In our series on Canadian Cheese, cheese lover Ashley Linkletter explores why now's the time to get excited about Canadian cheese. Who doesn't love a grilled cheese sandwich? Ashley show you how to take your next grilled cheese from mundane to extraordinary with select Canadian cheeses.
Who doesn’t love a good grilled cheese sandwich? Even a mediocre grilled cheese (you know, the kind made with processed single slices of plasticky cheese and singularly bland but-oh-so-fluffy white bread) is undeniably comforting with a bowl of tinned tomato soup.
But a good grilled cheese, and by that I mean one that’s been made with good cheese, good bread, and good butter (or mayonnaise, if that’s how you roll), well that’s another story entirely.
So let's look at the science behind the perfect grilled cheese and then talk about some delicious Canadian cheeses that can take your next grilled cheese sandwich to a whole new level of ooey gooey flavour!
Understanding the Cheese Melting Process
Throughout your many kitchen adventures and misadventures, you may have noticed that different types of cheese possess different melting qualities.
When cheese melts it goes through two main stages.
- During the first stage the actual fat in the cheese starts to melt and pool.
- During the second stage the cheese is heated to a higher temperature and the bonds between the casein molecules themselves begin to break down (casein being the main protein found in cheese).
This final melting stage is what leads to perfectly gooey cheese with an oozing consistency that's best suited to grilled cheese sandwiches.
Can You Make Grilled Cheese with Younger Cheese?
Younger cheese isn't always the best cheese (but it can be if used sparingly).
Young cheeses with a high moisture content such as fresh mozzarella, burrata, chevre, brie, and camembert move through both stages quickly. This leads to long strings of melted cheese (the result of casein molecules rapidly breaking apart from one another and becoming hopelessly intertwined in the process).
When making grilled cheese sandwiches with younger cheeses, it’s best to go against any instinct you might have to pile on the cheese. Scale back to half the cheese you’d normally use to avoid a fatty, flabby-tasting sandwich.
Use Extra-Aged Cheeses as an Accent Ingredient
Very aged cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, cheddars that are more than 4 to 5 years old, extra aged gouda, Pecorino Romano, and crumbly blue cheeses require very high heat (around 80° Celsius) in order to move through both stages of the melting process. What tends to happens is the fat in the cheese will melt and pool to the top of the cheese. However, since it’s not hot enough to fully break down the bonds between the casein, an extra-aged cheese will stubbornly keep its form.
If you love the taste of strong aged cheeses try this simple hack:
- Mix together equal parts crumbled or grated cheese with butter and spread on the inside (or outside!) of the bread, and use a different melty cheese for the bulk of the sandwich.
Some Cheeses Aren’t Made for Melting at All
Any non-melting cheese that has used an acid of some type to form curds (instead of microbial or animal rennet) will also be a poor choice for grilled cheese sandwiches. Cheeses like haloumi, ricotta, paneer, and farmer’s cheese are best suited for grilling or spreading.
Don’t waste precious non-melting cheeses in a grilled cheese sandwich. All you’ll have to show for it is a slice of rubbery cheese between two slices of bread.
Canadian Cheeses You’ll Definitely Want To Try in Your Next Grilled Cheese
Luckily, the list of Canadian-made cheeses that are are ideal for making exemplary grilled cheese sandwiches is much longer than the list of cheeses that aren’t as well-suited. If you’re looking to explore new options for grilled cheese, the following suggestions are some of my current favourites.
Raclette is made to melt (its name come from the French “racler,” which means “to scrape” — as in, scraping the melted cheese onto potatoes or other accompaniments). Depending on who you’re asking, raclette is either a French or Swiss cheese, but cheesemakers here in Canada have also come to embrace raclette for its funky taste and unrivaled melting properties.
Add plenty of jammy caramelized onions to this grilled cheese and serve with a small dish of mouth-puckering French cornichons.
- Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville, BC makes a buttery, creamy version of raclette with a very light rind. A great raclette for beginners or those who prefer a milder taste.
- Fromagerie La Station de Compton from the Eastern Townships, QC makes an organic raclette that's lightly fruity and nutty in taste and closer to traditional raclette. Try their plain Raclette de Compton or opt for their peppercorn-spiked version.
Alpine-style cheeses are cheeses that have been made from milk produced in mountainous regions. This category includes traditional European cheeses such as Gruyere, Comté, and Beaufort. These cheeses are celebrated for their pronounced terroir, as the cows eat a very select diet of grasses and foliage that are specifically found in their high-altitude environment.
Canadian cheesemakers in mountainous areas are now making their own alpine-style cheeses. They’re absolutely delicious in a grilled cheese sandwich with thin slices of ham and your favourite grainy mustard.
- Kootenay Alpine Cheese Co. in Creston, BC makes Alpindon and Nostrala, two exemplary animal rennet-free alpine-style cheeses made with raw cow’s milk.
- The Farmhouse Natural Cheeses in Agassiz, BC produces Alpine Gold, a semi-soft washed rind cheese with a gorgeous golden interior and mild, buttery flavour.
Sheep and Goat’s Milk Cheeses
Goat’s milk cheeses tend to have a slightly gamey taste which makes them the perfect pairing for stronger flavoured condiments. Sour cherry preserves, tamarind chutney, and even a chunky antipasti dip are ideal when served in or alongside a grilled cheese sandwich.
Sheep’s milk cheeses, particularly with younger cheeses, are more delicately flavoured and can be paired with rose petal or lavender jelly or a small drizzle of wildflower honey.
- Fromagerie Tournevent Chesterville in Chesterville, QC makes Chevre Noir, a bold-tasting goat’s milk cheddar that should be thinly sliced or grated before adding to a grilled cheese sandwich. This cheese has big flavour so feel free to pair it with strong condiments. The aforementioned chutney and sour cherry preserve suggestions make this grilled cheese the stuff of legends.
- Fromagerie Nouvelle France from the Eastern Townships, QC makes both La Madelaine and Zacharie Cloutier, two very different sheep’s milk cheeses with grilled cheese potential. La Madelaine is a soft cheese with a bloomy rind. Use sparingly and pair with the lightest of condiments (or none at all). Zacharie Cloutier is a firm washed-rind cheese with plenty of grassy and sunshine-y flavour. It can be paired with more robust condiments.
- Canadian Cheese: Cheese for Lunch
- Canadian Cheese: Washed-Rind Cheeses & Beer Pairings
- Canadian Cheese: Fresh Cheeses