Chef Jeff McCourt is free wheeling Gouda-style at his new artisan cheese facility, Glasgow Glen Farm in New Glasgow, where he produces the renowned Gouda Cheese Lady Martina ter Beek’s time-honoured recipe as well as a whole new line of flavours.
©GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MARY MACKAY
Say “cheese” and you’re likely to break into a big picture perfect smile.
And there’s nothing like the practice of making cheese to bring a smile to chef Jeff McCourt’s face.
This grinning Gouda guy has been pretty much saying, making, testing and tasting cheese since taking the artisan cheese-making wheel from Martina ter Beek — best known on Prince Edward Island as the Gouda Cheese Lady.
“It’s a lifestyle, not a job,” says McCourt from his newly opened artisan cheese-making facility and shop, Glasgow Glen Farm in New Glasgow, which at this post-lunch-rush hour is still hopping as the drive-by crowd drops in for a taste of Gouda-topped pizza or bread baked fresh in the wood-fired oven.
A 20-plus-year veteran of the restaurant industry and co-author of the successful Flavours of Prince Edward Island cookbook, McCourt thought it was time for a shift in career direction.
“I had a plan. I turned 40 and that’s what really got this plan in my head, just kind of ‘What are you going to be when you grow up?’ As a chef, I was very pleased at how all that had been, but I knew there was something else out there for me,” he says.
In 2012, McCourt studied with Ruth Claussen of the Ontario-based Monforte Dairy and Art Hill from the University of Guelph at a BioFoodTech artisan cheese-making workshop in Charlottetown in 2012.
This solidified his appetite for the craft of artisan cheese-making.
He apprenticed with ter Beek, learning her tried-and-true Gouda cheese-making methods, before purchasing her business in June of 2013 and leasing the original shop in North Winsloe.
“It was a building block — a solid business with a good brand name recognition. Start here with this solid foundation and then we’ll grow from there,” he says.
This past August, McCourt moved lock, stock and cheese wheels to his new 40- by 70-foot Glasgow Glen Farm facility that takes up barely a tiny corner of its scenic 14-acre lot.
Now, instead of a 30-minute round trip drive to work, he needs only to slip out the side door of his home and sidle across the lawn
“The dew is my biggest worry on my commute,” laughs McCourt, who did not exactly trade in his crazy chef hours for a cushy work schedule.
“It’s actually worse than a chef’s life. It’s just odder hours,” he adds with a smile.
“We make cheese twice a week, so I’m usually up at 3:30 a.m. on the days we make cheese and it’s about 11:30 p.m. when we’re done the process for the day.”
Ter Beek’s tried-and-true cheese is still on the product shelf, but now it’s in Gouda company with other McCourt-crafted flavours, including garlic, caraway, cumin, red pepper and more.
“There’s a blouda, which is a Gouda cheese that I’ve added a blue cheese culture to so it kind of ages it a little bit differently. It’s a cheese lover’s cheese. It has subtle nuances. And we do a beer cheese that we soak in Sydney Street stout from the (P.E.I.) Brewing Company and age it for five months. It’s a real creamy cheese with a bit of a stouty, hoppy, malty flavour to it,” McCourt says.
“In September of last year we started a pizza cheese. So it’s sundried tomato, red pepper, onion, garlic, Italian herbs; all the things in a good pizza. But I did it so kids could relate. If you say, ‘oh you should try some fenugreek.’ ‘What?’ But pizza cheese tastes like pizza. You come up with ways to relate to the consumer.”
At present, McCourt has five staff at Glasgow Glen Farm on the front line making pizzas in the wood-fired oven and presenting the cheese line to the public, as well as working in the cheese-making side of things.
“The cheese business is hands on. We have to flip and wipe every wheel in the building every day. At one point we had 1,000 wheels in the inventory and we still have close to that now. Yeah, that’s a lot of flipping and wiping,” he smiles.
The spacious new barn-like structure is an inviting place for Gouda cheese lovers to explore as well.
“It’s experiential tourism. People want to see and feel and smell when they walk in. You can see it being made and, to me, that’s my biggest PR is having the cheese room where it’s made pristine and clean. It’s like a billboard . . . . They can see it’s not a big factory; it’s made by hand the old-fashioned way,” says McCourt, who is aiming for a Glasgow Glen Farmgoat cheese as well as a sheep milk Gouda this year.
“For me, another motivating factor is I just constantly need to learn something new. It’s the chef in me. Gotta play.”
A cheesy sandwich to try at home
This blend of sweet, spicy and smoky is all wrapped up in a gooey grilled cheese.
Yield: 8 portions
Cheeselady’s Red Chili
Gouda Grilled Cheese and Smoked Bacon Sandwich
1 1/2 lbs sliced smoked bacon, cooked in whole slices and kept warm
2 lbs grated Cheeselady’s Red Chili Pepper Gouda
1 cup apple jelly
1/2 lb soft ADL butter
16 slices of your favourite brown bread
Cover the counter with plastic wrap and lay your bread out in two rows of eight. Generously coat each slice in butter.
Turn all the slices over so the dry side is facing up. Cover this side with a generous layer of apple jelly. Next cover every second slice with a layer of Red Chili Pepper Gouda. Place 6 slices of bacon on the Gouda and follow with one more layer of cheese. Place the remaining sliced jelly side down on top of the cheese. Now you should have eight complete sandwiches with butter on both the outsides.
To cook, heat a panini grill, place each sandwich on the grill and close the lid. Cook for about 6 minutes until the outside is crisp and golden and the cheese is melted all the way through. If you don’t have a panini grill you can use a griddle or frying pan but will have to carefully turn the sandwich over half way through cooking. This is not a sandwich for the light hearted but is amazing in the fall when the apples are falling and the jelly is on the stove.