A Cheese Primer.

cheeseA Cheese Primer.

Cheese is an important, nutritious food, providing millions of people gustatory pleasures, and hundreds of thousands with gainful employment.

Countries with suitable climate and enough pastureland produce enormous quantities of cheese.

Mediterranean, most European, North American, Oceanian and a few South American countries produce considerable amounts. In most Far eastern countries there is no cheese culture to speak of, except for India. In fact, many Orientals are lactose intolerant and both milk and cheese are alien to their palates.

Expertly produces, natural cheese from flavourful milk tastes heavenly, and even better with an appropriate wine. Of course you can use cheese in cooking to enrich soups, pizzas, pastas, risottos, main courses, salads and complete your meal with an assortment to finish the remaining wine in your glass as the French do regularly.

Fresh, unpasteurized milk yields the best tasting cheeses.

There are seven cheese groups:

Natural rind
Soft white rind
Blue cheeses
Specialty cheeses

Fresh cheeses: Mozzarella di Buffala, feta (may be from Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, France, Turkey or even Denmark), ricotta, caprini, bulette d’Avesnes, Boursin, balloni.

Fresh cheeses are best consumed quickly; except for feta if properly packed in strong brine.

Natural rind: Crottin de Chavignol, Chabichou du Poitou, St. Marcelin

Soft white rind: Camembert de Normandie (Camembert is produced in a number of regions and countries. The post popular brands originate in Normandy where the cheese was invented), Brie de Meaux, Boursault, Coach Farm cheese, Sharpham.
Semi-Soft cheeses: Epoisses de Bourgogne, Reblochon, Bel paese, Carre de l’Est, Chimay, Colby, Edam, Gouda, Fontina, Havarti, Monterey Jack, Livarot, Oka, Taleggio, Tomme de Savoie, Morbier.

Hard cheeses: Cheddar (produced in a number of English speaking countries including Canada, the U. S. A., New Zealand, Australia), Parmigiano Reggiano, Garana Padano, Emmental, Manchego, Appenzeller, Asiago, Caerphilly, Double Gloucester, Canestrato, Cantal, Cheshire, Derby, Fiore Sardo, Graviera, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, Idiazabal, Kefalotiri, Lancashire, Montasio, Mimolette, Pecorino, Sao Jorge, Sbrinz, Sapsago, white Stilton.

Blue cheeses: Stilton, Roquefort, Bleu d’Auvergne, Cabrales, Cambozola, Maytag Blue, Gorgonzola, St. Augur.

Spacialty cheeses: Leiden, Sage Derby, Stratfordshire

The above is a short list, but all the cheeses listed are available in large Canadian cities at specialized cheese mongers.

Canadian authorities allow approximately 22,000 metric tonnes of cheese into the country. Importers focus on popular and profitable cheeses.

Milk production in Canada is controlled by means of quotas. If you want to start a dairy, you must first buy a quota at huge cost. This makes market entry for young, ambitious entrepreneurs difficult, and in many chases impossible.

A few people who dared to produce cheese without a quota and license were ultimately prosecuted and went into bankruptcy.

The only province that actually encourages artisanal cheese production is Quebec and the results are there for everyone to see or should I say taste.

Ontario merchants import artisanal Quebec cheeses for their eager customers in appreciable quantities weekly.
Artisanal Quebec cheeses originate in small farms owned/operated by imaginative individuals with a love for good food.

If you want, as a small establishment, to import cheese from other countries, the hurdles to overcome are enough to discourage the most determined individuals.

Lucrative quotas are granted to companies with a history of trading in cheese. Agropure and Saputo are two Quebec-based producers and importers that enjoy very generous quotas.

Everyone else receives relatively small quotas, a fact that makes cheese very expensive.

Also, cheese being a “living” product, must be transported in refrigerated containers and distributed quickly. Often very perishable cheeses are air-cargo shipped at enormous cost.

Ottawa bans fresh cheeses made from un-pasteurized milk. Only cheeses that have been aged for more than 60 days may be imported if the milk was un-pasteurized.

Cheese connoisseurs know that both color and taste of artisanal cheeses change pending on season, even from batch to batch, much like wine from vintage to vintage, something consumers in general are reluctant to accept.

Le Sap Rond, Le Petit Poitou, Le Douannier, Bluebrie and triple cream from Quebec are current favorites in both Quebec and Ontario.

New Brunswick, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Alberta produce fine hard cheeses but rarely ship to Ontario or Quebec due to insurmountable bureaucratic hassles and limited production. Locals buy eagerly the production of small dairies.

If you happen to be in New York City and can get to a large cheese monger, ask for Cowaggier Creamery Red Hawk, Shelburn Farm aged Cheddar and Vermont Shepherd. You will be surprised how tasty these cheeses are, compared to manufactured cheeses widely available everywhere. All are bland and processed for long shelf life.

In Toronto there are several specialized cheese mongers offering a respectable, if not wide selection of both local ad imported cheeses. Best prices are in stores located off the beaten track. They also offer samples upon request.

Here are stores with a wide selection:

Pasquale Bros, Cheese Boutique, All the Best Foods, Pusateri’s, Bruno’s, Grotto del Formaggio, Whole Foods Market, Alex Farm Products, Brandt’s, and Denninger’s.


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