Shep Ysselstein of Norwich, Ontario, recently returned from Montreal with the “best firm cheese in Canada” award after entering his Five Brothers cheese in the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.
The award went to Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, owned by Ysselstein, who is a member of Maranatha Christian Reformed Church in Woodstock, Ontario.
He entered his eight-month-old Five Brothers cheese in the competition that draws cheeses from all over Canada to compete for awards in 19 categories. “The categories are mostly based on texture, and the firm cheese category is a fairly large one, so we were pretty excited to win that one,” he said.
While Gunn’s Hill produces several types of cheese, Ysselstein decided to go with his Five Brothers cheese, which he describes as a blend of Appenzeller—a Swiss variety—and Gouda in flavor. “Of course we’re always working to improve and improve,” explained Ysselstein, “and at the time of the competition, this was the one I was most comfortable submitting.”
As the cheese’s name suggests, Ysselstein is one of five brothers, as well as the son and grandson of dairy farmers, so cheese-making is a natural fit for him. He learned the craft through time spent working for cheese makers in upstate New York, the Swiss Alps, and British Columbia, as well as several week-long intensives at various universities, before starting Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese just over two years ago.
The milk used to create cheese at Gunn’s Hill comes from his family’s dairy farm. The cheese is now available at 150 stores across Ontario.