Nickel City Cheese gains fast foothold: Sudbury's first cheese producer enjoys early success with fresh, in-house made product.

Author:McKinley, Karen

Even Miss Muffet would approve of Nickel City Cheese's curds.

Sudbury's agriculture scene has gotten a lot more diverse with a cheese factory about 20 kilometres northeast of Sudbury on Regional Road 15 in the suburb of Azilda. The factory has been growing since it opened this past spring, offering made-fresh-daily cheddar curds and bricks in a variety of flavours.

Owner Nicole Paquin said demand for their fresh cheese has been steady since they first opened, often selling out of their signature flavoured curds.

It's been a long-term goal for her to establish a cheese factory in the region.

Before this, she worked in the office of the Ministry of the Attorney General for 14 years part-time and wanted something more.

"I remembered the fromage des villages from where I grew up in Quebec, and wanted to bring that here," she said. "We had fresh cheese on a regular basis."

She left her job, got certification in cheese-making from the University of Guelph and began the process of opening her own business.

The facility was built with expansion in mind, but started with one kind of cheese to gain a foothold. It consists of a delivery garage for the milk trucks, the production floor, packaging and the storefront, as well as a back room for employees to enter and exit and dress.

The process to make the cheese starts in the early hours of the morning as fresh raw milk is trucked in from dairies in Verner through the Dairy Farmers of Ontario collective. The milk is pasteurized, then cooled to around 32 degrees Celsius. Rennet and cultures are added and the mix is left to form one solid block of fresh cheese in the vat. Once solid, the whey is drained off, blocks are stacked in the vat and left to drain, which is called cheddaring.

Solid fresh cheese is cut into smaller blocks to feed into a curd breaker. Curds are seasoned with salt, then the fresh curds are gathered in bins and flavouring added. From there, some curds are weighed and bagged, while others are pressed into bricks.

The entire process can take up to 11 hours, Paquin said.

They have 200 gram and 400 gram bags of curds available, as well as bricks in 200 gram or 300 gram weights.

Very little goes to waste during production. All whey water is collected and sold to a local farmer for livestock...

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