A cheese with deep roots
Written by Kelly Schweitzer
- Greeked In: Schep adds the fenugreek seeds at a precise moment in the process so that they are evenly distributed
Everyday Gouda is elevated to another level with the addition of fenugreek — a popular seed native to Eurasia, but commonly found in Indian cuisine. The sweet, celery-tasting spice of fenugreek combined with the mild nuttiness of Gouda make for a more enriched flavour, and is what helped Thunder Oak Cheese Farm win the 2002 Dairy Farmers of Canada Grand Prix award for Best Firm Cheese. "The seeds change the taste of the cheese," says Thunder Oak's cheesemaker, Walter Schep. "The Gouda has a nutty flavour of its own, but the seeds sort of enhance it."
Schep is a third-generation cheesemaker, whose mastery traces a genealogy back to Holland where both his parents grew up in cheese-making families — his grandmother having won the World Champion Cheese Contest in 1975 for her Gouda. Since 1981, the Scheps have been making cheese in Canada, first in Scoble Township, just south of Thunder Bay, Ont. and then in Thunder Bay when they became commercialized in 1995, specializing in Gouda. Today they're one of the most widely known producers of Gouda in Canada and one of few in the country who make it with fenugreek.
"It's got a maple-nutty flavour to it," Schep says of the cheese, adding that it's smooth and creamy, but has a bit of a rough texture because of the seeds. Cherries in particular are a great match for it, but apples and other fruit will also go well. And remove it from the fridge an hour prior to eating, as cold cheese doesn't have the same flavour as room temperature cheese, says Schep.
The cheese's affinity to cherry flavours should guide your wine pairings, too. Reach for a bright Pinot Noir from a cool climate region, such as Burgundy or Ontario, says Dairy Farmers of Canada consultant Deborah Levy, adding that jammy wines won't work.
How to master cheese tasting
Look at the shape, size, condition and colour of both the cheese and the rind. Note the body of the curd and whether it's dense or has holes.
Feel if the cheese is soft, semisoft or firm. Touch the rind to feel whether it's sticky, waxy, soft or sandy. And in the mouth, notice if the texture is creamy, buttery, grainy, silky or chalky.
Smell the cheese, including the rind, and determine whether it entices or repels you. You may discover it has familiar smells like milk, mushrooms, grass, animals, musty basements or wildflowers.
Press a bite of cheese to the roof of your mouth to generate saliva. After a few seconds, taste whether the primary flavours (sweet, sour, salty, bitter) are balanced and notice the secondary flavours (hint: they often mirror the aroma).
Do you like the cheese? What makes it distinct or memorable? Perhaps it excites or bores you, or reminds you of a special time or place.
Sourced from Canadian Cheese: A Pocket Guide by Kathy Guidi