Blessed are the cheesemakers

Karl Wells
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Five Brothers Cheese about to become a grand fromage

Fans of Newfoundland’s Five Brothers Cheese — and they are abundant — will be delighted to know that Five Brothers is on the verge of becoming (pardon the pun) a big cheese.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Business Development Bank of Canada have helped fund a six-figure expansion that will soon see the artisanal cheese company operating out of larger digs in the Goulds.

The 1,200-square-foot facility, located in a soon-to-be-renovated storage building near Bidgood’s Plaza, will enable Five Brothers to produce 10 times the amount of cheese the company currently produces.

In hard numbers that’s an increase of 900 pounds weekly, from 100 to 1,000 pounds.

Cheesemaker Adam Blanchard is tickled pink about the possibilities for the company he founded. He told me plainly, “I realized in 2013 that it wasn’t feasible to continue making cheese on a small scale.”

If volume didn’t go up, Five Brothers would have to fold.

Larger scale

The Goulds facility will have larger-scale equipment, but not so large that the artisanal character of the cheese is lost. A new, large milk vat, two cheese presses and various moulds will all come in handy. Blanchard is confident that the new gear will be “more than capable of putting Five Brothers Cheese where it needs to be.”

If all goes well, Blanchard would eventually like to have a retail shop  downtown in which to sell his cheeses. That’s where Julia Bannister comes in.

Bannister is a fromagier, an expert in cheeses, much like a sommelier is an expert in wines. She’s being brought on board to help Five Brothers market its products. Initially she will organize cheese events, but when or if a retail store opens, Bannister will take charge of it.   

That will leave Blanchard free to create even more cheeses for Five Brothers. The latest menu, with which local foodies may be familiar, features the Mexican queso fresco, mozzarella and smoked white cheddar. The latter two are most popular by far, according to Blanchard. He says, “the mozzarella especially, because you can use it for many applications.”

Fresh tastes

I’ve tasted Five Brothers’ popular cheeses and like them all. First, because they’re fresh, soft cheeses (for which I have a particular affinity). The queso fresco is salty, tart and pairs beautifully with a glass of Chardonnay.

The very mild, plain mozzarella is all about the creamy texture. Try it paired with an off-dry Riesling.

As for the smoked cheddar, the smoke is more noticeable when the cheese is just made, but after a day or two it settles. Malbec suits this cheddar. Smoked mozzarella by Five Brothers is superb as well.

It will be several months before the Goulds operation is up and running, but eventually Blanchard is certain they’ll be doing aged cheeses. At present Five Brothers doesn’t have the capability to age cheeses for up to six months. The new location changes all that.

“We’ll be doing lots of research and development and working on many new types of cheeses,” he explained.

Key ingredients

I may be getting as soft as Blanchard’s mozzarella, but when I asked him what makes his cheese better than the massed produced stuff ,he gave me an answer that ordinarily I’d say was put on.

But, coming out of the mouth of this particular 32-year-old, it rang true. Here’s what he said.

“It’s the love, the heart that goes into it. I absolutely love making cheese and doing what I do. It’s not a mass-produced product made in a machine where you press a few buttons and walk away. There’s so much time, effort and patience that goes into making something like cheese. You can taste the difference at the end of the day.”

Now I bet you’re wanting to taste this guy’s cheese.

If you go early on Saturdays to the St. John’s Farmers Market at the Lions’ Chalet on Bonaventure Avenue, you may be able to get some before the rush of Five Brothers aficionados vacuum up all of it. Doors open at 9 a.m. sharp.

I asked Blanchard how he came up with the name Five Brothers Cheese for his company.

He told me that there are five brothers in his family and he is the eldest. (Apparently they’re a closely knit bunch.)

By calling the company Five Brothers he felt he was paying tribute to his brothers and also setting an example that might help his younger bros realize that they can do whatever they put their mind to.

I’m confident that Five Brothers Cheese will more than live up to Blanchard’s expectations.

Karl Wells is an accredited personal chef, author of “Cooking with One Chef

One Critic” and recipient of awards from the national body of the Canadian Culinary

Federation and the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Contact him through his website,

www.karlwells.com

Follow him on Twitter: @karl_wells

Organizations: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Business Development Bank of Canada, Canadian Culinary Federation Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Goulds, Bonaventure Avenue

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  • Jessica
    June 15, 2014 - 06:41

    Adam is an awesome person making an awesome product and now he is expanding, wonderful news. If you're going to eat cheese why bother eating any other kind but 5 brothers? It is delicious. Can't wait for the store to open.