Cheese from across Canada vied for top honours at the recent British Empire Cheese Show and judges awarded Courtenay’s Natural Pastures Cheese high marks and prizes in several categories.
In its 87th year, the event is hosted by the Central Ontario Cheesemakers’ Association and is the oldest and longest-running cheese competition in Canada.
Natural Pastures’ rich tasting semi-hard Boerenkaas cheese took third place in the firm cheese category. Known for its slightly zippy taste and robust flavour, it is the workhorse in Natural Pastures’ stable of cheeses.
“It’s delicious in soups, salads, omelettes, casseroles – tasty on the cheese plate and great with either red or white wine,” said head cheesemaker Paul Sutter.
The company’s Buffalo Paneer continues to please judges as it gained a place in the winners’ ring in its second cheese judging contest. The paneer took silver in the fresh cheese category. Used as a cooking cheese because it keeps its consistency when heated, the paneer has a creamy mild finish and slightly nutty flavour. Its taste and texture enhances any curry dish and is delicious stir-fried with fresh vegetables.
Natural Pastures operations manager, Doug Smith, believes that the success of their Buffalo Paneer is because of the freshness and simple nature of the unaged cheese.
“It’s not salted and is made from 100 per cent buffalo milk.”
For its buffalo cheese, Natural Pastures uses milk produced by water buffalo from Courtenay’s McClintock Farms in addition to two other small herds on Vancouver Island. Compared to cow’s milk, water buffalo milk is pure white, smoother, thicker and tastier. Buffalo milk has significantly more calcium and protein than cow’s milk and, although it has a higher fat content, contains much less cholesterol.
Natural Pastures’ Comox Brie and Smoked Boerenkaas also had solid showings – both placing fourth in their divisions. In all,10 of the submitted cheeses placed in the top 10 spots in their categories.