Who doesn't love cheese? Nothing processed; just yummy local cheese with an abundance of flavour and all-natural ingredients. Yet, in Newfoundland, it was not something you could find for so long. No one was making cheese; it just wasn't happening. That was until Adam Blanchard of Five Brothers Artisan Cheese came along. When Blanchard stepped in five years ago with a culinary background and a passion for cheese, Five Brothers became the only producer of cheese in Newfoundland and Labrador--and it still is. Currently, Five Brothers sells to a few retailers around the province. You can also find its cheeses on menus at some of the best restaurants in the province, with local chefs like Jeremy Charles of Raymonds and Todd Perrin of Mallard Cottage supporting the business.
How did your foray into cheese transpire?
I went to Holland College in Prince Edward Island for culinary arts. I am a lover of food. I was thinking law school but I decided the last thing we need is another lawyer, so I went to culinary school instead! I learned a ton there about the local movement, and I thought I really wanted to do something local and unique.
I started making cheese around the house and the response was fantastic. I thought I needed to dive into this and do it, because if I didn’t, I am going to wake up someday and someone else will be doing it, and I would just kick myself! Then, I started investigating it more, and no one was making any artisanal cheese in Newfoundland. Only one place was doing industrial cheese, but they have since given it up. We went from being Newfoundland’s only artisanal producer to Newfoundland’s only cheese producer.
Were you a lover of cheese prior to the endeavour?
Of course. It’s a great thing! I did my internship in Toronto. The chefs up there at the restaurant I was at, Pangaea, were doing a little cheese making in house. Growing up in Newfoundland, we didn't have access to fine cheeses like you do on the mainland. Like I say to people these days, it’s an educational process for us at Five Brothers because so many people grew up on Crackle Barrel or Cheez Whiz; lots of processed cheese. One thing I really want to do is expose Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans to different cheeses that are out there. You will never get tired of cheese; there are so many different types. Let's not limit ourselves. We are on an island in the middle of the North Atlantic. Why are we importing 100 per cent of our cheeses? We have harsh winters and food security is a major issue here on the island. We've got about three days of food, and if the boats are not crossing from North Sydney to Port aux Basques, we’re out of luck.
Tell me a bit about the cheese making process.
We use cows milk now, but in just a few weeks a real dream of mine is happening. We are going to be able to use raw milk. We were never capable of receiving the raw milk or able to process it on a scale that would make it worthwhile, until now. So, for five years, we have been using a pasteurized/homogenized milk source. It’s exciting! I keep saying to people, “Imagine asking a winemaker to go into Sobeys and buy the grapes there and make wine?”
They want the real grapes just like we want the real milk. It makes sense for us. The quality of our cheese will increase, the yields will increase and our costs will decrease. It’s a win-win for everyone.
What varieties of cheese are you making now? What flavours have you incorporated?
We have seven types of cheese right now. We do cheese curds. No one in Newfoundland really knew about cheese curds. No one was making them here; no one was importing them into the province until recently. Newfoundlanders are more likely to put shredded cheese on their poutine than cheese curds.
We do a queso fresco. It’s a fresh pressed cheese. It has almost a citrus aftertaste to it; great for making tacos or Latin American cuisine. We do a Logy Bay Jack. It’s our version of a Monterey with chili flakes. It’s a nice flavour for those who like a little heat. We’re doing a line of cheddars: smoked cheddar, beer cheddar and aged cheddar.
We also do a small batch of hand-stretched mozzarella which people just love. I remember the first time I made it and I gave some to my mom. She absolutely loved it. Our aged cheddar is aged nine months, but with our new spot, we have the ability to age the cheese longer.