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Quebec Cheeses To Spread Beyond Borders


April 16, 2008
By Canadian Pizza

Cheese connoisseurs may want to get used to names like Allegretto, Migneron and Fleurmier.

Cheese connoisseurs may want to get used to names like Allegretto, Migneron and Fleurmier.

Montrealer Alain Besre believes the time has come for artisan cheeses produced in Quebec to be introduced to markets in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

“I already have customers in Vancouver and Edmonton who buy a lot of Quebec cheese,” says Besre, who works at La Fromagerie du Marche Atwater, a well-known cheese boutique in Montreal.

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In the past, the distribution was spotty at best, allowing what Besre calls “intermediate distributors” who were charging “ridiculous prices” to customers out of the province for badly stored and shipped Quebec cheeses.

Besre says this has changed.

“I have chosen distributors who I have trained. I have taken them to the farms where the cheese is made so they can see first hand the quality and excellence of the artisan product,” he says.

Right now, he is concentrating on the Ontario market and will only make the cheese available to high-end specialty outlets. It will not be available in supermarkets.

“Selling cheese is a science, an art and it involves a lot of knowledge,” Besre says. “The seller must be prepared to explain to a customer how to buy the cheese, how to cut it, keep it and serve it and with which wine. So you need to have a specialty store to sell fine cheese.

“Supermarkets face staff turnover, they pre-cut the cheeses and put them in the counter, there is no rotation and no training.”
Besre says that Quebec is very much influenced by France in its type of cheesemaking. And recently, dairy farmers have been encouraged by the Quebec Milk Producers Federation to try their hands at cheese.

The government got involved, and now the province’s technical schools offer courses, allowing budding cheesemakers to learn how to make different kinds of cheese from goat, sheep and cows’ milk.

In Canada, it is legal to make cheese from unpasteurized milk but Quebec is largely the only province that does so.
In 1996, Health Canada considered placing a ban on such cheeses, but ultimately backed off.

Food connoisseurs have long said that cheeses taste better when made from raw milk and Besre is excited that such products will soon be available across much of the country.

Here are descriptions of some favourite Quebec cheeses:
Allegretto: Produced by La fromagerie La Vache a Maillotte in Abitibi. An artisan cheese made with heat-treated ewe’s milk that is cooked and pressed.

Migneron: Produced by Maison D’Affinage Maurice Dufour in Charlevoix. It is an uncooked, pressed cheese that is brine washed and matured in mountain caves for 70 days. The cheese won first prize in the overall category at the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix in 2002.

Fleurmier: From Laiterie Charlevoix in Baie-Saint-Paul Charlevoix. This small, soft-surface ripened cheese is creamy and mild. It is similar to the Neufchatel A.O.C. of France.

“Quebec is way ahead of us” in cheese production, says Stephanie Diamant, a sheep cheese maker and vice-president of the Ontario Cheese Society, which was formed in 2004.

“What worries me is the fact they are expanding because we haven’t been able to get our act together to compete.” •