Ontario cheese maker ready to downsize and return to the glory days of crafting every batch
Monforte Dairy cheese on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 (CTV News Toronto/ Hannah Alberga).
An Ontario woman says she’s ready to sell her farm and get back into the business of making each and every batch of cheese her company produces.
“I'm gonna just go back and start making all the cheese myself. And it's kind of exciting and scary, but mostly because I think it's good actually. It's like coming full circle,” Ruth Klahsen, owner of Stratford-based Monforte Dairy, told CTV News Toronto.
On the first afternoon of summer, Klahsen, a mainstay in Toronto’s farmers’ market circuit, sat beneath a white tent shaving samples of her Little Boy Blue cheese for customers visiting Trinity Bellwoods – one of the six markets she visits every week in the summer.
“It was small and intimate,” the 65-year-old said, thinking back to the early days of her now 20-year-old company. She was operating the business solo, making every batch herself at a dairy in Millbank, Ont.
At the time, Klahsen said the food industry felt energized. It was the early 2000s, the beginning of a newfound appreciation for slow food with local roots.
“I think there was a real cohesiveness around food. I think we've lost a lot of that, even before the pandemic, I think. And I'm not sure why it makes me a little bit sad. But it was a really precious time,” she said.
Her business started with three cheeses – all of which are still top sellers today. One was a firm pecorino toscano made of sheep’s milk, another was a softer fleur du maquis with a natural rind rolled in rosemary, summer savory, juniper and chilies; and the third was a spongy, creamy and as Klahsen puts it, “sexy,” taleggio cheese.
“Ironically, the farther along we get, it's those core ones that are the ones that are the best cheeses,” she said.
Klahsen’s desire to get back to the place where her business started is not just a dream, it’s actually in the works.
“I wish I'd stayed smaller. Ironically, we're going to go back to being much smaller. I'm gonna sell the farm,” she said.
By the fall, she’ll get back to the art of crafting every batch.
“I think cheese is so humbling because it's one ingredient,” Klahsen said.
“I think more than anything we need pleasure in life. And I think we need pleasure out of small things that are daily.”