When Adam Blanchard grabs some milk at the grocery store, he's on a serious mission. The founder of Five Brothers Artisan Cheese in St. John's is the first artisan cheese producer in the province. Blanchard's small-batch business is so unique that he's still working his way through milk quota regulations so he can finally purchase fluid raw cow's milk. For now, he literally clears the homogenized milk from the shelves at Sobeys whenever he's in production.
In 2010, Blanchard, a trained chef, drove back to Newfoundland from Toronto after finishing an apprenticeship at Pangaea, stopping at farmers' markets and creameries along the way. A small Fredericton producer who was making great cheese after only two years in the business left an impression. "I got back and had this in the back of my mind and it took off from there," Blanchard says. He bought a cheese press online and taught himself how to use it, and in 2011 set up a stall at the St. John's Farmers' Market. He sold out in two weeks.
His timing is right – Newfoundland is seeing a shift in its culinary scene as more young chefs are staying in the province and working together to support the new food culture. This tight-knit community has put Five Brothers cheese on local restaurant menus and helped raise money to fly the company to the Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ont., earlier this month.
At the festival I sampled Blanchard's cheeses, normally only available in Newfoundland. The queso fresco, with a refreshing balance of salt and tang, can be fried or crumbled onto salads or used to tame the heat of spicy dishes. His cheddar impressed with its delicate touch of smoke. It's more crumbly than a typical cheddar (think of a farmer's cheese that has been drained and pressed) and just a month old.
Until now, Five Brothers has been working from a rented commercial kitchen where Blanchard makes his cheese in stockpots and ages them in adapted refrigerators. Over the summer he'll move into a larger space with a proper cheese vat and aging room at Lester's Farm near Mount Pearl, Nfld. "If I don't do this full-time I'm going to wake up one day and someone else will be doing it and I'll regret it for the rest of my life. So sink or swim," Blanchard says. He hopes to secure a supply of raw milk from three Jersey cows on the farm.
As for his company's name, Blanchard is the eldest of five siblings and wanted to show them that "you can do anything if you put your mind to it." Considering he's created a one-man cheese scene in his province, he's set a pretty good example.
For more information go to fivebrotherscheese.com or visit the Five Brothers booth at the St. John's Farmers' Market.
Sue Riedl blogs about cheese and other edibles at cheeseandtoast.com.