There are several cheese producers in my home province of Alberta, there are a few that produce cow and goat milk cheese; but only one that I know of that produces wonderful sheep milk cheeses. The Cheesiry was started in 2009 in Kitscoty Alberta, (200 km east of Edmonton) by Rhonda Headon, using the milk from her flock of grass-fed East-Friesian sheep. I had spoken with Rhonda a few times “online” and over the phone and once in person, but it was time I made the trek out to Kitscoty and for a visit. After all I had bought her cheese before, it would be rude not to visit. So with my friend Addie behind the wheel we left Edmonton and headed out on the open road for an Alberta Cheese Adventure.
We arrived at the farm just in time for the pressing stage of the day’s cheese making, Rhonda was nice enough to invite us into the cheese making room to see the process. We donned our proper cheese shoes and headed in armed with curiosity, a love of all things cheese and my camera.
Now to me, pressing means putting curd into moulds and then putting in the press and walking away. I honestly thought this was what were going to see, boy was I wrong. Curds from ewe’s milk react differently than cow or goat curds, they will knit together easier and very little pressing is needed.
There was this sweet lactic smell in the air, the sound of draining whey calling to us “scrub up and help!” The siren call of the curds was too much for Addie! He scrubbed up, donned the ceremonial beard netting and got to work pressing the curds into the moulds.
To watch the process was like watching a precision drill team, even adding an “outsider” to the mix there was a set rhythm that never faltered.
The draining table was designed to allow whey to drain and to be used as a warming/incubator box as well. Lids would be put on and to keep the curds warm and then the cheese would be flipped at a certain interval over the next hour and then left to finish knitting together until it was time to visit the brine tank.
After the infant Pecorino were tucked away it was time to head into the aging rooms to take a peak at some of the previous batches.
One of the unique things about the Cheesiry is their farm store called the “Boutique”. Set about 10 feet from the cheese making room it has a great atmosphere that combines the knowledge that you are in part of the barn with an almost cafe/small pub setting. You can buy a variety of Cheesiry Pecorino, Feta, La Bianca, Fresco (Similar to a Chèvre but with ewe’s milk) and some lamb meat products as well.
Rhonda had invited Addie and I to have lunch with her in the Boutique where we were treated to a lovely lunch that included cheese and some of lamb salami on french bread. It was a great way to cap off the visit, great food, great conversation with great company. We sampled the “La Bianca” for the first time. I was very impressed with the flavour.
We also sampled the Peppercorn Pecorino and I have to say I am sold. I usually loath any cheese with bits of this and bits of that in the paste, but I was sold on the this cheese. Even if you did not get a piece with a peppercorn in it, the pepper flavour was throughout the cheese. Not in your face or overwhelming, but a nice subtle flavour.
It was a great trip and I highly recommend that anyone who is serious about cheese and want to see how it is made, make the effort to visit the farm. I do, out of courtesy, suggest you contact them to see if it is a cheese making day and that way they can be ready for the visit. You can find out how to contact The Cheesiry, or where you can get their cheese, via their website here.
As usual I have more pictures and they will be up on the Facebook Page later in the week. There are a lot so please bear with me.