Cheese 124 Tilsit-by Golden Ears Cheeseworks

Did you miss me?

Did you miss the cheese?

Thank you, loyal readers-for staying with me over the past several months whilst I investigated other foods. True, other food is fabulous, but really-this blog is about cheese, and I have re-committed myself to investigating and reporting on new cheeses, whenever and wherever I shall find them.

Yesterday I was driving home from Mission to Vancouver, BC, when it suddenly occured to me that I should attempt to visit Golden Ears Cheesecrafters, located in Maple Ridge. I have noticed their cheeses popping up across stores in the lower mainland over the last year, but had not actually tasted their cheeses myself-such an oversight.

The storefront itself is handsome and inviting-a farmhouse stand with a small restaurant and many locally sourced foods for sale. It had that unmistakable “cows are doing their cow-work smell” welcoming me as I parked, and I just love that in a weird way.
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But more importantly, inside, the cheese…There were about 10 of their hand-made cheeses for sale at the store. Many of them seemed to be variations of flavoured gouda though, and I do try to stay away from flavoured cheese. So I took a pass on those. I chatted briefly with owner, Kerry Davison who told me about the company, and also the cheese making-done on site by her daughter, Jenna, who is relatively new to the world of cheese making, but clearly passionate and talented.
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All of the cheese at Golden Ears is made from pasteurized cow milk, not organic. However, the milk does come from the Jersey farm next door, (owned by Kerry’s brother) so at least the terroir is on point, and it’s really, all in the family.
After hemming and hawing for some time (sorry people behind me in line) I finally decided to try their Tilsit cheese, as I have never before sampled Tilsit.
Tilsit,aka Tilsiterkase, AKA Tilsit Havarti was originally made by Prussian-Swiss immigtrants to the Emmental valley who had a hankering for their beloved Gouda. As they didn’t have the same ingrediants or environment, Tilsit was what happened instead.
Tilsit is usually brick-shaped and smear ripened and often (but not in my case) has extra tastes added to it such as caraway or herbs. Tilsit is popular in Switzerland and Germany and according to web sources, usually aged 12-18 weeks, although my sample is 17 months old-so clearly, it stores well! Interestingly, this Tilsit doesn’t seem to exist on the Golden Ears Website-a limited run perhaps? Oh, I do love a limited run.
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My little wedge of Tilsit is semi-firm and a handsome, strong-looking cheese. The rind is natural, and I can see the imprint of cheesecloth on it. As you get closer to the rind the cheese is a darker yellow, and I do love that. There are some small eyes in the paste. The smell is very faint and reminds me of an emmental-nutty and mellow.
Here goes: Hmmmm. I would add salt. That’s my first hit, it’s remarkably Un-salty-and you know the palate just expects salt in cheese. It’s got a nice mouth feel, it’s chewy and actually reminds me of a Mountain or Alpine cheese with that firm but yielding chew experience. The flavour is really mild and quite benign, but saying that it’s actually delicious. It’s an easy cheese to eat, fatty and warm and yummy-nothing scary here folks, just a nice, mild chilled out little cheese-perhaps good for those on a low sodium diet?
I will be back soon, as I have another cheese from this charming fromagerie to review.
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Cheese 119-Bresse Bleu (Bleu de Bresse)

This cheese journey of mine has been beset by many trials and tribulations over the last 8 months.  There was the great fridge breakdown of 2011,  that heinous stomach flu, then there was Christmas, and there was the cleanse…but through each I soldiered on, and through each of these foibles, the cheese was purchased and sampled-until this week. This Monday I eagerly planned a food field trip to a new cheese shop in a town close by that I had never visited which reportedly-had a number of rare Canadian cheeses-how exciting!

It took me almost an hour to drive to this remote location (I tell you this so that you may appreciate my dedication to cheese).  I drove up, parked my car, and made a b-line to the front door which beckoned me-where I was stopped.  By the police. A uniformed officer opened the door sharply and informed me “ma’am, we are closed.”  It was only then that I noticed the police tape and multiple police vehicles with lights on surrounding the shop.  Seriously.  I was so gobsmacked by the notion of a new cheese shop that I had blithely walked into a crime scene.  That’s how I roll when it comes to cheese.

Thus, today’s cheese is not some exotic little Canadian number that I can wax on about: how rare, how special, the terroir, et cetera.  Today we had to settle for something a little more pedestrian and thus available at my local market which is not covered in police tape.

Actually, it’s a good idea to review Bleu de Bresse, AKA Bresse Bleu, as I realize I have not yet reviewed any cheese in this family-the bloomy rind/blue cheese hybrid.  There are many cheeses in this family.  This is a sneaky little cheese which might surprise you at a party- you see that white mushroomy rind and think, “ah yes, a  camembert, I can handle that!” but it’s not until you have cut into it, that you realize the inside is studded with little pockets of blue mold.  You have been tricked! The first time this ever happened to me I thought the cheese had gone off and no one had noticed.  Nope, they do this on purpose.  The good thing about this type of cheese is that it really is a gateway cheese to more intense blues.  Because it looks so benign, it’s easy to talk someone into just trying just a little bit.  It’s so mild and friendly that it might just be the perfect place to start a foray into blue.

Bleu de Bresse comes from France. It is a cow’s milk cheese made from pasteurized milk and it’s definitely factory made.  The texture and appearance externally is similar to camembert with that soft, white and edible rind. Bresse Bleu first arrived on the scene in 1951 and comes from the French Province of Bresse-specifically the French village of Bourge-en-Bresse.  The brand and trademark for Bleu de Bresse are wholly owned by European cheese giant Bongrain-thus all Bresse Bleu is the same, and all Bresse Bleu is one-there are no regional variations.  Alas, I was unable to find any sexy little stories about the history of this cheese, but it reminds me of a nice Cambazola so I like to think that’s the inspiration. I have no idea, really. That’s just me musing aloud.

This cheese is basically a camembert which has our old friend, Penicillium Roqueforti introduced straight into the curds, afterwards it is  drained and covered with pulverized Penicillium camemberti to form the outer coating, so it truly is a hybrid, Roquefort on the inside, and camembert on the outside.

My little round of Bresse Bleu is quite attractive and demure.  I cleverly purchased it on sale as it was just at the “best before date” which you must ALWAYS do with a soft cheese like this.  It does indeed appear to be a boring little camembert-type white mould cheese, but when you cut it open, a little blue mouldy surprise!  This one’s quite creamy inside as I waited for just the right time to open it, there is some blue dappling, but it’s nothing crazy.  The interior is much creamier and more yellow than I expected.  The smell is actually divine, it makes me feel somewhat strange-it’s a tiny bit like pee, but also like mushrooms, truffles, rotten logs and carnal thoughts, all wrapped up into one.  Mmm.

Here goes…

Oh yum!  It’s actually fabulous.  It’s not as salty as most blues, it’s more creamy and sweet with that spicy tang well-balanced by the mellow note of cream.  The texture is also fantastic, that camembert rind is really thick and chewy and makes a great contrast to the creamy interior for a great mouth-feel.  This really is a fusion cheese, it’s totally camembert, and totally Roquefort, cool.  This is not a crumbler, this is a smeary cheese.  Wow, it’s good.  I think this one would be a good starter blue for those fearful of the real stuff, but it’s good enough for my cheese plate all on its own.

Well, the boys in Blue lead me to Bresse Bleu-maybe it was meant to be, because Bresse Bleu, you are my slice of cheese.


Cheese 113 Comox Brie-Natural Pastures Cheese Company


It takes a big person to admit a big mistake.  And I’m, um-a big person.  I can’t believe it! I have made a grievous cheese-based error.  I have somehow overlooked the World Championship Cheese contest gold medallist-even though it’s made in my own back yard.  Forgive me, cheese Gods!

I was in my local market the other day, checking out the cheese-as I always do-when something caught my eye on the package of Comox Brie.  That something was a Gold medal. Yikes. A cheese Gold medal.  You see, I purposefully overlooked this cheese BECAUSE it’s always at my local market-I made the mistake of assuming that anything that could be widely purchased was crap, and that’s just foolish snobbery on my part. Do not be trapped into this assumption. I can’t tell you how many “artisan” type handmade cheeses I have tried that were just kind of meh, and how many widely available cheeses I have tried that really rocked.  I know, it seems wrong, but I must speak the cheese truth.

Comox Brie comes from the town of Courtenay- a small town on Vancouver Island with a close connection to my own hometown, Powell River.  I spent many days in my youth wandering the little streets of this town. Comox is an even tinier little town near Courtnenay. Comox Brie takes its name from this town.  Sweet. I feel almost like cousins.

Natural Pastures cheese company is a family owned affair.  The Smith family makes only “artisan cheeses,” all hand-made under the guidance of their very own Swiss  Master Cheese maker Paul Sutter, originally from Switzerland where he received traditional Swiss training and professional accreditation. For the record, I also would like my very own Master Swiss cheese maker!  Hint: Mother’s Day is tomorrow, should be an easy gift!

This company sources all the milk from its own Farm-Beaver Meadow as well as a handful of other local farms, all on Vancouver Island. Thus the “terroir” of the  coastal valley environment is evident in this cheese-all the milk coming from a single area.  Interestingly, when I was a child we sometimes ate bear.  If the bear had been feasting on berries, the meat was sweet and succulent.  If, however, the bear had been feasting on salmon, the meet was-well-fishy.  This is an example of terroir that I just wanted to share with you, because it’s my blog, and I can say whatever I want!  Ha!

I digress.  The Smith family turned to cheese making in 2001 and have made a big splash on the cheese world winning 40-plus prestigious national and international awards. How did I miss this?  Scratches head.  Interestingly, the farms they work with, “Heritage Dairy farms” are committed to environmental sustainability including natural wildlife habitat-their  enhanced stream habitats raise thousands of wild Coho Salmon each year which could be eaten by bears causing a unique salmon terroir.  See, full circle logic.

I digress again.  Natural Pastures Cheese Comox Brie recently earned the pinnacle World Championship Gold Medal, in the 27th biennial Contest (WCC) a technical evaluation of cheese by an international panel of 22 judges, experts in cheese evaluation. Again, I shall volunteer to be a judge at this event.  It saddens me that I have not been called upon to judge cheese, as I am so clearly qualified!

I digress yet again.  As the first World Championship cheese ever produced from Vancouver Island and first WCC gold medal Brie ever from western Canada, scoring 98.95, Comox Brie edged out Damafros double crème from Quebec (which I previously reviewed and ADORED, OMG so good).   Comox Brie begins with milk from a herd of Ayrshire cattle raised by Guy Sim, a Canada Master Breeder. Wow, this cheese and the cows all have their own pedigree. I’m assuming this is a pasteurized cheese, but I can’t be sure-I’m about 99.99% certain of this, but as the wrapper has disappeared and it doesn’t say on the website it’s an educated guess at this point.

I have actually had a hard time reviewing Comox Brie, chiefly because everyone in my family kept eating it before I was ready to sample it.  My small wedge-which was much larger before the swarm of locusts known as my family descended upon it-is a typical white looking brie-penicillium mold on the outside (yup, the white stuff is mold, deal with it) and creamy buttery interior.  I have wisely chosen to taste this one right before the best before date, when the brie is perfect.  Like women, brie really must be aged in order to achieve true greatness.  You can tell a brie is ready if it’s gooey inside-if it’s kind of dry and chalky you have a young brie-put it back! This Comox Brie is gorgeous looking, so creamy and succulent, it smells  faintly of ammonia, mushroom and um, adult pleasures..shall I leave it at that?

Here goes….

Mmmmm.  Oh my lord, now this is a great brie. Like, really, really great. It’s perfectly ripened, look at the picture below, see how it’s gooey all the way through, that’s what you want!  It’s making love to my teeth and tongue.  It’s salty and creamy and slightly uric and carnal…oh yes, this is a carnal little cheese. This is actually quite a naughty little cheese. This is the way I always want brie to be but it rarely is.  It’s absolutely divine.  Yes, this is a Gold Medal winner-all the way.  Scrumptious!  Go and get yourself some of this, stat.  Let it ripen up until the best before date and go for it-you’ll thank me later.

Day 97-Rondoux Double Creme


As I round out my 100 day journey into cheese, it’s important to remember that not everyone has access to cheese shops in a big city.  Although in theory there are hundreds of cheeses available in Canada-in practice, cheese selection can be quite limited, especially if you live in a small town.  That’s why I was so thrilled to discover the joy of Woolrich Dairy goat brie, and Oka cheese.  Both of these are produced in factories and are widely available, but both totally rock my world.  Cheese can be extremely expensive, especially if it has to be shipped across an ocean to get here, so I really am open to local cheese.  With this is mind I am sampling my last commercially produced Canadian cheese.  This one is called Rondoux Double Creme, and it is produced by the cheese giant Agropur in-where else? Quebec.

The name Agropur may be familiar to readers of this blog, as I discussed it previously in my review of Oka cheese.  Agropur is a large Quebec cooperative that has been making cheese and dairy products since 1937. The Société coopérative agricole du Canton de Granby, eventually became the Agropur cooperative in 2000. It is composed of 86 producers from Granby and the surrounding area.  Agropur is bucking the trend of locally operated cooperatives. It’s influence has spread across Quebec and Canada. Agropur includes brands such as Yoplait, Olympia, and Island Farms. Agropur is ubiquitous.

I have noticed today’s cheese for at least a year at the supermarket. Rondoux Double Creme and it’s Rondoux siblings are all sold in adorable little round wooden boxes, and I am a sucker for good marketing.  By my reckoning, Rondoux is a brie cheese in all but name.  Interestingly, Agropur doesn’t use the “B” word in any of its promotional material for this cheese.  In fact, there is virtually no promotional material for Rondoux Double Creme at all, despite the fact that I see its little wooden box just about everywhere.  This is a little strange, don’t you think?

As I have mentioned, I am a sucker for marketing.  The instructions on the back of the wooden box state that you can do your own home affinage, (ok, they don’t use that phrase, this is just me).  According to the instructions, this cheese is “young” 40 days before the best before date, and is thus “soft and slightly tart,” it is “semi-ripened” 25 days before the best before date and  “mild and velvety,”  and it is “fully ripened” right before the best before date and “rich and creamy.”  That’s kind of cool. My sample today is almost smack on the best before date. I never before knew this was something to aim for in a cheese.

I don’t know much about the production of Rondoux Double Creme as no one is talking, and I hate that.  As it’s a brie, it’s a young cheese, helped along by some friendly moulds.  It’s made from cow’s milk that is pasteurized.  This cheese is made in the Corneville cheesemaking factory. As this one is a Double Creme, creme is added to the cheese to make it richer, there’s also a triple creme variety out there, but I am trying to finish this blog without getting overly fat, so no thanks. Interestingly, despite the fact that no one seems to be talking about Rondoux Double Creme, this little darling is a rock star!  Rondoux Double Creme WON the 2011 American Cheese society in the SOFT RIPENED CHEESES.  That’s pretty freaking fantastic, I don’t know why Agropur isn’t screaming this from the tops of the mountains, I certainly would if this were my cheese.

My little wedge of  Rondoux is simpering quietly beside me.  It’s an unassuming little cheese.  When I cut into it my knife stuck into the interior and a little bit oozed out. This is a good sign!  There is a white bloomy rind of mould, edible-of course, and a creamy-looking interior with a few small eyes.  The very middle has turned to goo. It smells mildly of mushrooms and toes.

Here goes…

Ahhh.  Freaking fabulous!  Really, this cheese totally rocks!  It’s absolutely divine in flavour, the mushroomy paste matches the creamy, salty and slightly sweet interior. There is a hint of ammonia, but it’s kept in check by a harmonious balance of salt, sweet and unctuous joy.  The texture is great.  The gooey middle is exactly as I hoped: sticky, cloying, melting, sensual-it’s making sweet  love to my tongue and teeth.  Wow, I can’t believe this cheese is this good. I heartily recommend this one if you are looking for a fabulous and affordable little brie from Canada, you can’t go wrong.  This one is definitely, my slice of cheese.

Day 94-Creamy Havarti

 

I can’t believe I am finally eating a cheese made in America.  Ironically, I was certain that this was a Danish cheese!  If I have learned one thing in this blog-besides the fact that goat cheese is good and not horrid-it’s that it’s really hard to figure out where some cheese comes from. I mean really hard!  It’s Havarti, for God’s sakes, it’s Denmark’s most popular cheese!  It’s sold by Arla, a large company from Denmark.  But no, this one is made in the good old USA. Sigh.  Honestly, I give up.

Creamy Havarti or Fløde Havarti-as it’s called in Danish-was created by Hanne Nielsen, a farmer who operated an experimental farm called Havarthigaard north of Copernhagen in the 1800’s. Hanne was the wife of a New Zealand farmer who traveled the world exploring the art of cheese making. Upon her return, she decided to experiment  and named her finest creation after her farm- Havarthi. 

Today’s Havarti is factory-made and widely distributed throughout the world, but it is still a direct descendent of Nielsen’s original cheese.  It doesn’t look to me as though Nielsen or her family, or the Danish government for that matter- have control over the name or recipe for Havarti.  Cheese calling itself  “Havarti’ can and is made just about everywhere, which is a shame. There is no quality control. It would be interesting to know how some folks keep a strangle-hold on their cheese recipe and name, and others-like Neilsen-just seem to give it away.

Havarti’s main distributor/creator, and the creator of my cheese today  is Arla foods, a new fangled merge of two cheese giants, MD foods-the  first Danish co-operative and Arla foods, a Swedish co-operative.   Arla Foods is a major supplier of specialty cheese, sourced in Europe and brought to North America for sale.

The Arla website states that its Havarti cheese is actually made by one of its companies, Dofino.  Dofino makes  its Havarti in Wisconsin.  I find all of this baffling. Why would a Danish and Swedish cheese company use an Italian sounding subsidiary to make a Danish cheese in Wisconsin?  Maybe the milk is cheaper there?  Who knows. Despite this geographic confusion (at least on my part),  Dofino’s creamy Havarti is a succesful cheese in its own right, taking silver at the 2006 Champion Cheese Contest.

All Havarti is made by introducing rennet to pasteurized cow’s milk to cause curdling. The curds are put into moulds and then drained, and then the cheese goes into affinage for a short aging. Havarti is an interior-ripened cheese, meaning it ripens inside first, and the rind is left alone.  My sample of Havarti today is the creamy version.  Original Havarti is different from from this one in that creamy Havarti has extra cream added to it during production- similar to triple cream brie. Creamy havarti usually ripens very little.  Havarti cheese retains more whey in it than most cheeses which can cause problems during prolonged ripening, so it’s a young cheese best eaten fresh.

My little slice of creamy Havarti looks a trifle floppy and wan beside me this early in the morning.  I know that it is supposed to be speckled with small eyes-that’s a defining characteristic of Havarti, but mine doesn’t really appear to have any.  That’s weird.  It’s a light yellow semi-soft cheese with no rind. I know in the past that I have said cheese doesn’t smell, but this one actually doesn’t smell at all, no hyperbole.  I can’t catch the slightest whiff of it.

Here goes…

Well, what did I expect?  It’s boring and safe, just like all the other popular cheeses I have sampled.  It’s extremely mild, barely salty, barely astringent, no hint of sweet, no hint of mushroom, no uric acid, no nothing.  It’s just safe and blah. You could feed this to children.  You could feed this to people who say “I hate weird cheese” and they would be so happy because this is the least weird cheese I have ever tasted. The texture is rather nice though, it is creamier than I was expecting, it forms an enjoyable cheese paste on the tongue and is quite chewy, but so what?

Here’s the thing though, not all cheese needs to be a star on its own.  Many cheeses are here in a supporting role.  Bland cheeses like Monterey Jack and Havarti play that role admirably, they are that pasty mildly cheese-flavoured stuff in the background of some great meals.  So there is a place for them-I get it, but as for me, it’s just not my slice of cheese.

Day 91-Edam AKA Dutch Edammer

Have you ever woken up with your neck bent to the side in excruciating pain because you slept on it wrong? If so, did you then have to write a cheese blog post with your head bent 45 degrees to the right? If not, please have some empathy for me today, as I am literally-a little bent. This will be my first ever sideways written post…interesting.  As we do the final 10 cheese count down (it almost makes me cry to write that) I notice that I have neglected Edam, one of the most beloved and popular cheeses in the world. Zoiks!  Luckily I caught that little oversight in time.

Edam cheese is a pasteurized Dutch cow’s milk cheese first mentioned in 1439 when it was made and shipped from the Port of Edam north of Amsterdam. Although mostly made in Holland, the majority is exported.  The Dutch prefer  Gouda over Edam.  As I am a huge Gouda fan, I am curious to see where I land in this debate! The name “Edam Holland” is protected and thus cheese bearing that name is guaranteed to be of Dutch origin.  However, cheese called Edam is made all over the world and labelled as plain old Edam. So watch out, if it matters, it’s “Edam Holland” you are looking for.  Usually Edam made outside of Holland will not have the distinctive red wax coating. But to confuse this formula, that red wax coated Mini Babybel cheese we all put in our kids lunches is Edam, is red wax coated, but is not made in Holland.  Confused yet?

Edam AKA (Dutch Edammer) is traditionally sold in flattened disks of cheese with a coat of red paraffin wax. The cheese is named for the town of Edam in North Holland. From the 14th until the 18th century, Edam cheese was the most popular cheese in the world especially at sea and in the colonies.  Edam could mature very well at sea and could tolerate a little off grid affinage in the hold of a ship, so it was easy to bring it along to eat while travelling. According to legend, Edam cheese became even more popular in that time that as ships used these cheeses as bullets for their cannons. That sounds like bull ship to me, I mean, really?

The Edam cheese of today is not the same cheese as old school Edam. It’s been made from skim milk since the 1800’s while it historically was a full fat milk, like its close cousin, gouda.  Traditional ” farmer style” Edam cheese had a strong flavour and has all but disappeared and been replaced by a factory made version, soft and rather insipid in comparison.  Edam is now sold mostly in a “young”  version which is mild and salty and red waxed.  The aged and traditional version-which will be more flavourful-has a black paraffin wax coating to help distinguish it from the younger type.

My Edam bears the label, “Royal Hollandia,” this company was a little tricky to track down, it turns out that this is a trademarked name of the international dairy giant Friesland Foods company from The Netherlands. I am assuming this cheese is made in Holland, as the parent company is Dutch, but  it is not calling itself the protected name  “Edam Holland ” so that’s kind of strange. I’m not sure where this cheese doesn’t meet the standards set by the protected designation, but my neck hurts too much for further sleuthing at this hour.

My slice of Edam has a firm yellow cheese paste with a bright red wax rind-which I shall remove, of course. The interior paste is solid with no eyes. It looks like a large Babyel that has been sliced.  The smell is extremely mild, in fact, does it smell?

Here goes…

Well, this certainly isn’t Babybel! This cheese is much saltier and more tart than I was expecting. There is no hint of sweet at all, it’s kind of an astringent soya sauce flavour- mild with no raunchy notes, but also not as appealing as I thought it would be. It’s kind of boring and chilled out with no hint of anything carnal or dark to distract me from the banality. It’s safe, very safe, you can see why it is sold to children in tiny little versions.  The texture is really great though, it’s chewy and tensile-you could slice this one and put it on a sandwich no problem, or even shoot it out of a cannon, I suppose, but I must have some Dutch heritage-I vastly prefer a Gouda too, this one’s not my slice of cheese.

Day 88-Mont St. Benoit

Here’s something you probably already know: the internet is full of creepers!  As the administrator of this blog I am privy to the search terms used to find this blog on any given day.  Yesterday someone-or let’s hope something  used a pretty heinous and personal search term to locate this one.  Hence, my profile picture is changed to a cheese for privacy reasons.  So, to you super creepy internet assholereally?  I hope you aren’t getting that worked up over a little bit of cheese.  That’s just sad.

Perhaps then, it is excellent timing that today’s cheese is actually made by monks, and Benedictine monks at that.  The very presence of a truly monastic cheese will drive the negative vibes away~~~~~ Here’s a little confession.  I have a cheese-monk-fantasy thing which has yet to be satisfied in my 88 days of cheese.  I know that sounds a little twisted, but let me explain myself.  There is a clearly established historic connection between monasteries and great cheeses.  Why this is, I’m not sure.  Maybe monks had lots of milk, time and damp cellars on their hands.  Regardless,  many of the great cheeses were initially created by monks, and then later adapted by others.  Most of these cheeses are no longer made by the monks.  Time after time I have been foiled in my endeavour to sample real live monk cheese, but that all comes to an end today with Mont St. Benoit, made at L’Abbeye St. Benoit!

Mont St. Benoit is the real deal, made by real Benedictine monks, at a real monastery.  This is, in fact, the only cheese dairy in North America run by Benedictine monks, so I have hit the jackpot.  The Abbey of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, founded in 1912, numbers a little more than fifty monks living in the municipality of Saint Benoit du lac just East of Montreal. Separated from the world, their worship includes manual as well as intellectual work. They form a community under the direction of an Abbot.

Benedictine life virtually disappeared in France at the Revolution.  In 1901 anticlerical laws in France drove all the Benedictine monks into exile, thus this was initially a community of French exiles, which may explain the cheese. According to their website URL http://www.st-benoit-du-lac.com/chooser2/chooser2.html Benedict said that to be a true monk one must “live by the work of one’s hands.”  This work helps to provide for the needs of the monastery, and at this monastery they needed cheese.  I kind of adore the thought of a group of Benedictine monks having their own website, it’s a fantastic juxtaposition between the old and the new, really go and check it out.  They sell 10 cheeses called  “fromages de l’Abbae” including my Mont St. Benoit.

Alas, that’s about all the info I could find on Mont St. Benoit, it’s almost like someone has taken a vow of silence!  The website does state that the cheeses are all made by the monks, and that they have been making cheese here since 1943.  It doesn’t state where the milk comes from, or if it is organic, but these things are usually stated if they are the case.  It’s probably safe to assume it’s not organic and the milk comes from somewhere other than the abbey-which may explain why this is a pasteurized cheese, not raw.  The only other public statement regarding this cheese, is that it is made from cow’s milk and is “Swiss Style,” whatever that means.  I find that a baffling phrase, as Swiss cheese varies about as much as any other cheese.

My slice of Godly, yet mysterious Mont. St. Benoit cheese is a soft-looking yellow cheese with large eyes-or holes-throughout the cheese body.  As mentioned previously, this occurs by naturally forming gasses caused by bacteria when the cheese is being produced.  My sample is a small one, so there’s just one big eye winking at me.  There is no discernible rind, and the smell is soft and pleasing to the nose, it’s a mild cheese.

Here goes…

mmmm, a toothsome little snack.  The taste is extremely dialled back, it’s quite mild and lacks any bite or saltiness: it’s a safe cheese.  Mont St. Benoit is totally understated in flavour.   However, the texture is really groovy.  It’s got a perfect chew to it, it’s soft, chewy, yet yielding at the same time, you just want to bathe your teeth in its chewy goodness.  I bet this one would be great melted.  I personally like a cheese that bites a little more in terms of flavour, but the texture on this one is so perfect, I will be a repeat offender. Hallelujah!