In our series on Canadian Cheese, cheese lover Ashley Linkletter explores why now's the time to get excited about Canadian cheese. Today Ashley introduces us to fresh Canadian cheeses, with tips on how to serve fresh cheeses and some delicious paring suggestions!
If cheeses were represented by the seasons, then fresh cheeses would unequivocally be summer, gently and innocuously supporting a vivid array of glowing ingredients that can only be truly enjoyed once the temperature rises. Mild and milky in flavour, fresh cheeses provide a bright and obvious contrast to heirloom tomatoes, but they also pair surprisingly well with all of the seasonal ingredients the Canadian summer growing season has to offer.
What Are Fresh Cheeses?
The umbrella term “fresh cheese” describes several different types of cheese, including whey cheeses and stretched curd cheeses.
Simple Fresh Cheeses
Simple fresh cheeses include:
- Cream cheese
- Cottage cheese
- Chèvre, and
These are cheeses made from curdled, drained milk and which typically don’t involve any additional processing steps or preservatives.
Whey cheeses include ricotta and the Norwegian caramelized cheese Geitost (which, while not a Canadian cheese, is the closest thing to ecstasy I can think of when shaved into a pile of fine slivers on top of still-warm bakery brioche bread). Whey cheeses are made from (you guessed it!) whey, a natural by-product of the cheesemaking process.
Stretched Curd Cheeses
The final group of fresh cheeses to explore are stretched curd cheeses, a category that includes fresh mozzarella (also commonly referred to as fior di latte or bocconcini), burrata and buffalo mozzarella.
How Should You Buy and Store Fresh Cheeses?
Fresh cheeses have a noticeably finite shelf life, so much so that it’s wise to buy fresh cheeses the same day you plan on serving them. Once fresh cheeses have been opened they need to be used within two to three days (some cheeses may last longer, such as cottage cheese and paneer).
Occasionally, the brine in which stretched cheese is packaged can develop a funky, sharp smell before the cheese itself spoils; if in doubt rinse the cheese in cold water and smell — it should have a clean, lactic odour.
Resist the urge to freeze fresh cheese (other than paneer); its high moisture content results in a disappointing thawed product.
Finding the Perfect Pairings for Canadian Fresh Cheeses
If you’ve never had the pleasure of sampling truly sublime ricotta you’re in for a treat. In an unprecedented win as Grand Champion at the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, Quality Food’s gorgeously creamy ricotta made its presence known in a prize-winning category usually reserved for aged cheeses.
What To Serve With Ricotta Cheese
Serve this beautiful ricotta with a generous scattering of ripe summer berries and a drizzle of honey or sliced nectarines, a fresh basil chiffonade, and plenty of cracked pepper.
For an easy yet memorable summer barbecue crowd pleaser, spread a thin layer of ricotta on a large serving platter and top with grilled veggies, citrus wedges, and fresh parsley and dill.
Although fresh goat’s cheese is delicious when paired with a multitude of different flavours, truly exceptional chèvre stands on its own. Well-made chèvre should be clean and citrusy-tasting, free from any lingering unpleasant, gamey flavours. Salt Spring Island Cheese Company has been making goat’s milk cheeses since 1996 and their lovely yet simply adorned chèvre is a tasty treat for warm weather picnics.
What To Serve With Chèvre
Their basil and olive oil chèvre is particularly satisfying served with generous slices of heirloom tomatoes and a small ramekin of homemade or store-bought tapenade.
Burrata is a magical cheese, a classic fresh mozzarella recipe made even better with the addition of fresh cream. Authentic burrata comes straight from Italy and is flown in weekly during the summer months for Canadians across the country to enjoy. Quality Cheese (yes, the same company that makes that award-winning ricotta!) produces a homegrown version of this Italian classic with great success and it can usually be found year-round in supermarkets and cheese shops across Canada.
What To Serve With Burrata
Burrata doesn’t need much to shine except for a generous drizzle of your best olive oil, Maldon salt and freshly cracked pepper, and the best heirloom tomatoes you can find.
Natural Pasture’s Mozzarella di Bufala (made from a herd of water buffalo on Vancouver Island) is similar in taste to cow’s milk mozzarella, but with a sweeter flavour and creamier texture.
What To Serve With Buffalo Mozzarella
It’s at its best when roughly torn and melted onto wood-oven pizza or layered between grilled peaches, red onions, and fat handfuls of fresh basil. If you have leftover fresh buffalo mozzarella you can make a decadent grilled cheese with pesto, roughly chopped sundried tomatoes, and thinly sliced prosciutto.
- Canadian Cheese: Discovering Sheep's Milk Cheeses
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- Canadian Cheese: Blue Cheese & Dessert Wine