Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Cheddar flavoured with Mrs. McGarrigle’s Canadian maple mustard.

Tad Seaborn

Curd belly. A condition resulting from opening a warm bag of fresh curds from Empire Cheese and finding yourself on a salty, squeaky binge. You reach into the bag, telling yourself you'll eat "just a couple" until their springy, supple texture conquers your willpower.

It has taken a decade, but I've learned to (slightly) rein in my curd addiction when my husband and I visit his hometown of Campbellford, Ont., where the Empire Cheese and Butter Co-Op is located. I typically numb my craving by nibbling on one of their award-winning cheddars instead. Though I appreciate the complexity of the aged cheddar, I am a devotee of their mild marble. Its youth (aged only up to three months) showcases some of the same qualities that I love in the curd – a creamy, buttery flavour. This rich quality comes from the fact that Empire does not separate the cream from their milk; it goes straight into the final product.

The great flavour is also attributed to doing things "the old-fashioned way," general manager Jack Oliver says. Empire still uses the traditional open-vat method that allows cheese maker Mark Erwin to monitor each vat individually to make critical timing decisions, such as determining when the curd is ready to be cut. "He calls it on every vat and each vat can be a little different," Mr. Oliver says.

Story continues below advertisement

The first Empire Cheese factory was built in the 1870s and the co-op was formed in 1953 with 44 dairy farmers, though today that number is down to nine. Aside from its regular cheddar line, Empire makes a number of flavoured cheeses, including horseradish, jalepeno and caramelized onion. This spring, they partnered with Mrs. McGarrigle's (a fine-food shop in Merrickville, Ont., that produces a line of handmade, award-winning mustards) to create two new products: a medium cheddar made with Canadian Maple Mustard and an old cheddar made with Hot Whisky Mustard.

As Mrs. McGarrigle's owner Janet Campbell explains, the idea for the collaboration sprang up naturally. "In our retail store, we carry the Empire cheddars and we also carry a Scottish cheddar made with whisky. I thought, their cheese is just as good, why don't we do this locally?"

The process took some experimentation (and much taste testing on both ends) with the ideal pairings resulting in a milder, medium cheddar (aged six months) combined with the sweet maple mustard and the stronger cheddar (aged one year) paired with the more powerful hot whisky mustard. The whisky in the mustard is also a local product, made by Forty Creek Whisky in Grimsby, Ont.

Both cheddars are well balanced: Their characteristic full flavours carry the tangy mustard notes smoothly. I found the mellow sweetness of the Maple Mustard Cheddar (with its crunch of mustard seeds) a great snacking or cheeseboard choice. The Hot Whisky Cheddar has a bigger, mouth-filling flavour and stronger finish. There's more of a bite in the aged cheddar that complements the stronger Hot Whisky Mustard notes. I love this spicy, tangy cheese for melting or sliced into a sandwich with shaved ham, and pickles on the side.

The Maple Mustard and Hot Whisky cheddars are still in limited release, but can be found at the Empire Cheese store or Mrs. McGarrigle's Fine Food Shop. For more information on other retailers, contact Empire at www.empirecheese.ca or Mrs. McGarrigles at www.mustard.ca

And pick me up some curd if you go. I swear, I'll only eat a couple of pieces.

Sue Riedl blogs about cheese and other edibles at cheeseandtoast.com.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies