Meet the Maker:
Fromagerie La Station de Compton
Narrow curving roads hug undulating hills in the
Hauts Cantons de l’Est, cutting between tiny
lush pastures, clumps of shade and well-kept barns.
This is cow country:
brown, buff, cream and black-and-white haunches punctuate
the greenery, and pungent, sweet, sharp aromas are
thick in the humid air. These seemingly timeless and
very nearly precious surroundings are site of the Bolduc
farm and family-run Fromagerie La Station de Compton.
just eighteen months of operation, cheese maker Carole
Routhier and her son, affineur Simon-Pierre
Bolduc have created three raw-milk cheeses of quality,
character and deserved reputation. Simon-Pierre moves
excitedly back and forth from ripening room to reception
area, sloshing purposefully through a sterilizing footbath
each time, clutching samples for our delectation. “I
love to hear what people think. I spend so much time
alone in my laboratory!” he laughs, suggesting
that even he finds his obsessive métier a bit
much some days.
Compulsive attention to every detail is the basis of
cheese making success. Are the cows healthy and eating
well? The Bolducs are fourth-generation farmers, maintaining
a troupeau fermier (closed herd) of pureblood Holsteins,
reared on a diet free of pesticides, hormones and genetically
modified substances. Is the raw milk treated with care
so that flavour-giving bacteria thrive while potentially
contaminating organisms are kept at bay? The fromagerie’s
tanks and vats gleam pristinely in a tidy little room,
vibrating cleanliness in the afternoon light. Does
the affineur have sufficient technique and artistry
to craft sweet curds into fragrant. savoury wheels
with complexity and personality? Even casual tasting
reveals that Simon-Pierre has the knack.
The heated pressed curd Alfred le fermier is aged
up to eight months, developing a balance of tangy
round nutty flavours. Simon-Pierre kindly cut into
a wheel of his finest batch to date. Its raw milk character
was obvious, though in a nuanced way. Alfred is like
a Portuguese Sao Jorge that is minding its manners,
keeping the salt, fire and rusticity in check.
Comtomme is Bolduc’s first foray into washed
rind affinage. Its ruddy, tacky surface and supple,
aromatic, bittersweet paste are hallmarks of the classic
Trappist-style cheeses popular in Quebec since the
early days of Oka. Like Alfred, Comtomme is slightly
demure, daring to be pretty where others are flagrant.
(More and more, I rarely want to tackle a cheese so
volatile that my eyes water!) Simon-Pierre relates
that he is tweaking the Comtomme to enhance its amertume,
but that to say any more might give away secrets.
A third offering, available only at the fromagerie,
is La Station. This young, springy washed rind cheese
has obviously been the subject of plenty of experiment
during its making and ripening. The batch we tried
was amazingly tasty, although Simon-Pierre considered
it too acidic. La Station has a dense melting richness
that conveys lively herbal and floral flavours. This “greenness” is
reminiscent of Torta del Casar, but without that Spanish
cheese’s impression that you’ve licked
the lawnmower clean!
La Station was appropriately wonderful with a glass
of Unibroue’s Ephémere, a nice hoppy beer
flavoured with apples. (Somewhere out there I hope
a cheese maker is washing rinds with this brew!)
Alfred and Comtomme are widely available in Quebec,
at Montreal shops like Qui Lait Cru, Fromagerie Hamel
and Fromagerie du Marché Atwater, and at dépaneurs
(I kid you not!) in the Cantons de l’Est. A new
distribution arrangement will see these cheeses make
their debut in Toronto soon.