Chef makes gouda special of the day

Glasgow Glen Farms produces 16 flavours of cheese

NEW GLASGOW, P.E.I. — When Jeff McCourt wanted to buy a popular gouda cheese business in his home province of Prince Edward Island, he needed financing.

He decided to sell cheese futures.

Now those who bought those futures at $1,000 each receive their returns in cheese — six kilograms of artisanal gouda delivered twice a year for five years.

“It’s been a great community thing,” McCourt said during an Oct. 3 Canadian Farm Writers Federation tour of his facility.

He initially sold about 70 cheese futures, and more are available for sale. He ships to almost every province as well as Nunavut and Northwest Territories.

However, many of those who helped finance his purchase of the former Cheese Lady’s Gouda operation live on the same road as the cheese plant, which McCourt re-launched Aug. 18 as Glasgow Glen Farm.

“This was her baby,” McCourt said of the well known “cheese lady,” Martina ter Beek, from whom he bought the business. He continues to use her recipes and has added some of his own.

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McCourt, a chef for 27 years, had used ter Beek’s cheeses in his work, and when he heard she was considering retirement, he approached her about buying the business.

Though he knew the basics of cheese making, he worked with ter Beek 
to learn her techniques.

Glasgow Glen sits on 14 acres that are now the site of a new building in which visitors can see cheese being made, stored, aged and sold. A kitchen that bakes and sells fresh bread and pizza draws customers on a daily basis.

Milk for the cheese comes from an award-winning dairy farm up the road from Glasgow Glen, operated by Abe and Elaine Butterman.

“It’s all about the cows,” he said of cheese quality, noting the expertise of the Buttermans and their attention to cow comfort and production in their 30-head dairy.

“That makes me happy, as a cheese maker.”

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The farm produces 16 flavours of gouda, and McCourt makes cheese two days per week. Starting with milk in a 1,500-litre vat, he and assistant cheese maker Donald Younie produce about 400 pounds of gouda.

Milk is pasteurized on site, and culture is added once the milk has cooled. Each cheese requires a different culture. Rennet is added next and the curd is cut to a certain size that McCourt said is a trade secret.

After that, half the whey is drained, the curd is washed, flavour is added and the rest of the liquid is drained. The cheese is pressed into wheels and put into brine for about three days.

Once brined, the cheese goes to the aging room, where it is closely monitored, turned and wiped each day.

“You get to know your cheese very well. You touch it every day.”

It was important to him when building the facility to allow public viewing of the process, though it is seen from behind glass for safety reasons.

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“We want people to see it, and I think people want to know where their food comes from, too,” he said.