Reason #2 to come to Montréal: Québec artisan cheese
Cheese making has always been part of Québec tradition, it was a useful way of using milk surpluses by early French settlers who had brought with them their milk cows of course. However, the kind of cheeses produced has changed a lot through the ages.
In the early days of the colony, cheeses were fresh, basic and unripened. Only the elite had the luxury of importing fine ripened cheeses from Europe. Legend even has it, that the first cheese tasted by the Natives was Dutch!
Then, with the arrival of the English, Cheddar cheese was introduced. It remained for centuries the main cheese produced in Québec. The only other ripened cheeses produced in Québec were the famous Oka cheese of the Trappist monks and much later the cheeses of the Fromagerie de l’Abbaye Saint-Benoît.
In 1865, the first cheese factory was founded in Dunham. A few decades later, in 1890, in St-Prime, Adélard Perron founded what is now the oldest running cheese factory in Canada. Soon after, in 1982, l’Ecole de laiterie de St-Hyacinthe is established. Students from all over Canada came to this school to learn the latest techniques in cheese making. Canada was, for example, one of the first countries in the world to apply pasteurisation. This school contributed to the boom in cheese factories.
So for a very long time, the palette of cheeses produced in Québec varied very little. And then, in 1981, Fritz Kaiser, a Swiss master cheese maker, started a local production inspired by his swiss origins. His work revived the taste for fine European cheeses. Since then a multitude of small artisan productions have flourished and produced internationally acclaimed and decorated fine cheeses.
Of course, compared to countries like France, our variety is very modest; but with more than 450 locally produced cheeses, you will for sure find something to suit your taste!
Here are a few suggestions for you to explore:
Fromagerie du terroir de bellechasse, Le Fleur Saint-Michel
Fromagerie F.X. Pichet, Le Baluchon
Fromagerie Alexis de Portneuf, La Sauvagine
Fromages de l’Isle d’Orléans, Le Paillasson de l’Isle d’Orléans
Fromagerie du Presbytère, Louis d’or
Fromagerie du Presbytère, Le Bleu d’Elizabeth
As for the one stop shop to discover cheese:
In the Plateau: 2117 avenue Mont-Royal Est, 514-521-3333
At Marché Jean-Talon: 220, rue Jean-Talon Est, 514-272-1161
Many thanks to Jeannine for her contribution.