The finalists for the  2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix are in! Next time you find yourself in a cheese shop, make sure to sample this year’s award-winners, from the pastures of British Columbia to the farmsteads of Prince Edward Island.

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Dairy Farmers of Canada Vice-President Reint-Jan Dykstra, Executive Director Caroline Émond, and President Wally Smith, with Jean Morin from the Fromagerie du Presbytère (QC), whose Laliberté cheese (pictured on right) was named Grand Champion of the 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix in Toronto on April 22.

Hosting a cheese party? A few tips to consider:
– Include a variety of accompaniments to your platter that would pair nicely including baguette, nuts, honey, jams and even chocolate… yes, chocolate!
– Cheese is best served at room temperature, so make sure to remove it from the fridge at least one hour before guests arrive.
– Make sure to include a mix of soft and hard cheeses on your platter.
– Most importantly, have fun experimenting!

Category: Fresh Cheese
Winner: Ricotta Bella Casara, Quality Cheese Inc., Ontario
Ricotta is a soft Italian cheese that is semisweet to mild in flavour. It is white and has a milky aroma and a creamy flavour. Quality Cheese represents the fourth generation in a family tradition of cheese making. Bella Casara Ricotta made history at the 8th edition of the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix as the first fresh cheese and the first Ontario cheese to be given the title of Grand Champion. The creamy texture and milky aroma create a ricotta that is refined, delicate and extremely well-balanced.

Category: Fresh Pasta Filata
Winner: Cherry Bocconcini, Natural Pastures Cheese Company, British Columbia
The milk used to produce Natural Pastures cheese comes from local farms on Vancouver Island. The cows graze on the local grass and herbs, generously watered by Pacific Ocean-soaked rain. This cherry-sized bocconcini, made in the pasta filata manner, is tender and moist, white and rindless. It is unripened, with a refreshingly delicate and creamy aroma.

Category: Fresh Cheese with Grilling Properties
Winner: Le Paillasson de l’isle d’Orléans, Les Fromages de l’isle d’Orléans, Quebec
Les Fromages de l’isle d’Orléans dates back to the early beginnings of the Nouvelle-France colony. The cheese recipe was passed down from generation to generation for centuries, only to later vanish from the market for more than 40 years. Relaunching in 2004, this artisanal, hand-crafted cheese with grilling properties has a buttery aroma and a light lactic, creamy, salty flavour. It was given the name Paillasson in reference to the small carpet of reeds on which the original cheese makers dryed the cheese, above their kitchen woodstoves.

Category: Soft Cheese with Bloomy Rind
Winner: Comox Brie, Natural Pastures Cheese Company, British Columbia
Comox Brie is made with milk from select Vancouver Island farms. The mild seaside climatic conditions and “terroir” from the farms’ locations, contribute to the rare, ambrosial taste. This soft bloomy rind cheese has a creamy buttery texture and a fresh flavour, with a delicate note of mushroom.

Category: Cream-Enriched Soft Cheese with Bloomy Rind
Winner: Laliberté, Fromagerie du Presbytère, Quebec
The Louis d’Or farm has been in the Morin family for four generations. This farmstead cheese is made with the milk of a mix of Jersey and Holstein cows that graze on their fields in the summer. Named after the famous sculptor Alfred Laliberté, from Sainte-Élizabeth-de-Warwick, this aromatic triple crème cheese, with its tender bloomy rind, encases an unctuous paste. Laliberté has flavours of mushrooms and cream when young and, as it ages, it stuns with hints of grass and root vegetables.

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Category: Semi-Soft Cheese
Winner: Fleur de Weedon, Fromagerie P’tit Plaisir, Quebec
The Fromagerie P’tit Plaisir is a family union composed of six members: Gaétan and Céline Grenier (farmers since 1976), along with their two sons and daughters, Dany, Rémy, Mélanie, and Maggie, since 1997. The Fleur de Weedon cheese is hand-crafted with pasteurized milk from the Holsteins on the Grenier family farm in Saint-Gérard-de-Weedon. Its name is inspired by the City of Weedon’s logo. The mild aroma of butter, sweet hazelnut and cream is obtained with a controlled maturation.

Category: Washed- or Mixed-Rind Soft Cheese
Winner: L’Origine de Charlevoix, Laiterie Charlevoix Inc., Quebec
Founded in 1948 by Elmina Fortin and Stanislas Labbé, Laiterie Charlevoix is still owned by the Labbé family. Stanislas and Elmina’s great grandchildren are the fourth generation to work in the company. Made exclusively with milk from Canadienne cows, this cheese has a fine velvety rind, varying from yellow to orange in colour and a mild fruity and nutty taste that lingers after its soft and uniform centre has been enjoyed.

Category: Washed- or Mixed-Rind Semi-Soft Cheese
Winner: Raclette, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Inc., Quebec
Fritz Kaiser moved to Canada from Switzerland in 1981 and established Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser. Leading the way in the creation of Canadian Raclette, this semisoft, washed rind cheese has a smooth texture and a prominent hazelnut aroma, which follows through in the flavour. The term Raclette comes from the French verb racler, meaning “to scrape”. Traditionally, Raclette would be melted and scraped onto potatoes and served with gherkins and pickled onions. Enjoy Raclette Fritz on its own, as part of a fondue or in the traditional way.

Category: Washed- or Mixed-Rind Firm Cheese
Winner: Alfred Le Fermier 18 Months, Fromagerie La Station, Quebec
Alfred Le Fermier is named after the family’s great grandfather, Alfred Bolduc. Bolduc immigrated to Canada from France at the beginning of the 20th century and founded the farm. This firm, washed-rind cheese is made with certified organic raw milk from the family’s purebred Holsteins cows. Carefully aged for 18 months on wooden boards, the yellowish-orange washed-rind produces a pleasant woodsy aroma, and can be distinguished by its balanced floral and hazelnut flavour, and sturdy texture.

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Category: Firm Cheese (Except Cheddar and Gouda)
Winner: Heidi, The Farm House Natural Cheeses, British Columbia
The Farm House Natural Cheeses is a family farm located in the lush Fraser Valley. Home to the herd of Guernsey and Brown Swiss cows, which provides all the milk for its cheese. Using only the rich summer milk when the cows graze in the pastures, this firm, washed-rind cheese has a beautiful dark golden paste. Aged for a minimum of 8 months, Heidi reaches its peak at 1-year. The flavour is deep and rich with grassy notes.

Category: Swiss-Type Cheese
Winner: Louis d’Or, Fromagerie du Presbytère, Quebec
The Louis d’Or farm has been in the Morin family for four generations. This farmstead cheese is made with raw milk from a mix of Jersey and Holstein cows that graze on their fields in the summer. Inspired by cheese made in the Jura region of France, Louis d’Or is made in a beautiful 40 kg wheel. This firm, washed and brushed rind cheese has delicious flavour notes of nuts and fruit and leaves one with a lingering taste of sweet milk.

Category: Mozzarella (Ball, Brick or Cylinder) or Pasta Filata
Winner: Oaxaca, Local Dairy Products, Ontario
The Singh family has been making cheese in Ingersoll, Ontario for 16 years, breaking new ground in the ethnic cheese business. Their cheese, Oaxaca (pronounced oh-hock-ah), is a Mexican mozzarella-type, light and stringy white cheese which is great for melting. Named after the region where it was born, Oaxaca is hand-stretched in boiling water and sold in a distinctive knotted ball.

Category: Brine-Ripened Cheese
Winner: Feta Cheese, Tiras Dairies Inc., Alberta
Tiras Dairies is a locally-owned and operated dairy plant, located in the city of Camrose, Alberta. This Feta cheese is a semi-soft, white cheese made from pasteurized cows’ milk, with a unique texture and flavour. It is soaked in salt brine and has a strong, salty taste and creamy texture that crumbles easily.
The longer the aging process, the harder and more crumbly the cheese gets. The cheese, when packaged, is cut into bricks and covered in brine.

Category: Gouda (Aged 1 to 6 Months)
Winner: Gouda Medium, Sylvan Star Cheese Ltd., Alberta
The Schalkwijk family moved to Alberta, from Holland, in 1995 with the ambition to start a farm. Not finding any cheese that compared to that of their homeland, they began making cheese in 1999, using milk from their own cows. All Sylvan Star cheeses are made with heat-treated milk and are lactose free. This 5-month aged Gouda has a creamy smooth texture with a slightly tangy flavour.

Category: Aged Gouda
Winner: Gouda Aged, Sylvan Star Cheese Ltd., Alberta
The Schalkwijk family moved to Alberta, from Holland, in 1995 with the ambition to start a farm. Not finding any cheese that compared to that of their homeland, they began making cheese in 1999, using milk from their own cows. All Sylvan Star cheeses are made with heat-treated milk and are lactose free. This
11-month aged Gouda has a rich flavour of a mixture of nuts, butter and toffee, a strong texture with some crystallization, while remaining smooth and creamy on the palate.

Category: Extra Aged Gouda
Winner: Mountainoak Farmstead Premium Dutch Gold, Mountainoak Cheese Ltd., Ontario
After emigrating from Holland to Canada in 1996, the van Bergeijk’s started dairy farming, however their love of cheese making soon had them making cheese for their own consumption. Luckily, some cheese making equipment had found its way with them and, with encouragement from family and friends, Mountainoak Cheese opened its doors in the fall of 2012. Starting off with fresh, raw milk from the family’s herd of Holsteins and then thermalizing it, creates the full, rich flavour in this cheese, which is slightly sweet and nutty. Aged 15 to 18 months, with hints of butterscotch and caramel on the finish.

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Category: Blue Cheese
Winner: Le Bleu d’Élizabeth, Fromagerie du Presbytère, Quebec
Produced in an old church on the Morin family farm, which has been in the family for four generations, this thermalized, semi-soft, blue cheese is made with the milk of the Morin family’s Jersey and Holstein cows. The unique taste and perfect balance of salt and sweetness in this cheese is sure to please even the most discriminating of cheese connoisseurs.

Category: Flavoured Cheese with Added Non-Particulate Flavouring (Except Smoked Cheese)
Winner: Griffon Raclette, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Inc., Quebec
Fritz Kaiser moved to Canada from Switzerland in 1981 and established Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser. Leading the way in the creation of Canadian Raclette, this semisoft cheese is washed with Griffon beer and has a fruity aroma with a sharp hazelnut and malt flavour.

Category: Smoked Cheese
Winner: Gouda Smoked Natural Cheese, Sylvan Star Cheese Ltd., Alberta
The Schalkwijk family moved to Alberta, from Holland, in 1995 with the ambition to start a farm. Not finding any cheese that compared to that of their homeland, they began making cheese in 1999, using the milk from their own cows. All Sylvan Star cheeses are made with heat-treated milk and are lactose free. Carefully aged 4 months, it is smoked for 12 hours using maple wood in their own smokehouse.

Category: Flavoured Cheese with Added Particulate Solids and Flavouring
Winner: Pepper Raclette, Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Inc., Quebec
Fritz Kaiser moved to Canada from Switzerland in 1981 and established Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser. Leading the way in the creation of Canadian Raclette, this semisoft, washed-rind cheese with green peppercorns has a prominent hazelnut aroma followed by a sharp peppery and fruity flavour.

Category: Mild Cheddar (Aged 3 Months)
Winner: L’Ancêtre Organic Mild Cheddar, Fromagerie L’Ancêtre Inc., Quebec
L’Ancêtre was formed in 1992 by a group of 10 dairy farmers who came together to specialize in making organic cheese. Their Mild Cheddar is aged for 3 months, and is made from organic, raw milk. It is cream-yellow in colour with a smooth texture which is slightly elastic and it has a subtle milky aroma.

Category: Medium Cheddar (Aged 4 to 9 Months)
Winner: L’Ancêtre Organic Medium Cheddar, Fromagerie L’Ancêtre Inc., Quebec
L’Ancêtre was formed in 1992 by a group of 10 dairy farmers coming together to specialize in making organic cheese. Their Medium Cheddar is aged for 6 months, and is made from organic, raw milk and it is lactose free. It is cream-yellow in colour, with a firm silky texture which is slightly elastic and it has a mild creamy flavour.

Category: Old Cheddar (Aged From 9 Months to 1 Year)
Winner: Traditional Clothbound Cheddar (9 to 12 Months), The Farm House Natural Cheeses, British Columbia
The family farm located in the lush Fraser Valley is home to the herd of Guernsey and Brown Swiss cows that provide all the milk for the cheese. Using the original clothbound method, Farm House Natural Cheese is one of the few cheese makers in Canada making this style of cheddar. Handmade using the cheddaring process; the curds are placed in a 10 kg cloth-lined mold. After pressing, the cloth is rubbed with lard to protect the cheese, resulting in deep complex flavours, earthy around the cloth area, with a good balance of sharpness and floral notes. Available aged for 6 months, 1 year and 18 months.

Avonlea-clothbound-cheddar-cheese

Category: Aged Cheddar (1 to 3 Years)
Winner: Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, Cows Creamery, Prince Edward Island
Originally, Cheddar was made in wheel shapes, wrapped in cheesecloth. Armand Bernard has revived this tradition, following in the style of great English farmstead cheddars. Avonlea is made with raw, Holstein cow milk, which is then thermalized. The cheese is aged for 14 months under carefully monitored
temperature and humidity conditions. The aroma and flavour of this cheese is uniquely PEI, reminiscent of fresh, unwashed potatoes, grassy yet both sweet and tangy on the finish.

Category: Aged Cheddar (More than 3 Years)
Winner: Extra Old Cheddar 5 Years, St-Albert Cheese Cooperative Inc., Ontario
Five generations of farmers and craftsmen have been part of the St-Albert Cooperative, originally founded in 1894. Five years of natural aging develops the crumbly rich texture and fully mature, sharp cheddar taste with a complex spectrum of nutty, salt and slightly fruity flavours.

Category: Farmhouse Cheese
Winner: Handeck, Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese Ltd., Ontario
This firm, washed-rind cheese is made in a similar method to typical Swiss mountain-style cheeses. Owner and cheesemaker, Shep Ysselstein studied cheese making in Switzerland and it influences all of his cheeses. Handeck, aged 16 months, is firm, with rich, complex flavours and a nutty aroma. All the milk used to produce this cheese comes from the family’s dairy farm.

Category: Organic Cheese
Winner: Alfred Le Fermier 18 Months, Fromagerie La Station, Quebec
Alfred Le Fermier is named after the family’s great grandfather, Alfred Bolduc. Bolduc immigrated to Canada from France at the beginning of the 20th century and founded the farm. This firm, washed-rind cheese is made with certified organic raw milk from the family’s purebred Holsteins cows. Carefully aged for 18 months on wooden boards, the yellowish-orange washed rind produces a pleasant woodsy aroma, and can be distinguished by its balanced floral and hazelnut flavour, and sturdy texture.