In 2013, Ontario's Margaret Peters Morris woke the world to Canadian cheese when her aged Lankaaster won Supreme Global Champion at the Global Cheese Awards. This month her Celtic Blue Reserve stormed the 2015 American Cheese Society Awards to emerge as the best in show winner among 1,779 entries in 109 categories.
It's the first time in the 30-year history of the esteemed ACS competition that best in show has gone to a Canadian cheese. While the win at the Global Cheese Awards carries prestige (the competition includes such classics as Parmigiano-Reggiano), in North America the Society awards are the Oscars of the cheese world. A Canadian cheese taking top prize is like a foreign film winning Best Picture.
Irked that Quebec had been dominating the competitive Canadian category, and certain she had the makings of an award winner in her Celtic Blue Cheese, Peters Morris (owner of Glengarry Fine Cheese in Lancaster, Ont.) and cheese maker Wilma Klein-Swormink tweaked the original recipe. The result: Celtic Blue Reserve.
Both the original Celtic Blue and the new Reserve placed in their category at the ACS – which means the wheels will barely have time to finish aging before the cheese is snapped up for sale. Already last week people were driving up from as far as New Orleans. Peters Morris isn't worried; production is well under way and with a manageable four-month aging process (slightly less for the Reserve) she feels confident she can meet the landslide of demand a win at this show can bring.
As for her preference?
"I like the regular, it's punchier," Peters Morris says. "The Reserve is for people who are cautious with blue – it doesn't hang with sharpness, it's very delicate."
She describes the Celtic as a "Canadian cheese with a bilingual flair" born from her cheese-making education in England and in France. The recipe is modelled on the French Fourme d'Ambert and British Stilton, so the Celtic Blue Reserve's character encompasses the two varieties.
If you've had the original Celtic Blue, you'll know the flavours are savoury, tangy and harmonious with a great salt balance that works to bring out the cheese's complexity and slight bite. If this cheese were a shoe it'd be your favourite (slightly saucy) black boot.
The Reserve, with its higher butterfat, is more the cozy, trendy Ugg you love to slip on. It is rich, silken and full-flavoured with a butter and sea salt vibe while sustaining a long, complex finish to keep things interesting.
With the two wins under her belt, Peters Morris says she may step back from competing and think about wearing a judge's hat. But other cheese makers shouldn't get too comfortable. She also has her eye on the washed and bloomy rind categories, with a pair of cheeses already being whipped into shape.