Food Tips

Local Canadian cheese, please

Local Canadian cheese, please

Author: Canadian Living

Food Tips

Local Canadian cheese, please

If you think of the commonplace, orange, rectangular blocks at the supermarket when you think of Canadian cheese, think instead of a soft, bloomy-rind cheese covered in olivewood ash; cheese washed with a maple liqueur; or cave-aged, leaf-wrapped cheese bathed in spirits. Artisanal cheese is produced in small volumes with locally produced milk. Like sampling wine at a winery, visiting a cheese producer can mean a pleasant setting in which to learn about the product and the process.

Cheese descriptions can be quite evocative, with talk of snowy-white rinds, cream-coloured interiors, oozing textures, grassy, milky flavours, scattered streaks, rich aromas, or tongue-tingling bitterness. Don 't be deterred if you are new to the terminology. Start by thinking of bloomy rind as a soft, white rind; of washed rind to mean that it is washed with brine during aging; and of firmness described simply as soft, semi-soft, semi-hard and hard.

Explore cheeses Canada-wide
With approximately 300 varieties being produced, Quebec is the provincial leader in artisanal cheese, although production is growing in other provinces. Here is a taste of what you can find:

• aged goat's milk cheese that has been soaked in red wine at Carmelis Goat Cheese in BC
• a smoked, semi-soft goat cheese at Oak Island Goat Dairy in Manitoba
• Ramembert cheese -- a play on camembert -- made from sheep's milk, at the Ewenity Dairy Co-operative in Ontario
• Guernsey-milk cheeses at Upper Canada Cheese Company in Ontario (only three milking herds in Canada produce this rich, golden milk)
• hand-made, cave-ripened sheep's milk cheese at Fromagerie La Moutonnière in Quebec
• cheese made from the milk of the rare Canadienne cow, a milk that is slightly salty because the animals are grazed on the salt-mist-coated grass of the Magdalen Islands, at Fromagerie du Pied-de-Vent
• a rich blue cheese named Ciel de Charlevoix (Charlevoix Sky) from la Maison d 'Affinage Maurice Dufour, which has an on-site restaurant serving dishes made with house cheeses
• a farm recreating the feel of the Dutch countryside with Dutch-influenced buildings and gouda cheese at That Dutchman's Farm

Discover more about artisanal Canadian cheese
To learn more about cheese and cheesemakers visit websites such as La Route des Fromages, a region-by-region guide to Quebec cheeses; The Quebec Cheese Society (La Société des fromages du Québec); The Ontario Cheese Society; and the BC Milk Marketing Board. While many smaller cheesemakers may not have websites, local or provincial tourism and agricultural websites are useful resources.

The Warwick Cheese Festival features the fine cheeses of Quebec, while in St. Albert in eastern Ontario -- where local cheese curds are a tradition -- there is an annual curd festival.

Cheese pointers
• Like red wine, cheese tastes better at room temperature.
• Use separate knives for different cheeses to avoid contaminating the flavours.
• If you're not sure what to put on a cheese tray, consider trying a cheese from each of the three main milk types (goat, sheep, cow), and varying textures (hard, semi-soft, soft).

Enjoying local cheeses is a great way to connect with local producers while learning about the process of making and aging cheese.

A passionate gardener and a horticulturist by training, Steven Biggs has a special interest in finding, preparing and enjoying local food. His work in horticulture and agriculture spans western Canada, Ontario, Quebec, and England. You can visit his website at

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Food Tips

Local Canadian cheese, please