Has this ever happened to you? You have a party coming up and you hit the store looking for appetizers and snacks, only to find yourself staring hundreds of cheese options in the face. Cheese can be a tough area to navigate. Some cheese is mild, some powerful, and even others might be the worst thing you’ve ever smelled, but taste amazing (how does that even happen?).
In the end do you choose something new, or go with a known favourite? While your go-to cheese is always a great choice, step away from the marble cheese choice and begin adding new cheeses to the mix.
Now you can leave the safe marble cheese at the grocery store, these options are sure to impress your guests. Even better, they are Canadian (which makes them a fab option for serving on Canada Day). Each of these cheeses won in their category at the recent Canadian Cheese Grand Prix (and one of them even won for overall cheese, read on to find out which one it was).
Sponsored and hosted every two years by Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix celebrates the high quality, versatility and great taste of Canadian cheese made from 100% Canadian milk.
We had the opportunity to try some cheeses that were among those that were judged in the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, and the cheese options below were enjoyed by either everyone or a majority at the table.
The taste testing was done with adults and kids, and a selection of additional foods was added to round out our serving tray. This included grapes, pears, crackers, and honey (also foods that kids would like).
The Schalkwijk family moved to Alberta, from Holland, in 1995 with the ambition to start a farm. Not finding any cheese that compared to that of their homeland, they began making cheese in 1999, using milk from their own cows. All Sylvan Star cheeses are made with heat-treated milk and are lactose free. This 5-month aged Gouda has a creamy smooth texture with a slightly tangy flavour.
After all of the “This tastes so gooo-dah.” comments were done, this cheese came out as the top choice for both adults and kids at our table. It was the one that disappeared first off the tray and my little taste testers asked for seconds. This cheese paired nicely with all of the sides on our tray (grapes, pears, crackers, and honey).
Click for more information on this cheese. (PS. I also saw this cheese in my local Sobeys this past week)
The Louis d’Or farm has been in the Morin family for four generations. This farmstead cheese is made with the milk of a mix of Jersey and Holstein cows that graze on their fields in the summer. Named after the famous sculptor Alfred Laliberté, from Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick, this aromatic triple crème cheese, with its tender bloomy rind, encases an unctuous paste. Laliberté has flavours of mushrooms and cream when young and, as it ages, it stuns with hints of grass and root vegetables.
This was the overall winner of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix this year. It is a spreadable cheese and everyone around our table loved it on a cracker with a small drizzle of honey.
Fritz Kaiser moved to Canada from Switzerland in 1981 and established Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser. Leading the way in the creation of Canadian Raclette, this semi-soft, washed-rind cheese with green peppercorns has a prominent hazelnut aroma followed by a sharp peppery and fruity flavour.
Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar
Originally, Cheddar was made in wheel shapes, wrapped in cheesecloth. Armand Bernard has revived this tradition, following in the style of great English farmstead cheddars. Avonlea is made with raw, Holstein cow milk, which is then thermalized. The cheese is aged for 14 months under carefully monitored temperature and humidity conditions. The aroma and flavour of this cheese is uniquely PEI, reminiscent of fresh, unwashed potatoes, grassy yet both sweet and tangy on the finish.
Fun fact: On my recent trip to PEI, I saw the Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar being aged at the Cows Creamery plant under the conditions listed above. Here’s a photo I took of the aging process from behind glass.
The Farm House Natural Cheeses is a family farm located in the lush Fraser Valley. Home to the herd of Guernsey and Brown Swiss cows, which provides all the milk for its cheese. Using only the rich summer milk when the cows graze in the pastures, this firm, washed-rind cheese has a beautiful dark golden paste. Aged for a minimum of 8 months, Heidi reaches its peak at 1-year. The flavour is deep and rich with grassy notes.
This firm, washed-rind cheese is made in a similar method to typical Swiss mountain-style cheeses. Owner and cheesemaker, Shep Ysselstein studied cheese making in Switzerland and it influences all of his cheeses. Handeck, aged 16 months, is firm, with rich, complex flavours and a nutty aroma. All the milk used to produce this cheese comes from the family’s dairy farm.