If any cheese is native to Canada, it’s Oka. Known domestically
and internationally, it was first created in 1893 by the Trappist
monks of Oka, Quebec.

Oka is a type of Port Salut cheese, first made in Brittany,
France, by the Trappist monks, who brought the recipe with them to
Canada and used cheesemaking as a source of survival. In 1974,
Agropur, Canada’s largest cheese cooperative bought the rights to
produce Oka from the monks. Typically made from cow’s milk, Oka is
a semi-soft cheese that’s creamy, fruity and nutty. It’s
traditionally covered with an orange rind that’s washed in brine
and aged on cypress wood planks.

Types of Oka

Unlike many types of cheeses that come in countless varieties,
only four types of Oka exist. It is rarely smoked, layered or
flavoured.

Regular: Made from both raw and pasteurized cow’s milk, ripened
for four weeks

Classic: Unpasteurized, and aged for two months

Light: Similar to regular Oka, but always pasteurized and lower
in fat

Providence: Creamier and softer than regular Oka

Storing and Pairing

Oka is protected by its outer rind, but should still be wrapped
in waxed or parchment paper. Although white mold is harmless, it
should be trimmed away before eating. Oka should be refrigerated,
and will keep for several weeks. Since Oka is historically a French
cheese (derived from Port Salut), it’s best served with Burgundy
wine (Pinot Noir). Because of its nutty and fruity aromas, it goes
well with cashews, walnuts and pecans, apple, grapes and figs.
Because it melts well, it makes a nice fondue. It pairs well with
Zinfandel.

Notable Canadian Oka Cheese Makers

Established in 1938, Agropur, Canada’s largest cheese co-op
purchased the rights to produce Oka from the Trappist monks. The
Montreal-based company uses thermalized cow’s milk to create Oka
classique, and pasteurized cow’s milk to create its regular and
light style Oka. The cheese is made down the street from the
original Trappist monks’ monastery, where the Fromagerie Oka now
stands.

Try it today:

True Canadian Cheese
Fondue

Poutine with Oka Cheese and Fresh
Chervil

Oka Stuffed Potatoes