An Exceptional Showcase for the Québec Cheese Industry
By Joan Kimball, Montréal Conference Co-Chair
Producing over 52% of the cheese in Canada and offering a vast choice of top-quality varieties, Québec has proudly honoured its cheesemakers for the last 13 years in the Selection Caseus, Québec Fine Cheese Competition (Sélection Caseus, le concours des fromages fins du Québec). It was in 1999 that representatives of the Warwick Cheese Festival and the Food Technology Institute (Institut de technologie agroalimentaire – ITA) had the idea of creating this competition.
The Dairy School Award (Prix de l’École de laiterie), the mainstay award of the competition, refers affectionately to the heritage of Québec’s dairy industry, and more specifically, to the Dairy School farm, the province’s sole large-scale producer of cheese and other dairy products until the mid-1800’s. In the only contest open exclusively to Québec cheeses, this award is given to the best cheeses in various categories (classes, types of aging, etc) evaluated through sensory analysis by a jury representing the different fields of activity in the sector. This jury is made up of some twenty specialists recognized for their knowledge of cheese and their competence in producing it, serving it in restaurants, and marketing it, among other aspects. Mr. Patrick Tirard-Collet, professor/cheesemaker at the ITA campus in Saint-Hyacinthe and initiator of the competition, has acted as president of the jury from the very beginning.
From one year to the next, the Selection Caseus contest is supported by several partners in the milieu. The steering committee of the 13th edition brings together the Saint-Hyacinthe ITA campus, which manages the competition; Aliments du Québec; the Québec Dairy Industries Council (Conseil des industriels laitiers du Québec); the Victoriaville Fine Cheese Festival; the Québec Milk Producers Federation (Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec); the Québec Cheese Society (Société des fromages du Québec); the Québec Goat Producers Syndicate (Syndicat des producteurs de chèvres du Québec); the Québec Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; and Agricultural Financing Québec (La Financière agricole du Québec). Others partners from different sectors are the IGA supermarket chain and the Québec Alcohol Corporation (Société des alcools du Québec).
In 2010, 162 of Québec cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s milk cheeses — produced and marketed by 39 large and small cheese factories — competed for the 25 prizes awarded by the Dairy School Award jury. The same quantity of cheeses is expected this year. The awards of the 2011 edition will be announced on June 6 in Montréal, including the winners of the gold, silver, and bronze medals (Caseus d’Or, Caseus d’Argent, and Caseus de Bronze) for the most remarkable cheeses, all categories combined.
Parallel to the Dairy School Award, the People’s Choice Grand Prix highlights the cheeses most appreciated by consumers. The Québec cheeses contending for this prize are judged at tastings held at public markets during the spring.
For more information about the Selection Caseus, visit www.selectioncaseus.ca.