THE LITTLE-KNOWN HISTORY OF A GREAT QUEBEC CHEESE
OKA cheese is the first and only Canadian gourmet cheese to have been passed down through generations, outlasted the trends, and found its place in our tradition of fine foods. Its history spans 125 years, and it’s a story worth telling.
1893 – OKA CHEESE IS CREATED
It was in 1893 that Brother Alphonse Juin, master cheesemaker in the French abbey of Notre-Dame-du-
Port-Salut, joined the ranks of the Trappist community of Deux-Montagnes in Oka, Quebec.
In 1893, during his stay at Oka Abbey, he created OKA cheese, winning the prize for best new product at
the Montreal Agricultural Fair. Interestingly, the Fair was held on the site where the Atwater Market is now. In those days, Brother Juin produced more than fifty wheels each month for the Trappist monks and for sale in the external market in Montreal.
It is Brother Juin to whom we owe the original recipe for OKA cheese, which is still a closely-guarded
secret today. And the devotion to this appealing semi-soft cheese with its amber rind and nutty flavour
has never wavered.
1900 – More than 1500 artisanal cheesemaking facilities in Quebec
And OKA cheese had already earned its pedigree by then!
Abbey of Notre-Dame-Du-Lac, Oka
Sign for Notre-Dame-Du-Lac, Oka
Brother Alphonse Juin at the Montreal Agricultural Expo, 1893
“From the first day I arrived at the monastery, on 13 December 1950, I was in service, with my fellow novitiates, in the Cheese Shop. My job was to shape little cheeses with my hands. I had to be careful about the volume: not too much, not too little… and I had to wash the cheeses with brine and a sponge, turning them every day… The little holes on the inside meant that the cheese was tender… and had a good strong smell… Making Oka cheese was “unique,” and it was really a craft!”
Br. Jean-Marc (age 85)
In 1981, OKA cheese became the property of the Agropur Dairy Cooperative. In the first few years of production, Trappist and Agropur master cheesemakers worked in perfect harmony, passing their tradition, their recipe, and their pride on to the Dairy Cooperative and allowing this piece of Quebec culture to survive and flourish.
The facilities used to produce OKA cheese are still located on the Chemin d’Oka in the town of the same
name. As for the Cistercian Trappist monks of Oka Abbey, they now live in Saint-Jean-de-Matha, in the
2016 – Awards and distinctions
The large family of OKA cheeses has received several Canadian and international awards. OKA L’Artisan
Smoke took first prize at the prestigious British Empire Cheese Show in 2016. This cheese is the perfect
example of a great classic adapted to today’s tastes.
2018 – OKA CHEESE is turning 125
Today, this traditional cheese is still made in Oka, where Agropur’s cheesemakers religiously follow the
ancestral recipe, crafting OKA cheese with the same care, to give you this authentic fine cheese that’s
been a part of our heritage for more than 125 years.
DELICIOUS PAIRING TIPS
1. Sweet & Spicy
– OKA Cheese, peach, hot pepper
2. Caramelized OKA Cheese Rolls:
OKA cheese, caramelized onions, prosciutto
3. Peppered Apple OKA Cheese:
– OKA cheese, apple jam, black pepper
4. Salami and OKA Cheese:
OKA cheese, salami, sweet mustard
5. Minty Fig and OKA Cheese:
OKA cheese, mint leaves, fig jam
6. OKA Cheese Caprese:
OKA cheese, cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, balsamic reduction
7. Strawberry Balsamic OKA Cheese:
OKA cheese, strawberries, balsamic reduction
8. Blueberry OKA Cheese:
OKA cheese, blueberry jelly
9. Layered OKA Cheese Bites:
OKA cheese, sliced ham, dijon mustard, sweet pickle
More than 40 years ago, in 1976, James Lawrence pasted together the first edition of Harrowsmith magazine on his kitchen table in rural Ontario. Totally unique, it was the first Canadian magazine to focus on organic living, alternative energy sources, and a country lifestyle. Lawrence’s ode to back-to- the-land virtues quickly attracted legions of fans and soon became Canada’s bible for rural living.