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A Guide to the Amazing Cheese of Northern Ontario

Ontario is known for it’s artisanal cheese – in fact, we’ve been making cheese here since the 1600s, with the first cheese factory opening in 1840.  Did you know that some of Ontario’s most awarded and celebrated cheeses are made in the North?

With the vast swaths of grasslands for grazing and several industrious farmer-led dairy cooperatives operating in the area, it’s easy to see why artisan cheese production would thrive. In true Northern style, this climate has cultivated a culture of old-world techniques and dedication to quality. Northern Ontario cheese is a unique and delicious expression of the vast region’s varied terroir. One you should definitely explore at home – or the next time you visit!

Here’s a look at four Northern Ontario cheesemakers and the cheese they so lovingly create.


Thornloe Cheese

Temiskaming Shores, ON
thornloecheese.ca

In 1940, Rene Laframboise made the curious decision to open his cheesemaking operation in the heart of the Temiskaming Valley. Since then, the operation has changed hands a few times but one thing has remained the same: the cheese is really well made. Thornloe turns over 3 million litres of milk into cheese every year – but don’t let the volume fool you. They are focused on craft. They’re known for their Cheddar, Asiago and Romano style cheeses. Our favorite though is the delightfully pungent Devil’s Rock, named for the geological formation of the same name. It’s distinct pyramid shape and black wax coating holds the creamiest, most delicious blue cheese. For those who love to keep it funky, we also recommend the Harley Blue made with goat’s milk adding a grassy, slightly nutty note.

You can find Thornloe cheeses, as well as their award-winning grass fed butter, at most major grocer’s in Ontario. You can also buy a selection of their cheeses online through their website.


Fromagerie Kapuskoise

Kapuskasing, ON
fromageriekapuskoise.ca

In 2014, after studying cheesemaking in Quebec and France, François Nadeau opened up his own artisan cheese shop in Kapuskasing. In doing so, he transformed the town in a cheeselovers destination. The rest, as they say, is history. Our favorite of his creations, The Kapuskasing, is a creamy, buttery cheese with a vegetable-ash-lined center, inspired by a French Morbier. There’s plenty of other varieties to explore though! Mattagami, a pressed cow’s cheese, is beloved by chefs across Canada, while Opasatika, which resembles Tomme, features a washed rind and begs to be used au gratin.

You can find Fromagerie Kapuskoise cheeses at a variety of cheesemongers across the province or order it online to be shipped directly to your door. Visit their website for details.


Thunder Oak Cheese Farm

Neebing, ON
cheesefarm.ca

Thunder Oak, located in the beautiful Slate River Valley outside of Thunder Bay, was the first cheesemaker in Ontario to start making Gouda – a creamy Dutch cheese known for its mild, sweet flavour. Founders Jacob and Margaret Schep both came from cheesemaking families in The Netherlands. In fact, Margaret’s mother was a World Champion cheese maker in 1975! They opened up the cheese factory in 1995 and it has since passed to their children. Today, they make 13 different varieties of Gouda including Nettle Gouda, Smoked Gouda, Cumin + Cloves Gouda and our favorite, the Extra Old Gouda.

You can find their cheeses at select major grocery chains or order large amounts direct through their website.


 

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Nickel City Cheese

Chelmsford, ON
nickelcitycheese.ca

Just North of Sudbury, you’ll find Northern Ontario’s newest cheesemaker: Nickel City Cheese. Nickel City Cheese is the lifelong dream of Nicole Paquin, who with the help of her son, opened the cheese plant in 2018. They produce cows milk cheddar cheeses (and plenty of curds!) with milk sourced from 14 different surrounding farms. They’ve garnered a loyal following since opening for their super squeaky, flavoured curds in flavours like dill pickle, maple bacon and Montreal spice.

You can get their cheese direct from their onsite cheese shop or at grocers in the Sudbury area.


Want to learn more about Ontario’s cheesemakers?

Check out:

Dairy Farmers of Ontario