Migneron de Charlevoix carries the distinction of being one of five cheeses that kick-started the Quebec artisanal cheese industry in the mid-nineties.
Created by Maurice Dufour in 1995, Migneron and its four contemporaries, Mi-Carême, Pied de Vent, Victor and Berthold and Lechevalier-Mailloux broke out in Quebec and fired up a new enthusiasm for local, handcrafted products. A decade later, with the Quebec industry still leading Canadian cheese making, Mr. Dufour is proud that Le Migneron is as well known in Quebec as classics like cheddar and Oka.
The name Migneron de Charlevoix commemorates Anne Migneron, the first wife of Robert Gabriel Dufour, the first Dufour to come to Quebec from France, some time between 1640 and 1650.
The washed rind is peach-coloured with a smattering of golden straw tones. The cheese's exterior is pungent - it carries the aroma of a barn interior on a rainy day - sharp, full and fresh. The paste smells sweet and creamy and has a supple softness. Salt hits the palate first, as addictive as the first potato chip from the bag. From there, the flavour develops a creamy, umami fullness whose long linger reveals a mild tanginess that tingles the edges of the tongue. Sliced paper-thin with a cheese plane, it's as silken in the mouth as if melted.
Though Mr. Dufour has a degree is agronomy (focusing on milk production), he first learned the craft of cheese making in France. He began by making Münster in Alsace, but it was in the Jura region that he discovered the fruitière model of cheese making and brought it to Quebec. The fruitière model is a progression of cheese making that works opposite the farmstead model (in which milk production, cheese making and affinage are all completed at the same facility). Instead, a co-op of milk producers brings its milk to a cheese maker, who then sends the fresh cheese to be ripened off-site by an affineur.
Mr. Dufour saw this as a practical way to create a cheese business without the intimidating expense of starting his own dairy from scratch. He wanted to stay rooted in Charlevoix, and fortunately there was a cheese-making facility close by. Laiterie Charlevoix made mainly cheddar and curd at the time, but is now responsible for Le 1608 and L'Hercule de Charlevoix. Mr. Dufour has Laiterie Charlevoix make the cheese, then does the affinage himself. The milk comes from the Vallée du Gouffre, a region particularly good for milk production.
In the cheese industry it is said that it takes a cheese 25 years to finish evolving and reach maturity. Mr. Dufour still considers Migneron to be in its teen years. He's obviously raising an overachiever.
Sue Riedl studied at the Cordon Bleu in London.
On the block
Cheese Le Migneron Charlevoix
Producer Maison d'Affinage Maurice Dufour
Affineur Maurice Dufour
Milk pasteurized cow, Holstein
Type semi-firm, washed rind, aged 60 days
Shape 2.4-kilogram wheel
Note This cheese is excellent for cooking/melting
Atwater, Flavours of the World, Provincial Fine Foods, Benton Brothers
Montreal: Fromagerie Atwater
Toronto: Loblaws, Whole Foods, Thin Blue Line, McEwan Fine Foods, Summerhill Market, Fiesta Farms
Aurora: Maunders Food Shop
Ottawa: Serious Cheese
Kingston: Cooke's Fine Foods
Saskatoon: Souleio Food
Calgary: Janice Beaton
Edmonton: Paddy's International Cheese Market
Vancouver: Les Amis de Fromage, Benton Brothers