You might recall that culture covered all the nitty gritty of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix about a month ago, but in case you missed it, here’s a five-second recap: this is the ninth year of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, which was launched in 1998 to give honors to Canadian cheesemakers. All cheeses entered in the Grand Prix must be made from 100% Canadian milk. This year, competitors entered 268 cheeses. Judges went behind closed doors on February 21 and 22 and released the names of 81 finalists. The winners will be announced at the Gala of Champions in Toronto on April 22.
There are 27 categories total and there are three finalists for each. The range of categories is enormous. Looking for soft cheese? Do you want washed or mixed-rind soft cheese, soft cheese with a bloomy rind, or cream-enriched soft cheese with a bloomy rind? Looking for cheddar? There are five different categories for cheddar alone.
This year features new categories, including three separate Gouda categories: Gouda (aged 1–6 months), Aged Gouda, or Extra Aged Gouda. Also added was a stand-alone category for smoked cheese.
Where to start? Well, you could go with some culture-recommended cheeses. The Quality Cheese, Inc. for Bella Casara was selected as one of our 75 best cheeses of the year and won second place in the unripened cheese category at the 2014 American Cheese Society conference.
Louis d’Or, a finalist in the Swiss-type cheese category, is made in 90-pound wheels and aged for nine months. Made by La Fromagerie du Presbytère in Quebec, Louis d’Or has won awards in the past, and it looks like the raw cow’s milk cheese is gunning for another.
The Farm House Natural Cheeses boasts three cheeses as finalists: two Traditional Clothbound Cheddars—one aged 9–12 months, another 1–3 years—plus Heidi, a cheese similar to a Gouda that’s perfect for fondues.
Natural Pastures has five cheeses thrown into the mix (although we recommended a sixth cheese, Buffalo Paneer, as one of our best of the year). Sylvan Star Cheese has six nominated cheeses, including the culture-recommended Natural Smoked Gouda. You know any cheesemaker that appears this much has got to be good.
In the Aged Cheddar category, you’ll find the Extra Old Cheddar and Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar made by COWS Creamery. Their Appletree Smoked Cheddar is also a finalist, which means all of COWS Creamery’s cheeses are finalists. Armand Bernad, cheesemaker at COWS Creamery, says the nominations are an honor: “These awards recognize the best in cheese making across Canada and we feel a real sense of pride to be able to continue to put Prince Edward Island on the map as a culinary competitor.”
There a ton more to check out and plenty of categories to pinpoint. You can find the complete list of finalists on the Dairy Farmers of Canada site. Get ready for April 22!