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When goat cheese 'got to be quite a fad' in Canada

Canadians seemingly liked their goat cheese before they could easily buy a domestic version in grocery stores.

In the early '80s, Canadians were a lot more familiar with chèvre than they used to be

The making of goat cheese

40 years ago
Duration 1:54
In 1982, The National profiles the goat cheese-making efforts of Martine and Paul Gadbois.

Canadians seemingly liked their goat cheese even before they could easily buy a domestic version in grocery stores.

So, Martine Gadbois and her husband, Paul, were certainly on to something when they started making their own chèvre in Quebec decades ago.

Their popular product had caught the eye of The National in 1982, as the program ran a profile of the couple and their cheese-making efforts.

"Until [Martine Gadbois] and her husband started making goat's milk cheese ... it was all imported from Europe," the CBC's Susan Copeland told viewers on June 16, 1982.

"It took agriculture officials five years to figure out how to adapt dairy regulations to give the Gadboises a permit to sell their cheese."

Old-school cheese-making

Martine Gadbois said she believed it was best to use traditional methods to make goat cheese. (The National/CBC Archives)

As Copeland explained, the couple had since become so busy making goat cheese, they had to sell their herd of goats in order to focus on their popular product.

At that point, the Gadboises needed 4,000 litres of goat's milk each week to make the 200 kilograms of cheese they were selling, and were acquiring it from five neighbouring farmers.

"Making cheese by hand is not a fast way of making money. It's more a vocation," Martine Gadbois told The National, noting the "old, traditional way" was the way to make chèvre.

That meant shaping the cheese and letting it spend nearly three weeks ripening before sending it to markets in Ottawa and Montreal.

Only some cheese-makers stuck with it

The Gadboises used 4,000 litres of goat's milk each week in order to produce their goat cheese. (The National/CBC Archives)

In the report on The National, Copeland gave viewers a bit of the backstory on the rise of goat cheese in Canada.

"For a while, goats and goat's cheese got to be quite a fad. It was part of the back-to-the-land movement," she said, while surrounded by a group of goats in Elgin, Que.

"But although some people managed to keep their herds, most of the cheese-makers didn't last."

The Canadian Press reported in August 1981 that the Gadboises then held one of just a dozen permits in the province of Quebec for making chèvre.

And in December of 1981, the Toronto Star had named goat cheese as its "in" cheese of 1982, using a cartoon of a sash-wearing triangular cheese kicking the rear end of a stack of processed cheese to drive this point home to readers.

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