Our Pantry is located next to the Welland Farmers Market so when I come into work on Saturdays, I often see bumper stickers with slogans like: “Thank a Farmer Today” or “Farmers Feed Cities”. Good reminders that no matter how processed our food is, it still must be grown on the farm. A movement is developing that encourages people to give a nod to the farmers who feed us. There is also increased awareness that our food dollars should be spent ethically. We should educate ourselves about how our food is grown and raised. Children should be taught where their food comes from.
Faye Dykstra has worked at The Pantry for over 12 years. It you talk to the Dykstras for any length of time you will catch how much they love their animals. I recall hearing stories about the barn cats draping themselves across Marten Dykstra’s shoulders as he bent over to milk the cows. We have followed the family’s transition from being dairy farmers to shepherds; from being a single family farm to being a multi-generational farm family. So we are excited to announce that Dykstra lamb will now be available at The Pantry. Dykstra lambs are silage and oat fed and are not forced to reach full weight early through the introduction of grain feeding. That means they stay with their mothers longer and the resulting meat is leaner and more flavourful. For our customers it also means they can enjoy good quality lamb with a clear conscience because they know every little lamb was cared for with love and gentleness.
As in music, the blues in the cheese world are an acquired taste but they also promise complex enjoyment. We have assembled a play list of tastes. Check out our blues line up:
Cambozola is the opening act, a gentle intro into blue culture. Technically this is a hybrid cheese, that combines the rich creaminess of a triple cream French Brie and an Italian Gorgonzola…a union that was composed in Germany. Due to its high moisture level the cheese collapses as the Pencillium Roqueforti is injected leaving the mold to develop in isolated pockets instead of veining the entire cheese.
St. Agur follows Cambozola in the line-up. It is made from cream enriched milk of cows that graze on the mountainous pastures around the village of Beauzac in the Auvergne region of central France. Developed using Pencillium Roqueforti in 1988 after years of trial and error, St. Agur offers a soft spreadable cheese that strikes a harmonious balance between creamy and tangy notes. During the maturing process in a moisture and temperature controlled environment the cheese is “pierced” multiple times to “feed” the mold with oxygen creating a perfect fusion of veined blue and creamy paste.
Extra Creamy Danish Blue subtly raises the tempo of our cheese concert. Although intended by Mariun Boel to mimic the more ancient French Roquefort, the synthesis of Pencillium Roqueforti with creamy Danish milk resulted in a milder gentler variation of the classic. There are few modern voices that can match the smokey tones of Satchmo. The same must be said about efforts to match the nuances of a classic like Rocquefort. Terroir cannot be duplicated. That said, new stars are always on the horizon. Mariun Boel created an equally mesmerizing cheese.
Another modern cheese that owes its culture to Pencillium Roqueforti is Roaring Forties Blue but from there on it represents fresh improvisation on the blues theme. Roaring Forties owes it name and terroir to the strong 100 km/hour westerly winds that wrecked many ships off the coast of King Island south of Melbourne, Australia on the 40th latitude. In the 15th and 16th centuries the seeds in straw mattresses from ships that floundered onto the shores of this island germinated to create lush unique pastures. Today the island’s dairy cows feed in these rich pastures and on sea kelp. Unlike Roquefort which is wrapped in foil to slow the growth of the pencillium after maturity, King Island Dairy diverged further from the classic blue by maturing the cheese in a wax coating. The resultant cheese is full-bodied but milder and sweeter with a nutty flavour.
As we build momentum we come to the classic Roquefort PDO; its name is Protected by a Designation of Origin. To be “true blue” Roquefort, a cheese must be made with milk that comes from Lacaune, Manech or Basco Bearnaise sheep. It must also be aged in the Combalou caves in Roquefort-sur Soulzon. Pencillium Roqueforti is native to these caves and although P.R. is a common saprotrophic fungus found in decaying soil the world over, nothing can match the exact environment and strain found in this locale. Roquefort dates back to 1070 A.D.making it a golden oldie.
Shropshire Blue: although a relatively modern cheese originating as recently as the 18th century, Stilton is another time-honoured blue. It is also a cheese of protected origin of designation. Only 7 dairies located in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are licensed to produce it. Stilton is formed in cylinders but not pressed.This leaves air pockets so once the Pencillium Roquefort is injected into the curds, it can grow deep into the core. The cheese is rotated as it matures thus helping the mold grow while maintaining the crumbly texture of the cheese. Because it is a protected cheese, other cheese producers who wish to benefit from its popularity must by necessity invent a variation on the same theme. The invention of the fifth cheese on our play list this Saturday, Shropshire Blue has been credited by the web to both an Andy Williamson and to a Dennis Biggins. The likely winner of that debate is Andy Williamson who worked at Stuart Castle Dairy in the 1970’s where the cheese first made its debut. At that time it was called Inverness-shire Blue or Blue Stuart. When the band of cheese makers at Stuart Castle broke up the cheese wasn’t heard from for a while until its tune was revived back in Stilton’s East Midlands territory by Long Clawson in Leicestershire and two more dairies in Nottinghamshire. It is coloured a deep orange and described as slightly sour, sharper than Stilton but creamier. Personally I find it milder than Stilton. I would describe it as a blue cheddar.
Our crescendo is Valdeon. I have not been able to isolate a date of origin for this intense blue but as I loosened its sycamore leaf wrapping it was clearly intoning an ancient song. Given that it uses Pencillium Roqueforti, I suspect that it doesn’t predate the classic Roquefort but this is an old cheese. Cow and goat’s milk from the municipality of Posada de Valdeon in the Northwestern Spanish province of Leon is blended in secret proportions. The rind is coloured by the leaves it is wrapped in. The paste of the cheese is thoroughly marbled with blue. Although this is probably the cresendo of blues in its intensity, I found the blue didn’t overwhelm the complex flavour of the cheese.
Taste, enjoy and review these blues with us. Our line up of French, English, Danish, German, Spanish and Australian blues should appeal to a varied audience. We are developing pairing recommendations for these amazing blues. Do you have a wine to recommend?
If you ask Naomie Cesar how she ended up in Welland, she will tell you it was because she ran out of money. If you ask her why she stayed in Welland, she will tell you it was because of the people. After leaving Haiti Naomie lived in Miami for 7 years. In 2008, she left a warm Miami and was welcomed by frigid January temperatures when she arrived in Fort Erie. She had finally made it to Canada but she had only $50 dollars in her pocket. No where near enough money to get to her intended destination, Montreal. Just enough to get a ride to Welland. Naomie will also tell you about all the people in Welland who helped her finish her education to finalize her residency requirements. She will tell you about Mary, her Welsh adoptive Mom, who continues to help Naomie strive for new dreams. Naomie can’t stop talking about what a special place Welland is.
Eventually Naomie was able to afford a trip to Montreal but it didn’t take her long to realize that it wasn’t the place she wanted to raise her children. A friend suggested she check out Toronto but by then there was no place like Welland in Naomie’s heart. It was home. The people of Welland had helped her when she needed help desperately and now it was her dream to give back to the community that had given so much to her.
In the past few years, Naomie has helped others who are new to Canada. Besides being a RPN at the Niagara Falls hospital she volunteers with Niagara Victim Support Services. She also travels to people’s homes to give foot care. That’s how she started providing difficult to find hair products her clients are always looking for. A dream to open a shop offering imported hair & beauty supplies as well as Caribbean foods started to form in her mind. Welland’s Heritage Council provided training through their Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Programme that helps immigrant women reach their dreams. That is how I met Naomie when the programme asked me to provide mentorship to her. Although we serve different ethnic communities, our product lines present the same challenge of finding and providing hard to source items people are seeking. Like Naomie, we also started our business from the ground up. It was a good fit immediately.
I have been impressed with Naomie’s strong work ethic, her caring heart and her amazing courage. We are fortunate to have her call Welland home. Even more we are fortunate that she is helping to revitalize Downtown Welland and contributing to the wonderful diversity that makes Welland the special city it is.
Join her May 13 to celebrate the opening of her dream store: CaribAfrican Specialty Shop. You will find it near the Tribune offices at 234 East Main St.