Discovering Manitoba

Local Cheese, Please!

Super-enjoyable, fresh tasting Bothwell cheese of many types is on display at the company store in New Bothwell, south of Winnipeg.

What makes the difference between a good-tasting cheese and one that excites your taste buds beyond compare, leaving your mouth watering and longing for more of the heavenly treat? One of the secrets to a recipe for such scrumptious morsels is a heaping of fresh ingredients and a big dash of tender, loving care, the kind of care that typifies artisan cheese-making.

The largest, most known and arguably the best artisan cheese-maker in Manitoba is Bothwell Cheese Inc., just a short drive south of the Winnipeg in New Bothwell. “You can taste the difference in cheese that is made with fresh, locally-produced milk. There are absolutely no modified milk ingredients, fillers or preservatives in our cheese,” declares Wortzman, Director of Sales and Marketing for Bothwell Cheese. Fresh milk for Bothwell means milk that is literally collected from cows within hours of being turned into cheese. All the milk used to produce Bothwell’s cheese is produced on dairy farms just a few miles away and delivered daily to the plant.

One indicator of the unbelievable taste and quality of Bothwell’s cheese is the fact the company has been producing its artisanal cheese since 1936. Started by a group of area dairy farmers, in the early years dairy farmers hauled their raw milk in milk cans to the Bothwell plant. Today the milk is picked up from local dairy farms by large tanker trucks and then delivered to the plant. Initially, the company produced just cheddar cheese. Today it employs about 50 people and produces over 30 different cheeses, ranging from traditional Gouda and Cheddar to specialty creations like Madagascar Green Peppercorn and Smoked Jalapeno Jack, and even Black Truffle Cheese made with Italian black truffles. The independently-owned cheese-maker produces and distributes more than two million kilograms of cheese throughout Canada every year, says Wortzman. Bothwell cheeses can be found in larger grocery chains and smaller specialty retailers, and are used by fast-food and pizza chains and five-star restaurants, including some of Manitoba’s most trendy eateries.

Further testimony to Bothwell’s ability to produce a product that goes way beyond “food” is the many awards it’s garnered for its cheeses. The most prestigious, however, is the First Place award for its Marble Cheddar at the British Empire Cheese Competition (held in Canada each year). Bothwell has won the award for the past three years.  Whether you like to have the odd nibble of cheese or are a cheese connoisseur, you simply must visit the company’s fullystocked, on-site store.

Cheeses are offered in a wide variety of sizes and formats, along with other products–ranging from honey, maple syrup and jams to teas, chutneys and pasta. Manitoba made, they all have that special taste that only comes from being created by people who truly care about the quality of the food they make. The store is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (except for long weekends).

Another indicator of Bothwell’s success is its steady expansion over the years, including the opening of a second store in mid-June. “We are very proud to announce the opening of our second store at the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport,” says Wortzman.

Bothwell’s success also stems from the strong ties it has maintained with Manitoba’s dairy farmers and the local community.

Dairy farmer Liz Banman agrees. “Bothwell Cheese has always been a great supporter of Manitoba’s dairy industry and especially local dairy farmers and our local community.” Milk is picked up from their farm every two days by a local milk hauler and delivered to Bothwell Cheese.

Liz, husband Jason and son Cliff milk 100 Holstein cows on their dairy farm in New Bothwell. She says everyone shares in running the operation. Cows are milked twice daily (way too early in the morning to even mention, and again in the early evening). “Dairying is a 24-7, 365-day-a-year job,” she says. But it’s clearly a labour of love. The cows are more than just a living for the Banmans; they are like family and receive the best of housing, feed and care. Each cow even has her own name.

Liz and Jason have been milking cows for nearly 40 years. To help out with milking and feeding the herd, and with field work, they hire local kids after school and weekends. “We all help out our community in different ways,” she notes. Bothwell employs a lot of local people and does fund raisers, providing its “Squeak’rs” at discount prices to local schools to help raise money.

What the heck are Squeak’rs? As part of cheese-making, cheese is formed into small morsels or curds before being pressed together to form the familiar cheese blocks. These curds are the freshest cheese possible and as a result have a springy texture and literally make a squeaking sound when eaten. But the best squeaks are heard when these tasty curds are munched just as they come out of the plant, still warm. Bothwell sells bags of cheddar Squeak’rs (in regular, white and marble).

If your looking to take a relaxing country drive this summer and reward yourself with a slice or two of heavenly-tasting (and sounding) cheese, then be sure to visit this very special cheese plant in New Bothwell. Dave Wilkins is a writer and editor who runs DLW Communications Inc. Dave can be reached at 204-782-5612 or info@dlwcommunications.com.

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