“I’m a son of a nearby dairy farmer and I’ve always been passionate about agriculture, so this was my way of keeping my hands tied into it,” explained Mathieu Gallant, the owner of The Island Artisan Cheesehouse in Mont-Carmel.
He added, “I call it a family business because we support the family farm. My dad milks the cows and I make the cheese.”
In the summer of 2016, Gallant started selling his product Squeak-ies to local markets and stores around the Island.
“I studied Farm Business Management in Quebec around 10 years ago, and then I learned how to make different cheeses and won scholarships to go to France. After that I came home and decided I needed a house and cheese factory, so I decided to build both.”
Gallant and his young family live on the second floor – above the cheese house – in a beautiful rustic-shingled building that overlooks the shores of the Northumberland Strait.
His cheddar cheese curds (that come packaged at 175 grams) have many uses, but the taste is in the squeak.
“We call it Squeak-ies because when you bite the cheese it makes a squeak, a mark of freshness,” said Gallant with a grin. “And the cheese is so fresh that a lot of people just eat it as a snack.”
Albert Arsenault, a neighbour and cheese maker, explained the process of making the curds.
“We first test the freshly delivered milk for bacteria, and then we decide on how many litres to fill the tank. The milk is then pasteurized, cooled down, and cultures added. And the cooling down process is part of the recipe.”
He continued, “The last culture added separates the cheese from the whey (leftover product), so the solid floats and the liquid stays on the bottom.”
The product is then cooked, the why drained, and the cheese sliced with “cheese harps” into cubes.
“Each process is left to my discretion, and then Mathieu usually shows up near the end and lets me know if it’s good or if I need to add a little more salt. After that we package the cheese (bags are also made on the premises).”
Gallant says he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a cheese maker.
“For me I wanted to offer Islanders a healthy local dairy snack, which they can have on the go because everyone is so busy these days. It’s something the Island needs.”
The cheese curds can be purchased at the farmers markets in Charlottetown and Summerside, as well as different co-op stores, and tasted at a few select restaurants.
Gallant hopes to grow his business with a possible partner, and more staff. He also thanks all Islanders for supporting them.
More information can be found at www.facebook.com/FromageriePEI