The History of Cheese
Humans discovered the principle of cheese making in the Middle East 7,000 to 8,000 years ago.
It is believed that milk, transported in goatskin containers made from the stomachs of young goats, would have curdled because of the natural rennet.
This method would have spread quickly around the Mediterranean and beyond. Curd moulds, whose origin goes back 5,000 years, were discovered in Switzerland, close to Neufchâtel. Throughout their conquests, the Romans contributed to spreading the cheese-making process in Europe and England.
In Quebec, the colonists of New France brought their cheese-making traditions with them. But, after the conquest, production was limited to Cheddar, the cheese of English origin.
Quebec has always been a cheese-making leader in North America. At the end of the 19th century, the first North American cheese-making school was founded in Saint-Denis-de-Kamouraska. Since 1893, the dairy school in Saint-Hyacinthe, now known as the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire, works on improving cheese-manufacturing techniques and on research in chemistry, bacteriology and nutrition.
A new era
For a long time, two religious communities led the way with cheese-making production that was different from Cheddar.
In 1893, the Trappist monks of Oka started manufacturing their famous cheese inspired by Port-Salut cheese from overseas.
For their part, the monks at the Saint-Benoit-du-Lac Abbey launched their cheese-making adventure in 1943.
In the 1980s
In the 1980s, a return to the land and traditional values breathed new life into the production of fine cheeses. The arrival in Quebec of a Swiss craftsman-cheesemonger, Fritz Kaiser, sparked the passion of Quebec producers for traditional European cheeses. Many focus on manufacturing speciality cheeses, and their products are starting to win prizes in international competitions.
End of the 90s
At the end of the 90s, micro cheese-makers started offering a wide variety of artisanal cheese throughout the different regions of Quebec, including several cheeses made from raw milk.
Today, we all enjoy the fruit of those efforts because the fine cheeses of Quebec offer consumers recognized quality and remarkable diversity. It is hardly surprising that the cheese industry is one sector of the food industry that has experienced the most growth in Quebec.