Canadian Cheese Adventure – All Roads Lead To Picton, Ontario

As many of you know I have been involved with the first ever Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards, that were held in Picton, Ontario June 6 & 7, 2015 at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.  I went, I saw, I was in awe of how well run the festival was and how welcoming the organizers were to me.  It was a lot of work, but it was worth it for this.

To see these signs at the entrances to the Festival made me happy.

To see these signs at the entrances to the Festival made me happy.

It was a busy few days but it was totally worth the effort put in by everyone.

My first stop was Ottawa, our Nation’s Capital, well at least the airport.  I have to say one thing about the airport it had a lot of water features which subliminally, made for a more comfortable flight home.

The water wall that is the arrivals/baggage area of the airport

The water wall that is the arrivals/baggage area of the airport

Once I picked up the Cheesemoblie it was time to spend the evening with relatives and then go on to Picton in the Morning.

Once I picked up the Cheesemoblie it was time to spend the evening with relatives and then go on to Picton in the Morning.

I could have driven to Picton that night, but a visit with my Aunt and Uncle was well over due.  Besides they took me to see part of the Rideau Canal system and it was kind of cool.  Coming from the prairies when someone says canal they often mean a ditch in a field.

This was part of the new lock that was put in a few years ago.

This was part of the new lock that was put in a few years ago.

This lock had one step, but one it replaced had 4 steps.

This lock had one step, but one it replaced had 4 steps.

The next day bid my Aunt and Uncle adieu and headed down the forested highway to Picton.  Ok there were a few trees, but I also live in a place where you can see your dog run away for days.

Ah the closterphobic highway 15, were the speed limit was a suggestion to the locals

Ah the claustrophobic highway 15; were the speed limit was a suggestion to the locals.

Now I finally got to Picton around 1 PM not really know where to go when I stumbled upon the Picton Fairgrounds.  I decided to stop and check in with the organizers.

This building called the "Crystal Palace" was one of the venues for the Festival.

This building called the “Crystal Palace” was one of the venues for the Festival.

Build in the 1800's it is one solid building

Build in the 1800’s it is one solid building

Though it looks empty here it was filled all weekend with cheese producers and other artisans

Though it looks empty here it was filled all weekend with cheese producers and other artisans.

There was a little to do that evening and then it was off to the Inn to check in and come back to help set up.

The view from room

The view from room.

Friday was the start of a busy day.  We started by helping to set up the Taste of Ontario Pavilion in the Picton Curling Club and then it was on to the Community Center to start receiving the entries for the Canadian Amateur Cheesemaking Awards.  This was it, it was really happening!

Blue Cheese and Fresh Cheese Area

Blue Cheese and Fresh Cheese Area

Firm Cheese Area

Firm Cheese Area

Washed Rind Area and the Bloomy Rind (Not pictured) was on the island.

Washed Rind Area and the Bloomy Rind (Not pictured) was on the island.

We even had the table setup for the Awards Ceremony and Tasting on Sunday

We even had the table setup for the Awards Ceremony and Tasting on Sunday.

There was much more to do that had nothing to do with the Amateur Cheesemaking Awards, but we did get almost all our entries by Friday night.  A few came in on Saturday.

We had a fridge that was dedicated to the Awards.

We had a fridge that was dedicated to the Awards.

Now what kind of Cheese Festival would it be if they did not have some dairy animals provided by local farmers.

A couple of guilty looking goats (they were trying to eat the plastic fencing)

A couple of guilty looking goats (they were trying to eat the plastic fencing)

A ewe and her lamb

A ewe and her lamb

And a first for me...Ontario Water Buffalo Calves!

And a first for me…Ontario Water Buffalo Calves!

Saturday was Cheese Judgement Day!  It was time for our 25 entries to face the music or judges as it were.  I was asked to be a judge a few months ago and was joined by professional cheesemaker Stephanie Diamant from Black River Cheese

The bloomy rinds

The Bloomy Rinds

Even more Bloomy Rinds

Even more Bloomy Rinds

The last two.

The last two.

Our three Blue Cheese Entries

Our three Blue Cheese Entries

Fresh Cheeses

Fresh Cheeses

3 Entries in the Washed Rind Category

3 Entries in the Washed Rind Category

Believe it or not, the Frim Cheese Category had the most entries.

Believe it or not, the Frim Cheese Category had the most entries.

More Firm cheeses

More Firm cheeses.

We originally scheduled two hours to judge the cheeses, but after four and a half we were finally down to picking our Best in Show.  We were pretty tight-lipped about it, everyone was asking who won, who would take home the title of Canada’s Best Amateur Cheesemaker for 2015.  We saved that until the awards ceremony on Sunday.

Sunday was a busy day again, I helped out with preparing the bread for the Grill Cheese Showdown (4 chefs, 250 sandwiches each and the winner cooked hers in 22 mins)

Preparing Sandwiches for the showdown!

Preparing Sandwiches for the showdown!

Just a peek through the curtain into the Taste Of Ontario Pavilion before it opened on Sunday.

Just a peek through the curtain into the Taste Of Ontario Pavilion before it opened on Sunday.

The table was set and people were coming in to see the awards be presented.

The table was set and people were coming in to see the awards be presented.

I was pleased to see that we had about 50 people in the audience including 4 of the entrants.  It was a great time but alas it had to end and Monday I was back on the road heading back to Edmonton.

Monday was a nice and rainy day, perfect for the trip home.

Monday was a nice and rainy day, perfect for the trip home.

I know you are probably screaming at the screen right now.  “He did not mention the results!”  You are right, they will be in the next post.  The Great Canadian Cheese Festival was our gracious host and will be announcing the winners first.  Rest assured those that were named best in their categories already know.  I will talk about judging and have a brief profile on the cheesemaker and their cheese.

Ian Logo

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