It’s a great idea to try local versions of your favourite cheese. Cheese tastes best when eaten closer to home. It’s a dairy product, after all. It’s fragile and doesn’t really like to travel. Shipping also adds a hefty price to imported cheeses; some spend weeks in the hold of ocean liners, while others fly third class in jet planes-either way, the cheese and the consumer pays. While many cheeses are protected by a designated name and recipe, it certainly doesn’t stop a new-fangled version of that cheese from being invented. Who knows? Maybe some of these new cheeses might be an improvement. Stranger things have happened.
The Kootenay Alpine Cheese Company is located just outside of Creston BC. It’s run by Denise and Wayne Harris who bought the dairy farm 15 years ago. Farming is in Wayne’s blood; his grandparents were dairy farmers in Creston when he was a child. Before becoming committed cheese-makers the family looked carefully at the cheese scene in BC-it was clear from their research that there was a market vacuum for mountain or Alpine cheeses. Being located in the Kootenays, it seemed a natural fit. It took them several years to get up and running, but they did it. For the record, I’m a jealous girl. Who wouldn’t want their own fromagerie? Really!
This family-run farm and fromagerie is certified organic, and that’s both a rare and a special thing in the world of cheese. They have about 80 cows and all of their milk is made from this single herd on-site. Like its mentor, Beaufort, Alpindon is only made with the best summer milk, so it’s a very limited run of cheese. The milk is gravity fed into the fromagerie daily through pipes that come straight from the milk house. Everything is green here-(except the milk, that is.) The farm uses gravity, solar power and geo-thermal cooling to address most of their electrical needs. Super cool. After the cheese is formed it is washed and smeared with a bacterial culture and flipped regularly. Alpindon is then aged for about 90 days in custom-made affinage caves before being readied for sale. Exciting!
I have spent the last 78 days slamming cheeses that aren’t the “real thing” and telling you to beware of fakes, yet here I am anxious to try a local version of Beaufort. Here’s my rational-Alpindon isn’t pretending to be Beaufort. It’s not called “Bro-fort” or “Bellefort” or something stupid like that, it’s not trying to trick us. It’s the tricking that I find offensive.”Cheese product” or “Parmesen” offends me because these names are created specifically to lull the consumer into thinking they are buying the real thing. This is more of an homage to a great cheese. Imitation is the best form of flattery, and as long as we aren’t pretending to be something else, I say, bring it on.
My sadly small slice of Alpindon (not pretending to be Beaufort) actually really does look like Beaufort except that it lacks that tell-tale concave side. Real Beaufort is held in by a special band while it sets. It’s a creamy yellow semi-firm mountain cheese with a thin natural orange rind. The smell is mild, yet somewhat reminiscent of feet.
Yummy! This is a delicious cheese, but it doesn’t taste at all like Beaufort to me-that’s funny. I mean, who cares, but what a lot of buildup for nothing. It’s a classic alpine cheese though. It has a firm and chewy interior paste and a nice astringent nutty flavour mixed in with just a hint of gym-socks. There’s a good balance of sweet, salt and raunch, all in savoury harmony. It does have that faint alcohol tasting note I have found in other mountain cheeses that I’m not crazy about, but that seems to be a mountain cheese thing, so I’m just dealing with it. It does not have any discernible tyrosine crunch like Beaufort, but it’s a relatively young cheese, so I’m not surprised.
I’m impressed, Alpindon! No, you certainly aren’t Beaufort, but who cares. You are organic and from BC and I like a local kid in the race.