Sep 4, 2012
Cheeses of the World - Part Seven
Oka cheese comes from Quebec, Canada. It's a pale, soft cheese made from cow's milk and is usually a creamy or pale yellow in colour. The taste is described as mellow and buttery, with a hint of nuttiness or fruitiness. The flavour evolves during the aging process, which is usually anywhere from one to two months.
In the early 1880's, five Trappist monks established a monastery near Oka, Quebec. All Trappist monasteries were expected to support themselves, but it was a struggle for the monks. In 1893, Brother Alphonse Juin was sent from the Bellefontaine Abbey in France, where the monks had originated from, with a recipe for Port-du-Salut cheese in the hopes that this would help the monks. He made some adjustments to the original recipe, creating a unique cheese that won first place in the Montreal Exhibition that same year.
Rarely will you find Oka cheese smoked, layered, or flavoured. In fact, while most cheeses come in many varieties, Oka is available in only four types: Regular, which is made from both raw and pasteurized cow's milk and aged for four weeks; Classic, which is made from unpasteurized milk and is aged for two months; Light, which is much like the Regular Oka, except the milk is always pasteurized and the cheese is lower in fat; and Providence, which is creamier and softer than Regular Oka.
The aging of this cheese is done in refrigerated cellars. The rounds of cheese are placed on wooden slats and periodically turned and hand washed in a weak brine. The rind of the Oka cheese can range from straw-coloured to coppery-orange.
To bring out the best in Oka cheese, you should let it sit for twenty minutes at room temperature. It can be eaten with or without the rind. Store your leftover Oka in aluminum foil, in a warm spot in the refrigerator (the vegetable drawer is best). You can safely freeze Oka cheese, just wrap it in aluminum first then in freezer bags from which all the air has been expelled. Cool it down in the refrigerator before freezing it, and let it thaw in the refrigerator also, to preserve its texture and taste.
Don't expect to make Oka cheese in your own kitchen. Even though the production of Oka cheese is more commercialized today, the Trappist monks still supervise how it is made and guard the secret of their recipe. However, I did find a video from the Pleasure and Cheeses website which talks a bit about the history and process of making Oka Cheese.
Oka makes a fine addition to any cheese plate, but it also brings a unique flavour to any pizza or pasta dish. Melt it over vegetables, in sandwiches, or use it in a fondue. Use it as a garnish in salads or to give your soup an extra zing of flavour.
Poutine With Oka Cheese and Fresh Chervil
Portobello Mushroom Caps with Eggs, Cheese & Spinach
Egg Nests with Ham and OKA
Rutabaga OKA soup
Barbecued Tomatoes Stuffed with OKA
Buffalo Burger with Oka Cheese
Oka Mushroom Cheese Potato Gratin
Canadian Onion Soup With Oka Cheese
Oka Stuffed Potatoes
Oka Cheese is available at your higher end grocery stores or buy Oka cheese online from Springbank Cheese Company
at 8:00 AM