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From family farms to famous cheese craft cities, Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese in Woodstock, Ontario is the product of a deep seeded entrepreneurial spirit. Owner and operator, Shep Ysselstein, built Gunn’s Hill cheese plant from the ground up, just a few hundred metres from the dairy farm.
Growing up on a third-generation Ontario family dairy, Friesvale Farms rooted Ysselstein’s passion for dairy, but it wasn’t until a couple decades and a business degree later that the idea of Gunn’s Hill was set in motion. After a trip to an on-farm cheese plant in Thunder Bay, Ysselstein was inspired to bring a similar operation to southern Ontario.
After some classes and a few more years on the farm, his educational journey in the art of cheesemaking took flight - figuratively and literally. The first move took Ysselstein to upstate New York to really dive into the craft, from there it was a summer spent in the Swiss Alps learning different cheesemaking techniques and styles unique to the area, and then a year in British Columbia with a cheesemaking factory. Upon his return home, the next two years were spent developing his own cheesemaking operations alongside his family’s dairy.
Fast forward 10 years and Gunn’s Hill holds a special place as one of Ontario’s favourite local, craft cheesemakers. With providence and origin being a key differentiation in the creation of any artisanal product, Gunn’s Hill cheeses pull from both Swiss and local influence in their distinct formulas and rich characteristics - 5 Brothers, which is not only their flagship and namesake but also a crowd favourite. This Appenzeller-esque washed rind cheese brings the complex flavour and delicious-on-its-own rind but is made with some techniques common to a Gouda which gives it that smooth, creamy texture.
Ysselstein offers a few tips when sampling cheese.
If you’re sampling a cheese for the first time, he suggests trying it on its own to experience the full flavour and experience of the cheese.
A fan of crackers and cheese? A great alternative is a fresh piece of warm bread as the flavours complement each other beautifully without taking away from the cheese.
While it’s not unusual to remove the rind prior to enjoying cheese, due to the nature of washed rind cheeses, it typically has a whole life of its own. If you’re interested in leaving the rind on, always try the rind and cheese apart from one another first.
Though every cheese carries unique flavour profiles, cooking with them is always a yes. Pro tip - depending on the dish and the use of the cheese in it, try to always take note of the different varieties' melting qualities.
Gunn’s Hill makes over 15 different cheeses, inspired by the techniques and recipes from the town of Handeck in the Swiss Alps. Every kilogram of cheese requires about 10L of local milk. Since milk is mostly water, the process of tending to the cheese throughout the production process, especially washed rind varieties like Gunn’s Hill signature 5 Brothers cheese, is what contributes to the luxury of artisanal cheese.
Behind the Scenes
Watch the pros at work making some of Ontario's favourite artisanal cheese!
If you’re looking for a well-rounded Gunn’s Hill experience while sifting through the abundance of their exquisitely crafted and delicious cheeses, check these out:
The ultimate Gunn’s Hill experience is found through their flagship cheese, 5 Brothers. This Gouda/Appenzeller inspired; washed rind cheese is brushed up to 60 times throughout its delicate eight-month ageing process.
Dark Side of The Moo
Modelled after a Swiss variety known as Mutchli, Dark Side of The Moo is Gunn Hill’s take on Oxford Harvest. This mild, creamy cheese packs a whole lot of flavour thanks to its four-day soak in Upper Thames Brewing’s ‘Dark Side’ chocolate stout.
Handeck is another hand-crafted, washed rind cheese taking after a typical Swiss mountain style variety. This hard cheese offers robust flavours with nutty overtones after its 18-month ageing process.
This ripened Brie is unique from others as it’s made in a traditional way, making it an extremely soft, creamy delicacy. Though it may have a shorter shelf life, this Brie unleashes its maximum flavour at week seven or eight of its 10-week life span.
You can order and purchase Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese directly from their store, or from retailers across Ontario!