For nearly ten years, sisters Emma and Jenna Davison have owned and operated Golden Ears Cheesecrafters in Maple Ridge. They’ve grown from just the two of them making cheese to dealing with 1500 litres of milk a day, and making up to four different cheeses at one time. Emma talked to us about what local means to her and her sister, why she’s proud to use BC milk in her products, and how to prepare the perfect cheese board for your next holiday party.
We Heart Local BC: You come from five generations of dairy farmers. How did you two first get interested in making cheese?
Emma Davison: “We come from a long-time farming family. Our family came over from Scotland and first migrated to what used to be called Haney but is now Maple Ridge. In 1902 they started the farm and the dairy is what really came down through our lineage. We grew up going down to my uncle and aunt’s farm, and we had other uncles and aunts who lived out of town, who also had dairy farms. Both my sister and I also have a very close connection with food, and we identified that there was a huge lack of communication between the information that a food producer has, and the information that the consumer was actually being given. There were a lot of question marks that we wanted to fill.”
WHL: Can you give us an example of a recipe you invented?
ED: “The Charmesan was a happy accident. We were trying to make a cheddar, and we were kind of gritting our teeth about it - like, woo, this cheese is really dry, it’s really hard, it’s really salty. We sampled it to a chef and he just was over the moon saying “You need to make more of that!” So we started again, and we modified our recipe to be intentional and now it’s one of our fastest selling cheeses.”
WHL: How do you ensure that the cheese you produce is a safe, quality product for consumers?
ED: “For every batch of cheese that we make we have to send a portion out and have it tested. For us, we obviously like to make sure that everything is safe for everybody to eat, and certification is important. The Centre for Disease Control actually inspects every cheese maker throughout B.C., and then CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) as well. So we have a lot of rules, we have a lot of parameters, and we take certification and safety very seriously. All of our staff that work our pasteurizing machines are required by our company to take a local course at BCIT that’s called Dairy Processing Certificate. In British Columbia, all milk is distributed [to processors like us] by the BC Milk Marketing Board, and they are in charge of ensuring that there is a sample taken from every single farm as soon as the driver arrives to pick up the milk. They do their part really well in ensuring that there’s no antibiotics and no added hormones (which are illegal in Canada within our milk supply). I’m very proud to say that our dairy industry in Canada [has some] of the highest milk quality standards in the world.”
WHL: The holidays are coming up. Can you share some advice for readers about how to prep the perfect cheese plate?
ED: “For the perfect cheese plate, you want to have something for everyone, and you want to be able to mix and match flavours. I’ve learned from one of the best cheese-pairing guys in the industry who lives in the Okanagan [David Beaudoin], and he always recommends having a blue cheese (“something stinky” is what he normally would say), a fresh cheese, a soft cheese, and two hard cheeses. For blue, our Velvet Blue is an ever so light blue cheese, which we dust with ash so it looks really pretty on a cutting board. A fresh cheese would be something similar to our Neufchatel or Quark: something that’s fresh and easy to spread - almost like a cream cheese style. For something soft, that would be similar to Brie. And then you always want two hard cheeses [for example a medium Gouda and our reserve Havarti]. Finish your cheese board with fresh fruit or dried fruit, some nuts and maybe one or two things that are spreadable that might compliment cheese whether that’s a honey or jam, some candied jalapenos, or some chocolate.”
WHL: Tell us about some of the items you have for sale in your store - your Instagram makes it clear there’s more to enjoy than just cheese!
ED: "The store has become a space that we wanted to fill with trusted products. So we brought in several different makers and producers that make homestyle products - jams, jellies, pickles - anything that you associate with a cheese board - and then even things like pasta. We have a dairy section and we have a frozen section as well where we do local pies and ice creams and things like that. For each of our vendors, we know where it’s made, we know how it’s made, and we know who makes it. Our staff are able to clearly identify what questions people might have and then to direct them to a product they might be looking for, or what product they can use on their table and feed to their family that they can feel comfortable and safe about opening up and serving.”
Embracing and supporting local is important to Emma and Jenna. The sisters also give back to their community, benefiting their local hospital through a cheese and beer festival as well as by hosting community long-table dinners. “We like giving back as much as possible, “ says Emma “Because if we’re not working on our local economy, our local space, then nobody will survive, thrive or be prosperous. We’re helping out in the community to try and make our products more accessible, and our store more accessible. Through that, we see our community blossoming more and becoming a much more enjoyable place to be and live and work.”
You can read more about Emma and Jenna on We Heart Local BC.
[CONTEST CLOSED] And don’t forget to enter our draw! Details are on our Facebook Page for you to win a gift box from Golden Ears Cheesecrafters. It’s simple to enter: 1) follow us on Facebook and 2) leave a comment on our November 29 post letting us know what local foods you like to pair with BC cheeses. The contest runs until December 6, 2019.