A Primer On Canadian Cheese

Last Updated on May 14, 2015 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

I’m excited to have partnered once again with Dairy Farmers of Canada to feature Canadian cheeses made from 100% Canadian milk – because, as you probably know, I love cheese – and I buy from local cheesemakers as much as possible to support the Canadian dairy farmers and economy.

Today I’m showcasing five cheeses. From this selection, I’m hoping you’ll help me pick one that you’d like me to feature in a dessert… with a video! You’ll get to see me geek out over the recipe rather than just read about it. 🙂

Because I’ll be using the winner in a sweet recipe, the five Canadian cheeses I chose are dessert-friendly. From top to bottom in the above photo, you have Ricotta, Mascarpone, Brie, Quark and Cream Cheese. Several are pretty similar, so I thought you might like to get to know them better to understand their differences.

What is Ricotta?

The first is Ricotta – a fresh, unripened cheese. It is traditionally made with the whey left over from production of other cheeses, but in Canada (and elsewhere in North America) it is typically made with both milk and whey. It is a lower-fat cheese with soft, small curds and a light, milky sweetness.

I love it for its versatility – I buy it in large tubs and use it constantly. I’ll spoon a dollop onto a bowl of pasta, enjoy it for breakfast with fresh fruit and toasted nuts, or stir in some fresh herbs, sprinkle with flaky salt and spread it on baguette slices as a fresh, casual appetizer (as pictured above).

What is Mascarpone?

Mascarpone is ricotta’s rich daddy. Made in a similar way, but with cream and milk, it is thicker and smoother with a finer grain, and is lusciously creamy. I’ve waxed poetic on it before, more than once.

The higher fat content means a really creamy flavour. With a subtle tang to balance the richness, it is a gorgeous choice for frostings and desserts (see links above). Mascarpone and homemade jam on warm scones is maybe my favourite treat in the world. Any leftovers I’ll often use to smear on toast in place of butter, as pictured here with peppery microgreens and crunchy salt.

What is Quark?

Quark is a less commonly known fresh cheese, which I discovered it while living in Belgium. It is creamy and spreadable, with a more pronounced tang than Ricotta or Mascarpone. The curds are similar in size to Ricotta, but with less moisture. It is most similar to Cream Cheese in flavour, but is much lower fat. I slather it on bagels, spoon it on top of grilled fruit, or spread it on toast with fresh berries and honey for breakfast.

What is Cream Cheese?

Cream Cheese is the most ubiquitous of this bunch, with a familiar smooth, creamy texture and tangy, rich flavour. It is a higher-fat, lower-moisture fresh cheese perfect as a spread (it has no detectable curds, like the others do). It’s also wonderful in desserts, and magical in hot dips. Oh man, I’d kill for a hot artichoke dip right now.

What is Brie?

Brie is the only cheese of the bunch that is not a fresh cheese. It’s a soft, ripened cheese bearing an edible rind and a sweet, nutty, mild flavour. The interior is creamy and spreadable – perfect to serve with crackers as part of a cheese plate alongside nuts and olives. It lends itself just as well to sweet pairings, as shown here with tart cherry jam.

Keep a lookout for the 100% Canadian Milk symbol whenever you buy cheese, it confirms the Canadian origin of the milk, internationally renowned for it’s high quality.

Now it’s up to you – which of these Canadian cheeses would you like to see in a delicious spring-summer dessert? Please let me know in the comments! I’m so excited to make a recipe video to share with you!

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