4 minute read

Alberta's Cheesy Successes

By Natalie Findlay

Oh, cheese! Alberta honours your greatness, your truth, your ability to keep your tradition strong while expanding your global reach.

You adopt new milks, new processes, new technology – and from Gruyere to Gouda to vegan, your appeal is part of the human condition – who doesn’t love cheese?

As author Clifton Fadiman said, “Cheese: milk’s leap towards immortality.”

Let’s take a look at how Alberta is cutting its cheese. The last bi-annual Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Awards took place in 2015, and were open to purely cow’s milk cheeses. Alberta cheeses took home top honours in four categories:

–– Feta cheese from Tiras Dairies

–– Medium Gouda from Sylvan Star

–– Aged Gouda from Sylvan Star

— Natural smoked Gouda cheese from Sylvan Star

This year, the Grand Prix Awards have joined forces with the Canadian Cheese Awards, which are open to all cheeses produced in Canada using the pure milk of Canadian cows, goats, sheep, and water buffalo, and follow strict rules regarding artificial colours, flavours and preservatives, with no modified milk ingredients allowed. The aim is to honour cheese that has achieved technical excellence and exhibits the highest aesthetic qualities, while highlighting flavour, aroma, texture and taste.

The finalists have been chosen, and the awards will be presented in June. Alberta’s 2018 finalists include:

— Feta/Cheese in Brine – A2 Cows Milk Feta by Crystal Springs

— Feta/Cheese in Brine – Goat Milk Feta by Crystal Springs

— Smoked Cheese – Gouda Natural Smoked by Sylvan Star

— Best Farmstead Cheese – Gouda Natural Smoke by Sylvan Star

— Best West Cheese – Gouda Natural Smoke by Sylvan Star

While these companies have been awarded top billing from their industry peers, they are but a few of the producers of the cheesy excellence that Alberta has to offer.

Alberta is home to many excellent cheese makers producing over a hundred varieties of cheeses, all working at their craft of pleasing taste buds throughout the province. These cheese producers have gone on to capture ribbons in many fairs and cheese competitions, so be sure to try out their award winning cheeses.

Fairwinds Farm is a certified organic goat farming operation in Fort Macleod producing mainly chèvre and feta. They don’t use hormones, and the goats are given access to pasture year round.

Noble Meadows Farm in Nobleford makes plain, soft goat cheese that took top honours in the Best Farmstead Cheese category in the 2014 Canadian Cheese Awards.

Alberta Cheese Company has been producing cheese in Calgary for more than 40 years!

Tiras Dairies, in Camrose, turns milk into feta and saganaki cheese.

The Old School Cheesery produces Cheddar cheeses in their store, just outside Vermilion.

Sylvan Star is located between Red Deer and Sylvan Lake; all their cheeses are lactose free and made with heat-treated milk.

All of Sylvan Star's cheeses are lactose free and made with heat-treated milk.

Early Dawn Goat Dairy is a small family farm and goat dairy making artisan goat cheese and other goat’s milk products from their herd of happy goats in Alberta’s Foothills.

Lethbridge County’s Crystal Springs Cheese produce primarily cow’s milk feta.

Latin Foods has queso covered.

Vital Green Farms is a family operated dairy farm near Picture Butte, making cream cheese.

Vital Green Farms is a family operation.

The Cheesiry, near Kitscoty produces raw milk and pasteurized sheep’s milk cheeses from their from their pasture raised flock of East-Friesian sheep.

The Cheesiry has their own pasture raised flock of East-Friesian sheep.

And… here’s the great part, you can buy Alberta cheese in many different styles so you can celebrate your cheese plate and buy local at the same time. Win win!

Adrian Watters, of Springbank Cheese Co, notes that Calgarians' cheese buds are maturing, and a once-timid group are now yearning for more nuanced flavours.

Whereas we used to use the “best before” date apprehensively, now many are using that date as a “best after” date; a date that denotes when a cheese is reaching it’s ripest, not declining.

Let’s not leave out the cheesy frustrations that have plagued vegans and those that are lactose intolerant. There are many new “cheezes” on the market with no dairy in sight.

A number of Alberta companies are producing excellent vegan “cheeze”; options include Prana Kitchen from Langdon, and Glowfood out of Banff. Both have many different flavours and styles to choose from using primarily nut bases to build delicious cheeze options, so vegans can indulge their cheese cravings.

For a more intimate knowledge of cheese, Alberta has many fine cheese shops that are more than willing to help you through the maze of delicious cheeses available.

You can also sign up for informative group classes to educate your tastebuds in cheese land, such as NAIT’s young cheese making fundamentals and Calgary’s Make Cheese’s classes with Early Dawn Goat Dairy.

As you can see, Alberta has a lot of cheesy goodness to offer. Whether you are a full-on cheese aficionado, vegan, or somewhere in between – great cheese is always on the menu.

Natalie is a freelance writer, photographer and pastry chef. A graduate of Cordon Bleu’s pastry program, she manages her own business creating custom cakes.