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Best Cheeses: Canada

Best Region: Quebec

More than 500 varieties of cheese are produced in this Canadian province—so while there’s bound to be something to fit every turophile’s tastes, it can almost feel overwhelming to figure out where to begin. But that’s where we come in.

First, determine how you’ll travel. Quebec covers a large geographical area, so a cheesy road trip is a solid option for most explorers. Intrepid summer travelers could also consider a bicycle or motorcycle.  

Montreal—an internationally recognized foodie hub—is a natural jumping-off point. Kick off your trip with a pint of local beer and a bowl of gravy-doused, cheese-curd-laden poutine. From the city center, you can tour more than 30 fromageries within a two-hour radius, like Les Fromages du Verger, a small-scale sheep dairy and apple orchard about 45 minutes from the city. Husband and wife duo Michel and Brigitte Duerin produce nine different cheeses—don’t miss Brebichon, a Reblochon style washed with the farm’s apple cider—plus fresh yogurt from the milk of their sheep, and they also sell locally made treasures from their farm boutique.  

Photo by Viplav Nigam

A bit farther down the road, in the Bois-Francs valley, is Fromagerie du Presbytère. Every Friday from May to October, the Fromagerie hosts approximately 2,000 locals and tourists to celebrate la joie de vivre with still-warm cheese curds, locally made beer and cider, and their award-winning lineup of fine handmade cheeses (like Louis d’Or). Spread out a blanket and enjoy this quintessentially Quebec celebration of cheese—and then book a room at a local B&B so you can relax and stay a while.

Quebec City, known for its old-world charm, is another option for the start of your trip. Visit the iconic Chateau Frontenac where you can imbibe at the sophisticated 1608 Cheese & Wine Bar while feasting on the finest local cheeses.  

From Quebec City, take a drive (or a ride) to Fromagerie La Station Compton, where the Bolduc family produces some of the most highly regarded farmstead cheeses in Quebec. Simon Pierre Bolduc, lead cheesemaker, is often on hand to show off his pristine operation, but even if he isn’t, the fromagerie features large windows into the make room and aging caves that were designed with self-guided tours in mind. Visit their on-site shop to purchase cheese souvenirs, including fromagerie-exclusive wheels.

Best Cheesemakers of Canada

COWS Creamery

In 2004, Cows Creamery owner Scott Linkletter took a trip to the Orkney Islands, a cluster of landmasses north of Scotland where his family has roots. He returned with a recipe for Scottish clothbound cheddar and a dream to make cheese with local milk.

Linkletter enlisted the help of his employee Armand Bernard to help bring Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar to life—a wise choice, as 10 years of work as an ice cream maker for Cows Creamery meant Bernard was no stranger to transforming PEI milk into something extraordinary.

After 14 years in the cheese business, Cows Creamery continues to win countless awards for their butters and cheddars, including this flagship wheel. Most recently, Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar was named Third Place Best of Show at the 2018 American Cheese Society Judging and Competition. That makes sense when you consider that Bernard is known for his meticulous attention to detail. Sales manager Andrea White says his consistency is part of the reason Cows Creamery products are a cut above the rest: “Armand leads a team of professionals that never waiver on the quality and precision of their work. Every day is different; from cloth-binding fresh wheels of cheddar, to flipping and vacuuming the cheeses as they age in their caves, ensuring uniformity in their aging—consistency is always part of the job”.  

White believes top-quality PEI milk also plays a part in their success; Cows Creamery works with a local dairy co-op that supports 165 small, family-run farms on the island. The average herd size is a mere 65 cattle and care is taken by each farmer to maintain clean farming practices. Throughout the year, the cows graze on clay- and iron-rich pasture and eat a mixed diet of hay, grain, and silage. Sea salt and minerals are naturally occurring in the environment, too, which gives the cheeses unique earthy notes.

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar

Fromagerie du Presbytère

Nestled in the Bois-Francs valley, halfway between Montreal and Quebec City, is Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick, a small farming village. It’s home to Fromagerie du Presbytère, a creamery housed in an old Presbyterian Church rectory. For owner and head cheesemaker Jean Morin, organic is of the utmost importance; by following organic farming practices, he explains, you find the purest way to connect with the earth and honor mankind. “When we are farming, the most important thing to do is to produce the very best ingredient, no matter what the ingredient is. That is the most important job, everywhere around the world.”  

Morin raises Holstein cows on a diet of organic hay that he grows, harvests, and stores dry for year-round consumption. During the warmer months, the cows also graze on organic pasture of clover, timothy, and other indigenous meadow grasses. It is through this control over the animals’ diet and how they are cared for that Morin produces quality milk suited for cheesemaking.

Jean Morin and his team produce a total of seven cheeses, many of which have won several prestigious awards over his 13 years in business, but one cheese stands alone: Louis d’Or. The Alpine-style wheel weighs 80 pounds, the only one of its size made in Canada. Louis d’Or was recently crowned Best in Show at the Canadian Cheese Awards, beating 378 other cheeses for the coveted title. The win was truly a group effort—not only on the cheesemaking end, but even in selecting the winning wheel. Morin and his cheesemaking team examine and taste cheeses for several days before landing on a single cheese to enter. “It’s about which one [has] a well-rounded flavor that develops as you taste and a long, complex finish,” he says.

Success for Morin is not measured by winning prestigious awards (although, “that’s nice, too,” he says) but instead it’s a daily goal: “Every day we ask ourselves how we can make better cheese.” This work ethic extends to his three children who have returned to the family farm with degrees in farming and science and an interest in cheesemaking. When looking at Fromagerie du Presbytere’s future, one thing is clear: Jean Morin is just getting started.

Best Cheeses of Canada

Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar
Cow’s Creamery
Charlottetown, Canada

Aromas of fresh grass and sweet cream bound off this dense, crumbly wheel, conjuring images of lush countryside speckled with grazing cows. Despite 18 months of cave-aging, the paste retains plenty of creaminess and boasts a fudgy mouthfeel. Earthy notes of butter-cooked leeks lead the way to a sweet tropical-fruit-and-roasted-almond finish.  

Fromagerie La Station
Compton, Canada

Aged on spruce for 60 to 90 days, this supple, raw cow’s milk cheese has flavors of cream, yogurt, and hay with a fresh peanut finish. Make the most of the washed rind and melt it over piles of roasted potatoes and tangy pickles—it’s the best way to warm up during a Quebec winter.

Louis d’Or
Fromagerie du Presbytère
Sainte-Élizabeth de Warwick, Canada

Bold flavor and aroma are present in this cheese from start to finish. The recipe starts with raw, organic milk, and as it’s warmed in the vat, the sweet aroma of hay and fresh grass wafts into the air. The curd is formed into large rounds before being pressed, brined, and transferred to the aging cave. Once fully matured, notes of cultured butter–cooked onions and freshly baked brioche tickle your nose while flavors of dry straw, ripe apricot, and roasted almond invigorate the palate. A firm texture and slightly granular mouthfeel is characteristic of this Alpine style—it’s an absolute knockout in vegetable gratins.  

Erin Harris

Erin Harris is a classically trained chef who spent time living and working in Italy early in her career. After years of being an enthusiast of fine cheese, Erin studied and trained to become a Certified Cheese Professional through the ACS. Combining her passion for fine food and cheese, today Erin is a cheesemonger and a freelance recipe developer and consultant. In her free time, Erin can be found traveling in search of her next cultural adventure.

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