Culture reports on one Canadian farmer’s efforts to protect and bring back an endangered, and uniquely Canadian, breed of cow, and the delicious cheeses that are being made with its milk at the Laiterie Charlevoix in Baie St. Paul:
While all of the five cheeses Benoit brings out are worth lingering over, two in particular stand out: Le 1608 and the brand-new L’Origine de Charlevoix.
Le 1608 was launched in 2008 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the founding of Québec. A washed-rind semi-firm cheese, aged for 4 to 6 months, it’s similar to a typical Savoyard cheese such as a Beaufort, with a pale buttery yellow paste and a nutty, ever-so-slightly barn-y flavor.
In contrast, L’Origine is a soft mixed-rind that’s aged for 20 to 30 days, and is very similar to a Reblochon—creamy, with a pleasant tang.
But it’s not merely the flavor that makes these cheeses so special, it’s the story behind their creation: both are made entirely with the milk of the endangered Canadienne cow, the oldest breed of cattle in Canada and the only breed developed in North America. Only one other cheese, the Pied-de-Vent, can claim this distinction.
The Canadienne cow has deep roots in Québec, arriving with Champlain in 1608. In 1900, the breed numbered roughly half a million, but thanks in part to an industry that favored milk quantity over quality, they have dwindled to dangerously low numbers in recent years. There are currently fewer than 500 in all of Québec, but the Labbés, in conjunction with local farmers and geneticists, hope to change that and save the cows from extinction.
While saving an endangered species is a laudable goal on its own, the Labbés believe that the Canadienne can actually help small family farmers. For one thing, the Canadienne is the anti-factory cow, as the breed simply will not thrive in a herd larger than about forty. Plus, according to Benoit, “she is easy to maintain. She is gentle and smaller [than most modern breeds of dairy cow]. The Canadienne can really help take the stress out of dairy farming.”
Read the full story here.
(Photos ©2012 Culture Magazine & Laiterie Charlevoix)
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