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Le Douanier is an award-winning, surface-ripened cheese from Canada; it won the the Grand Prix for Canadian cheeses in 2004. Created by the Canadian cheese-maker Fritz Kaiser in 2000, the ivory-colored, wash-rinsed cheese is famous for its semi-soft texture, creamy aroma and hazelnut flavor; this nutty flavor becomes more pronounced as the cheese ages. This cheese is available for purchase at many food stores and supermarkets in the US and Canada, and may be eaten in salads, soups, pasta sauces, and fondues, or with vegetables and desserts.
In French, le douanier means custom officer, and the cheese gets its name from the ash line it contains. This is apparently a homage to the proximity of the US-Canadian border from the cheese's place of manufacture in Quebec, Canada. The ash line is also a homage to the original surface-ripened cheese, Morbier, that inspired the production of Le Douanier.
Morbier cheese, which is from the Franche-Comte region in France, was traditionally made from the leftover curds of another famous cheese, the Comte. It was customary to place a layer of ash on the curd so that it would keep overnight until further leftovers were added to it the following morning. In the present time, however, the ash is only symbolic as both types of cheeses are made from a single curd batch. Both Morbier and Le Douanier are cow's milk cheeses, the difference being that the production of the former requires raw milk and that of the latter requires pasteurized milk.
The Le Douanier cheeses are made in round batches with each batch generally weighing about 6.6 pounds (3 kilos). The bacterial cultures that help make the cheese produce tiny holes in the cheese body and add to its character. A thin line of maple wood ash is added to the cheese body.
The cheese batches are cured and washed to help with the creation and growth of the thin, coppery colored rind; the cheeses are usually subjected to a surface mold growth for ripening and are then washed with salt water, alcohol or fruit juices. The Le Douanier cheeses are then stored in a special storage room for 10 or 12 weeks. This storage process is known as aging, and it is necessary to age the cheese to improve the cheese flavor and to make it more palatable; some cheese may be stored for several years. Like most cheeses, Le Douanier cheese is rich in proteins and vitamins, and can make for a tasty and healthy food.
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