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Canadian Cheeses

Cattle were first introduced in Canada at the beginning of the 17th century. The start of Canadian cheese making can probably be dated back to that period. French settlers were the ones who started making cheeses here according to the recipes they brought from France, where the process of cheese making had been already established. English settlers, however, managed to add a portion of their tradition to the Canadian cheese making by introduction of distinct characteristics of Cheddar. The first cheese factory in Canada was opened in 1864 in Norwich, Ontario. The idea of producing cheese on a factory became very popular and in took only 3 years for 200 more factories to be opened in Ontario.

Nowadays Canadian cheese is produced with the unique blend of traditions and latest technologies. Milk of the highest standards is used in cheese making. The milk used for cheese making is generally pasteurized in order to destroy all dangerous bacteria. Raw milk that has to be used for specific varieties of cheese undergoes a very careful monitoring. It is not surprising that Canadian cheese has the highest quality. In fact in 1986 a Canadian Cheddar produced Ault Foods Ltd. was declared the World’s Finest Cheese. And more than 20 years later the quality is by no means lower. Nowadays the majority of cheeses are produced in Quebec, followed by Ontario.

One of the greatest things about Canadian cheeses is variety. Canada produces more than 1050 varieties of cheese. They differ in type of milk being used, the cheese category, the milk treatment, the fat content, the ripening period and the production method. This diversity provides thousands of different ways to enjoy cheese from topping for pizza and various appetizers and main courses to desserts. Firm cheeses are easy to grate, so they can be used as toppings for pizza as well as lasagne and pies. Fresh cheeses can be used on fruits and omelettes while soft cheeses are great as a stuffing or on crackers. Blue cheeses such as Ermite and Benedictin are delicious when paired with a glass of Port wine.

Canadian cheeses and Canadian apples can be thought of as a classic combination. Apple cider would go particularly well with medium or aged Cheddar or Raclette. Fortified cider which is similar to port has a sweet and fruity flavour. It pairs well with salty Canadian Blue or cheeses that have a slightly nutty flavour such as aged Gouda. Apple brandy has a strong and warming flavour. That is why the cheese that goes with it has to have an equally strong flavour. Smoked blue cheeses and Cheddar matured for four to eight years will work well.

Cheeses can also be combined with various wines. Canadian Parmesan can be successfully combined with very dry white wine or sherry. Such semi-soft cheeses as Gruyere and Monterey Jack go well with dry white, red or rose wines including Sauvignon and Chablis. With young soft cheeses such as Camembert and Brie light and fruity wines (Riesling or Bordeaux) will go particularly well, while it is best to serve more mature cheeses with drier wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Blue cheeses will compliment sweeter dessert wines such as Port or Sauternes.

To conclude, Canada is a country of such variety of exquisite cheeses that anyone can find the one they like. In addition, cheese can be used in such a variety of ways and paired with so many foods and beverages that it is almost impossible to imagine a product that is used more often.

Image: Dino De Luca / - It's all about food in Canada!
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