A Courtenay cheese company has represented the Comox Valley well at the recently held World Cheese Championship, in Madison, Wisc.
Natural Pastures Cheese Company picked up a pair of bronze medals at the competition for its Comox Camembert and its Water Buffalo yogurt.
The three-day biennial event claims to be the largest technical cheese competition in the world, drawing representatives from 26 nations with 3,667 individual entries.
“We went into the contest hoping to get some showings in the top-three, and we achieved that,” said Natural Pastures’ master cheesemaker Paul Sutter. Sutter went on to say they were particularly pleased to see the reception that the water buffalo cheeses received.
Operations manager Doug Smith agreed.
“It’s great to win,” Smith said. “We’ve had strong consistency with multiple cheeses over the years. This is the third year in a row that our camembert has won a medal.”
The accolades don’t end there. Natural Pastures’ Buffalo Brie also placed fourth in its category.
Smith says this is a testament to the ongoing experimentation that happens behind the scenes at Natural Pastures.
“Paul is amongst the pioneers breaking ground with these buffalo milk cheeses,” said Smith. “There’s not hundreds of years of traditions to draw on like some of the other cheese. Our team is creating something new.”
And, in a field dominated by cheese from Austria and Switzerland, Natural Pastures’ King’s Peak, the company’s new washed rind cheese, did well, tying for fifth in its category of 66 entries.
“It was competing in a category with a lot of Europeans and it was very encouraging to get this placing,” said Sutter.
Natural Pastures’ Pacific Wildfire (a new smoked cheese with a fiery combination of locally grown habanero peppers and fresh cracked black pepper) also had its best showing yet, placing 10th in its category.
Over the years, Natural Pastures has never shied away from trying new things, new ways, all while preserving the best practices from the past. From its beginnings, this bold combination of traditional and inspired approaches has resulted in award-winning cheese at national and international competitions.
But it’s not always just about the awards. For Sutter, the most valuable aspect is the feedback received about the cheese.
“They pick judges from all over the world and it’s very technical,” he said. “Their comments allow us to make improvements following each contest.”
That is what Natural Pastures aims to do: continue growing, experimenting and improving.