Blessed Are The Cheesemakers: MEGAN STACEY
Amarjit Singh, Gurinder Kaur, Sajeev Singh
“Blessed are the cheesemakers!”
[Monty Python, Life of Brian]
Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada
The Singh family has been making cheese at 139 Victoria Street in Ingersoll for 16 years.
This year is special because their Local Dairy has been nominated for a prize in the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.
The cheese, Oaxaca (pronounced oh-hock-ah), is a Mexican mozzarella-type – a soft, light and stringy white cheese named after the region where it was born.
It’s hand-stretched in boiling water and sold in a distinctive knotted ball. Oaxaca is a mild cheese that’s great for melting, because “it won’t burn your mouth,” said cheese maker Amarjit Singh.
Amarjit, his wife Gurinder Kaur, and son Sajeev Singh, constitute one of the only producers of this cheese in Ontario – and definitely the only spot in Oxford County.
“People were asking us for the Latin American cheeses and a lot of that was smuggled, so we wanted to make a Canadian product,” said Amarjit Singh.
They make unique cheeses like the Mexican Oaxaca or Chihuahua (also named after a region in Mexico) and the German Kock Kase popular with several of Ontario’s Mennonite communities.
Local Dairy is a unique mix of Punjabi and Latin American products, of course peppered with the usual Canadian staples, too.
“That’s the reason I got into this, it’s a passion. There was nothing good available,” he said.
The Singh family, along with a handful of other employees, makes cheese, butter and yogurt and even milk-based caramels in the old Ingersoll Cheese House using ultra-local milk.
In fact, that’s the reason they chose Ingersoll in the first place.
“To hopefully get good milk,” Amarjit said. It comes from family farms that are just 15 or 30 minutes away.
“It’s very local, artisanal, and all-natural.”
His training was as natural as the ingredients.
When Amarjit’s mother, Sardarni Harbhajan Kaur, came to Toronto from the subcontinent in the early 1970s, she was the neighbourhood hub for delicious flavours of home.
No one else could find the right paneer, a fresh cheese used in many Punjabi dishes, or the right yogurt to go with curry.
So Amarjit’s mother made her own using traditional family recipes, and her son followed along.
“Then we had three or four cows for ourselves. It wasn’t a business-type venture (at first),” he said.
At home in his mother’s Scarborough kitchen, Amarjit developed a passion for great cheese.
He’s since travelled the world to learn from cheese makers in Italy, England, and Mexico, to name just a few. Other than Africa, he believes he’s been to almost every great cheese-making locale in the world.
Local Dairy started out in Kitchener, until the Singh family brought the venture to Oxford County almost two decades ago.
“It’s a good, small town,” Amarjit said of Ingersoll, well known for its cheese production in earlier centuries.
They’re located in a spot rich with cheese history.
He bought the building from Armstrong Cheese, and the red brick building nestled in behind Local Dairy on Victoria Street is still etched with the black-and-white name “Ingersoll Cheese Co.”
It’s not just Ingersoll bursting with good cheese. Oxford County is home to several other nominees for the Dairy Farmers of Canada ninth annual Cheese Grand Prix, chosen out of 268 cheeses from Victoria to Charlottetown.
Bright Cheese and Butter, based in Bright, Ontario, is nominated in the old cheddar and firm cheese categories, and Norwich Township’s Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese picked up three nominations for Swiss-type, flavoured and farmhouse cheeses.
Winners will be revealed at the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Gala on April 22.
[Courtesy: Woodstock Sentinel Review. Edited for sikhchic.com]
March 19, 2015
Conversation about this article
1: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), March 19, 2015, 3:59 PM.
What a fantastic entrepreneurial story. I am not surprised the President of the United States has chosen the CEO of Mastercard Ajaypal Singh as a special business advisor! It is the likes of Amarjit Singh, Gurinder Kaur and Sajeev Singh, the Cheesemakers, who have shown that hard work and integrity ultimately pay huge dividends, even if you have to start from scratch. Talking of cheese -- personally, I am cheese mad and have several favourites from across the world, with Bavarian Smoked Cheese being number one.