History of Cheesemaking
Cheese production is close to 400,000 tonnes a year in Canada, a little over half being specialty cheeses. Ontario accounts for about 30 per cent of the country’s total cheese production.
Operating at different times over the past 100 years, more than 100 cheese factories have dotted out local countryside. One of our Counties even became trademarked as the “Cheese Capital of Canada” which is still in place today.
Interest in small-scale cheese-making is beginning to make a comeback in our FAB Region. There is a re-affirmed commitment to local food, a new found respect for local environments, and consumer-led desire for the creation and consumption of nutritious, locally sourced foods. We estimate that small scale and artisan cheese sales in Ontario are approximately $300 million a year with estimated growth rates of as high as 20 percent.
Our FAB Region has almost everything needed to take the next step in the artisan cheese-making process: milk suppliers, experienced and aspiring cheese makers, willing mentors and advisors, eager retailers and customers. Now it’s time to put the process together, add some capital investment, and let the cheese making begin.
For help exploring your passion of operating your own cheese factory, we have produced a start-up handbook on how to open a cheese making business which is available as an iPad app. Here is a link where you can download a copy of the PDF version of the handbook and navigate it on your computer/laptop just like you would on an iPad.
If you would like to let us help you start-up your cheese making dream, pleas contact us!
Journeys of the Region’s Cheese Makers
Marlbank Cheese and Butter Factory
A small cheese factory in the village or Marlbank (Lennox and Addington) was in operation before 1893. As milk supply increased, a new factory was built just outside the village, the cost of which was $1,300. Four milk routes, sold by auction, ran through the surrounding countryside. In May of 1893, more than 88,000 pounds of milk were received; the first cheese sold for 8 7/8 cents per pound.
The Black River Cheese Company
The Black River Cheese Company, started in 1901 by a group of farmers in South Marysburgh (Prince Edward County), was built and equipped (along with a home for the cheese maker) for $1,800. Milk was delivered to the factory from each of the farms seven days a week in galvanized cans, transported by horse and wagon. With nor form of refrigeration in existence, milk was kept cool in summer by storage wells. Originally, Black River cheeses were sold at auction in Picton; the auction moved to Belleville in the 1940’s and a new action method (Dutch clock) was introducted. Just months after marking one hundred years of successful operation in June of 2001, the factory – and all inventory – was destroyed by fire.
Support from customers, cheese connoisseurs and the “never-give-up” attitude of the farmer-owned co-operative enabled reconstruction of the factory in a timely manner and cheese making resumed. Today, Black River makes naturally aged cheddars, mozzarella, brick, fresh curd, and flavoured mozzarella specialty cheeses. Only animal-free rennet is used.
The Eldorado Cheese Factory
The Eldorado Cheese Factory was established in 1951 in the hamlet of Eldorado (Hastings County). Eldorado’s name, derived from the Spanish language meaning “gold”, hings at the August 1856 discover of gold in the area, triggering Ontario’s first “gold rush”.
With the factory’s production of cheddar, mozzarella, colby and fresh curd, the Eldorado name came to represent another kind of gold when Eldorado won top honours in the British Empire Cheese Show. Today, the cheese factory makes the only Canadian Cholov Yisroel Kosher diary products.
Over the past 150 years, many communities in our region had cheese factories:
Cherry Valley (1867)
Crowe River (1890s)
Lake Opinicon (1870)