Why This Canadian Can’t Wait for More European Cheese to Cross Our Border
Your holiday cheese platter is about to get more interesting. That's because the Canadian government is on the verge of signing a trade agreement with the European Union which will, among other things, allow more imported cheese into Canada. 15,000 new tariff free tons a year, or thereabouts. That's a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches.
In case you were unaware, Canadian Dairy farmers have had a sweet deal in this country for decades. Since the 1970′s there has been a supply management system in place whereby producers get to regulate the supply of milk, poultry and eggs. Imports have been limited in areas where domestic products can supposedly meet demand and it’s the reason driving across the border for a few quarts of milk is worth your while because it’s the farmers who get to decide how much milk we need. That supply management system means dairy farmers here are almost completely insulated from foreign competition due to tariffs that are over 200 percent. It all amounts to one big fat hidden tax.
Today there are approximately 12,500 dairy farms in Canada, making up less than 0.5% of the population. And that dairy quota is worth around $30 billion.
Kudos to all the cheese producers in Canada as there are some truly wonderful cheeses made here, particularly in BC, Quebec and Ontario. But cheese is my thing. My specialty. At any one time there are 4 or 5 different types in my refrigerator. I have traveled the world and part of the reason Italy and France are two of my favourite places to visit is the dairy. There are centuries old cheese-making practices in place and as a result the cheeses are sublime. They taste like the grass, earth, flowers, nuts and milk. So I for one am thrilled that we’ll be seeing more of them on our store shelves.
Predictably, dairy farmers are crying the blues that they won’t be able to compete with so many other superior cheeses that will flood our market. They’ll be crowded out. Well, I say let the cream rise to the top.
As the entertaining season is just around the corner, if you plan to be putting out a cheese board for your guests you’re going to have such fun! Choose a selection of hard and soft cheese. Here are a few crowd pleaser suggestions I discovered along my travels:
Chaumes – French – cow’s milk – soft and creamy texture.
Comté - French (similar to Swiss Gryuere) – cow’s milk – nutty flavour – medium hard texture.
Reblochon – French – cow’s milk- soft texture – strong flavour.
Parmigiano-Reggiano – Italy – cow’s milk – hard texture – medium to sharp flavour.
Fontina Val d’Aosta – Italy – cow’s milk – medium texture – nutty flavour
Pecorino Toscano – sheep’s milk – medium texture – high butterfat content which you can taste!
I would also suggest trying aged Lankaaster from Ontario (as in Canada.) It just won top honours at the Global Cheese Awards. Go figure!
[Top photo by Jules Morgan]