For most Canadians, as recently as 10 years ago, cheese meant cheddar. Now the population coast to coast is starting to awaken to the joys of all types of flavourful cheeses.
A few years ago no restaurant would dare to offer a properly assembled and imaginative cheese plate, but now some even feature cheese menus, and serve cheese at room temperature as it should be served.
A properly designed cheese plate arrives with and assortment of breads, nuts, quince or apricot paste.
Wine enthusiasts like to finish the last glass of the bottle with their cheese course; some even order a bottle to complement their cheese plate.
In France even the most humble restaurant offers an impressive array of local cheeses, and can comment on each cheese when asked.
In Canada practically all provinces produce cheese. Of all however, Quebec produces the most imaginative and flavourful. In this province the government encourages artisanal cheese production by providing preferential loans and licences to young cheese makers with an entrepreneurial bend and applying milk quota rules less strictly.
Today, Quebec has a vibrant artisanal cheese industry along with huge manufacturers like Saputo, and Agropur. The artisan cheese making is concentrated around the city of Quebec, Victoria and Drummondville, Eastern Townships, Montreal and Joliette.
All use ewe’s-, goat- and cow’s milk to produce fresh, soft, (natural rind or washed rind), and semi soft, hard, and blue-veined cheeses.
In the fresh cheese category the following are noteworthy: Chevre de Gaspe, Tourneveny, Capriny, Quark, and in the soft- Saint Isidore Cendre, Petite Chevrette, Petit Normand, Provindence, Saint Laurier d’Athabaska, Saint Damase, Empereur, Pied de Vent.
Quebec’s artisan cheese makers also make fine semi-soft and hard cheeses worth seeking.
In the semi-soft category , look for Oka, Mamirolle, Cendre du Village, Tomme de Chevre Sante Rose Lave au vin, and for hard Valbert, Montefino, Windigo, Louis Riel Cheddar au Porto, Montbeil, Sieur Colomban, Chevre Noir, and Cacciocavallo.
Blue-veined cheeses have become poplar with cheese makers only recently. Despite their short history Bleubry, Bleu de la Montonniere, Bleu Ermite and Bleu Benedictine have been popular not only with Quebecois but also with Ontario cheese lovers.
Most of the above mentioned brands are exported to Ontario and other provinces albeit in relatively small quantities and only available in specialized cheese boutiques.
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