As you reluctantly pull on a sweater for those cool September evenings, ease the transition into late summer with the comfort of a good Canadian cheddar.
After months of waiting for the latest batch to finish aging, Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar from Prince Edward Island is again available to bring to the table. This time around, it carries the added status of having placed second in its category at the American Cheese Society conference in Chicago in July.
Kathy Guidi, one of the ASC competition's Canadian judges, describes the cheese as "having a terroir of fresh unwashed potatoes near the cloth and mashed potatoes in the paste."
The natural rind is a mottled greyish brown and surrounds a dense, creamy interior that has an inviting crumbly texture when sliced. It is made in 10-kilogram wheels that are aged for 12 months in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.
Unique to Canada, Avonlea is made using traditional cheddar-making techniques, most notably the wrapping of the cheddar in cloth (muslin or cheesecloth) for aging. Thus the reference to "clothbound" or "bandaged cheddar."
This cheese-making style originated in England's Somerset county, where cheddar was created in a village of the same name.
In the 1930s, there were more than 500 farms in Britain making farmstead cheddar; today, the majority of cheddar worldwide is made in factory settings and this traditional skill is being lost.
But Scott Linkletter and cheese maker Armand Bernard are reviving this centuries-old skill. Mr. Linkletter, whose COWS company is most famous for its homemade ice cream, was inspired to expand into cheese making while travelling in Orkney in northern Scotland. He was so taken with the quality and flavour of one of the local cheeses that he befriended the cheese maker and used the local recipe as the starting point for the Avonlea Cheddar.
Mr. Linkletter later travelled to England to learn about traditional cheddar making from some of the most renowned cheddar makers in the world - Montgomery's, Keen's and Westcombe. The Scottish cheese recipe was combined with the clothbound cheddar process, and Avonlea cheddar was born.
Wrapping the cheese in cloth protects and shapes the cheddar while keeping it moist. Though covered, the cheddar is still able to breathe, which aids the ripening process, helping develop interesting and complex flavours and a natural rind. Clothbound cheddars are coated with some type of fat, typically lard or butter, to help the cloth adhere and add to the sealing of the cheese.
And why the name Avonlea? According to Mr. Linkletter, "we thought that was a great name because of the connection with Anne of Green Gables - at the time of Anne, this is the way cheese would have been made."
Sue Riedl studied at the Cordon Bleu in London.
On the block
Cheese Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar
Origin Charlottetown, P.E.I.
Owner Scott Linkletter
Cheese Maker Armand Bernard
Milk Raw cow, P.E.I. Holsteins
Type Firm, clothbound cheddar, natural rind, aged one year
Shape 10-kilogram wheel
Notes This cheese is made with a vegetarian-friendly microbial enzyme (though the binding cloth has been rubbed in lard).
Food Match Serve with homemade or local chutney such as apricot, pear or quince.
Distributor Provincial Fine Foods (in Ontario) and Dovre Import and Export (in Western Canada).
Quebec: Fromagerie du Marché Atwater
Granville Island: Oyama Sausage Company
Campbell River: Cheddar and Co.
Calgary: Blush Lane Organic Market Toronto: All the Best Fine Foods, La Fromagerie
Mississauga: Goat Inc. Cheese Shoppe
London: Smith Cheese, Covent Garden Market
Ottawa: Il Negozio Nicastro
Halifax: Pete's Frootique
Charlottetown: Charlottetown Farmer's MarketSue Riedl
Beppi's Wine Matches
This creamy, delectable cheddar should go nicely with a full-bodied, rich and fruity wine. Think New World reds such as Barossa Valley shiraz from Australia or California zinfandel (the red, not pink, stuff). Mature reds from southern France or Spain could be nice, too. Good white candidates include pinot blanc, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc. If you're a beer lover, this cheddar also pairs well with a traditional English bitter.