Anyone who knows me already knows, I love cheese. Recently, I tried a sample of a BC variety at the Urban Fare cheese counter and got talking to the staff member about all of the BC varieties that they actually do carry. Since I do eat quite a bit of cheese I decided to do my part and try, at least for the next while, to choose only the locally produced products. That day I purchased a piece of White Moon Camembert made by Moonstruck Organic Cheese Inc. on Salt Spring Island. The cheese was soft and creamy with a mildly strong, but not too strong flavor which I actually preferred to stronger Camembert varieties.
I checked out Moonstruck on the Internet and found out that Julie Grace (cheese maker) and Susan Grace (farm manager) have been making cheese at Moonstruck since 1998 and that they credit their healthy and happy cows for the great flavor in their cheeses. Their small herd of Purebred Jersey cows enjoys free access to the outside at all times and the young are raised with the herd and not in pens. Whenever possible they use herbal remedies to treat common complaints, but rely most heavily on prevention – high quality organic feed, free choice kelp and minerals, and a lot of tender loving care. The attitude that they take towards their cows and the production of their cheese makes it taste even that much better. In addition to White Moon they produce eight other varieties of soft cheese.
While internet searching for local cheese makers I found another producer on Salt Spring Island – Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. The company specializes in handmade goat and sheep cheeses. However, I could not find any detailed information about the animals or the farm itself so perhaps a visit to check it out might be necessary before I give it a try.
I also found the site for Little Qualicum Cheeseworks located in Parksville, BC. Clarke and Nancy Gourlay and their three boys began making cheese in 2001 and in 2004 moved to Morningstar Farm and opened their farm and their animals to the public. The family has a small mixed herd of Holstein, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, and Canadienne dairy cows and their production is based on the European model, using only the best quality milk for cheese making. But, do they have happy cows? The answer seems to be yes as they were the first dairy farm in British Columbia to be certified by the SPCA. In addition, to minimize their carbon footprint the company does not ship outside of BC with 99% of their cheese actually sold within the magical 100 miles of their farm.
Armed with all of this information of course I had to try some. Urban Fare stocked Feta, Brie and Fromage Frais in three flavors from Cheeseworks. I tried the latter. Fromage Frais (originally made in France) is a creamy soft cheese made with whole or skimmed milk and cream. It has the consistency of a cream cheese but with fewer calories and less cholesterol. I chose the ‘Herbie’ blend. It had a consistency a little drier than cream cheese and the strong flavor of garlic which was great. It has about 20% less calories and 40% less fat than most regular cream cheeses. The Cheeseworks Fromage Fraise has about the same calories and fat as low fat cream cheese varieties but when compared with these the flavor and consistency of the Fromage Frais is far superior. The company also makes a Raspberry and a Natural (or plain) option.
Well, now that I have found another great thing about living in Vancouver stay tuned for more reports on the local cheese industry.