Photo by Vanessa Simmons
Named after the small village in Québec where the cheese was originally made, production of Oka takes place just southwest of Montréal in Canada.
The first wheels of Oka were made in 1893, and were largely inspired by the monastic cheese Port Salut from France. In the late 1800s, monks from this same order established a monastery at La Trappe, near the village of Oka in Quebec. They brought the Port Salut recipe with them and recreated their own cheese at the new monastery, where the tradition continues today.
Production of Oka is now undertaken by a commercial company, the monks having sold the rights in 1996. Cheeses can be made from either pasteurized or raw milk. It is still made according to a traditional monastic washed rind cheese recipe, in that it's pressed, semisoft in texture and is washed with a brine solution to encourage the development of the rind while it ages. Maturation takes place for a minimum of one month, while The 'Classic' version is ripened for two.
The texture of Oka is semisoft, pliable, smooth and homogenous. The paste ranges in color from ivory to straw, the rind being closer to the classic reddish-orange of most washed rind cheeses. In terms of flavor, "Regular" Oka lacks the deep, penetrating flavors of the longer ripened, "Classic" Oka. Both cheeses are delicate and subtle, with a fresh but rounded lactic tang; with hints of butter and toast. Flavors intensify with age.
Sip a Burgundy red or a zinfandel alongside this classic Canadian washed-rind.