Feta Chili

From Nicole & Peter’s Kitchen – Best Baa Dairy
TIP: This makes a BIG batch to feed a hungry crowd or to store in your freezer for a quick an easy meal later!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
250 grams of fresh Feta sheep’s milk cheese
1 medium yellow pepper
1 medium red pepper
1 kg of ground lamb
3  16 oz. cans of tomato sauce
3 tablespoons of chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Brown the ground lamb in a large pot.  Salt and pepper the meat while it is cooking.  Drain the lamb and set it aside in a second, medium size pot.  Saute the onions, garlic and peppers in the same pot used for browning the meat (without cleaning it!)  If there isn’t sufficient fat left in the pot, you may want to use a little olive oil.

Return the lamb to the large pot.  Add the tomato sauce and chili powder.  Cook on medium heat for approximately one and a half hours.

Serve up the chili in your favourite bowls and garnish with a few spoonfuls of the fresh sheep milk cheese curd or sheep milk creme fraiche.

Enjoy!

Curry Potato and Sheep’s Milk Cheese Patties

From Nicole & Peter’s Kitchen- Best Baa Dairy

Ingredients

8 medium potatoes, peeled
1 cup of Eweda Cru sheep’s milk cheese, grated
1 egg
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons of curry powder
½ cup of flour

Directions

Boil potatoes till tender.  Mash and cool.  Add egg, cheese, onion and salt. Form mixture into golf ball sized balls.

In separate bowl, mix flour and curry powder.  Roll potato balls in flour mixture.

Over medium heat, press in frying pan with olive oil and fry until lightly browned.  Add more grated cheese on top if desired and serve!

Enjoy your sheep’s milk cheese!

Check out our online store to learn more about the different Canadian cheeses we offer and our Canadian cheese subscription boxes.

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