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Dairy farmers of Quebec and Ontario have produces rich and flavourful milk from the very beginning. The lush pastures of both provinces in summer induce contented cows to produce rich and abundant milk, which skilled cheese makers convert to delectable cheeses.
The first settlers produced a staple of human diet in many countries, cheese in Canada shortly after cattle brought over from France and England acclimatized.
At one time considerable amounts of cheddar-type cheese were exported to England and the USA. Today, small amounts are destined to our neighbour to the south.
The Canadian cheese manufacturing is concentrated in Ontario and Quebec. British Columbia, Prairie- and Atlantic provinces produce cheese but mostly for local distribution.
Quebec’s dairies excel in cream cheeses, following the French tradition, but also produce semi-hard and hard cheeses of good quality.
Ontario’s many dairies produce mainly hard cheeses, but a few are now turning their attention to semi-hard and soft cheeses. Some are more focused on specialty ethnic cheeses like feta, Montasio, Pecorino, Cacciocavallo just to name a few.
In Quebec, Fromage Cote Boucherville, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, Fromagerie Tournevent, Maurice Dufour, Agropur, Abbaye St Benoit du Monts, Cayer are only a few of the dairies that produce Ermite, Benedictine Bleu, Le Ciel de Charlevoix, Oka, Sir Laurier, Migneron de Charlevoix, Noyan, Cantonnier, Mamirolle, Raclette Poivre, Double and triple cream cheeses.
Oka one of the most popular and famous Canadian cheeses is available across the country; Benedictine monks in Oka first made it. It is actually very similar to Saint Pauline.
Raw milk yields better tasting cheese and according to rumours, some dairies use raw milk in attempt to produce superb cheeses. There is nothing-wrong using raw milk for cheese production, providing well established rules are followed. Hard cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano, Asiago, Sap Sago, Pecorino Sardo have been produced and enjoyed for centuries without any incident.
Pasteurised milk yields a safe, but bland cheese.
Ontario’s Shepherd Gourmet Dairy, Portuguese Cheese Company, Black Diamond, and many others produce fine Cheddar, feta and Italian style cheeses, which can rival the best from anywhere. Although huge dairies turn out hygienic but bland masses of processed cheese and dominate the grocery store shelves, small artisan operations prefer to sell through cheesemongers and direct from their premises.
Cheese aficionados can indulge by visiting specialty shops in the St Lawrence Market, Kensington Market, Alex Far in the Manulife Center or the Cheese shop at the Henry of Pelham Winery in St Catharine’s.
Fine Canadian cheeses
Sir Laurier, Empereur Light (resembles Reblochon), Noyan, Cantonnier, Mamirolle all are soft ripened and originate in Quebec.
Raclette poivre and Oka are firm cheeses also from Quebec: Liptoi, St John’s Goat are fresh goat cheeses; Garciosa, Three year old Cheddar, Asiago (firm) from Ontario; Chevre fin, Chevrochon Tomme du Haut Richelieu (soft ripened) and Chevre Noir originate in Quebec.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu
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