I have been waiting a long time to review anything by Little Qualicum Cheeseworks. This fromagerie has been on my radar for a long time, and are fully deserving of the penultimate spot in my blog, due to their overall radness. Little Qualicum is a family-owned business on Vancouver Island based on the family farm, Morningstar.
Clarke and Nancy Gourlay returned to Canada from Switzerland in 1999, where they had been living for several years. Inspired by the cheeses there, they set out to learn and practice their own interpretation of cheese making in Canada, like any sane person would do. They found the climate on Vancouver Island ideal for the ripening of washed-rind cheeses, and thus, Little Qualicum Cheeseworks was created. They began milking cows and making cheese in 2001, and three years later moved to Morningstar Farm. They have opened their farm and animals to the public ever since.
Morningstar farm has its own herd of Holstein, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, and Canadienne dairy cows. So they are clearly not cow reed purists, but I’m down with that. Diversity is where it’s at. Their cheese is made only from their own milk, no cheating, and the milk all comes from the farm on which the cheese is made. Morningstar was the first dairy farm in British Columbia to be certified by the SPCA, and I don’t really know what that entails, but it does sound good to me. I’m going eat this cheese, bad karma free.
Like all the coolest farms, Morningstar offers tours and has its own store. You can watch the cheesemakers in action (blessed are the cheesemakers).There’s a self guided tour and people are welcome to stay and picnic. Why do I not live closer? If you can’t make it there, at least go check out their website which is totally over the top and very well done, in fact, this website is the best of the 99 I have reviewed. Bravo, to whomever pulled this one together, this is how it’s done, folks: www.cheeseworks.ca .
There are three generations working Morningstar farm. Clarke and Nancy Gourlay are the owners. Nancy oversees the cheese making and packaging. Clarke is in charge of the farm and animals. They live with their boys on the farm who also work. Nancy’s mom and dad have both helped in sales, and Clarke’s folks have also pitched in.
Little Qualicum, which is about half way up Vancouver Island, currently has a line of 16 cheeses which can be found for sale at many stores across BC. Today’s cheese is their Island Brie Cheese which is their best seller! It’s a traditional brie made of pasteurized cow’s milk which is perched on a little wooden board, rescued from the burn pile of a local guitar manufacturer. Island Brie beat out competitors from all across Canada this year to take the top spot for Brie at the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix!
My pretty round of Island brie has been been sliced in anticipation of meeting me on a more personal level.It’s a medium sized brie cheese with a white bloomy rind and a creamy interior paste. I am a little concerned though, as I have checked it’s best before date, and this cheeese is virtually an infant, it’s a good month off from best before. If I have learned one thing, it’s that I like my brie ripe, and this one isn’t. Letting a bloomy rind cheese ripen will allow the interior paste to become gooey and oozy, which I adore! A fresh brie will be more tart and chalky, and that’s just not my thing.This brie is behaving a little too much, there’s no oozing, and it’s got me worried.
Mmmmm, oh, but it is good! It’s true, I wish I had let this little darling ripen up a little, it’s a tad on the dry and firm and lemony side of the brie spectrum for me, but that’s not really fair, I suspect there are great changes awaiting this little cheese over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, it is a tasty cheese, there’s a good balance of sweet, salt and lemon, also a faint mushroom in the rind, but no ammonia for this cheese, and I think that’s a first in a brie for me! The texture is just a little firm, but again that’s the age, it’s pliant and slightly chewy, it’s not melting everywhere, it’s really quite well behaved. Tell you what, Island Brie, it’s back in the fridge for you, let’s talk in a month, I suspect you are really my slice of cheese.