Sometimes, when something is so good, it’s hard to find the right time to share it. I have been aware of today’s cheese and cheese-maker for over a year now, but it’s just never seemed like the right time to let this little secret out. But enough is enough, welcome-cheese friends, to The Farm House Natural Cheeses.
About an hour and a half outside of Vancouver, lies the sleepy town of Agassiz, in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. Last year I was lucky enough to go and visit The Farm House Natural Cheeses to interview their cheese maker and have a tour of their premises. Yes, thanks for asking, it was awesome. At the risk of sounding like an overly star-struck cheese lover, let me just say, that this was potentially the best cheese experience I have had to date.
Everything there was just as you would want it to be. Cows and goats produce the milk on site, and the cheese is made a few steps away: true terroir. The beautiful mountains of the Fraser Valley loom overhead, and the fields of hay shimmer below. Besides that, the whole family is involved too, from daily milking and barn chores, hay-making and field work, to cheese making. It’s a real family affair.
The co-owner and head cheese-maker, Debra Amrein-Boyes, is one of only twelve people in western Canada and US to be inducted into the prestigious French Cheese Guild, the “Guilde des Fromagers Confrerie de Saint-Uguzon.” This guild recognizes those who protect and continue the tradition of cheesemaking around the world. And because of this honour, Debra actually has her own patron saint of cheese, and what’s not to love about that? Yes, you did just read that, a patron saint of cheese. Besides that, she’s a lovely lady with a true passion for cheese, who showed me around her fastidiously clean facility and her sumptuous affinage caves. I was loath to leave.
So how does a cheese maker in a little sleepy valley in BC get such an honour, you might wonder? It’s likely partially because Debra authored her book, “200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes-From Cheddar and Brie to Butter and Yogurt” which was nominated in 2009 for a World Gourmand Cookbook Award and is available for purchase in many book stores, or online. If you have ever wished to try your hand at home cheesemaking, this is the book for you. No, I don’t own it yet, and yes, it’s on my Christmas wish list.
Right, I have gushed enough. Can you tell I’m a fan?
The Farmhouse Natural Cheeses makes a number of cheese products, most of which I have sampled (lucky me) but when I saw today’s Brie for sale, so deliciously close to the “best before” date (remember, this means “best on” date,) I knew that today was the day, and this was the cheese.
This round of Brie is rather diminutive, it’s about 2 inches in diameter. It’s made from pasteurized cow’s milk, sourced on site. It’s an authentic, naturally ripened Brie, hand-ladled, with a lovely, fully developed white mushroomy rind.The smell is inviting, a warm combination of mushroom and straw. When I cut into it, the paste is astonishingly yellow, the milk from the cows must have been very rich, it makes a handsome contrast to the white rind (which I shall eat, aways eat the rind on a brie!)
Mmmm, it’s salty and smooth and creamy and fantastic. It’s a delicious balance of fat, salt and mushroom. The rind is fabulous, with a real texture to it, and when you mix it in with the paste it makes for an amazing experience. It’s Fraser Valley terroir at its best. It’s perhaps not as gooey as I hoped for, but it’s only been out of the fridge for 15 minutes, so I’m leaving it out the rest of the morning, and hope to see this little cheese run. It’s a mild and inviting locally sourced Brie, made by a local cheese master (with her own patron saint of cheese.) What’s not to like about that? Go out and buy some, and thank me later.