2018 Secret Lands Farm “Pecorino Porto”, Proton Station, Ontario – Available through website and farm store $66 (220g)

This Xmas, I was fortunate enough to receive a rather smashing gift basket from my wife; it was cheese and charcuterie from a nearby dairy, Secret Lands Farm (around since 1904). I had been exposed to their wares previously, as I had greatly enjoyed some of their sheep’s milk cheese as part of the optional cheese course at the fantastic Downhome (by Salt & Sumac), and so I was excited to get stuck into my hamper.

The lamb charcuterie—some salami and pepperoni—was utterly divine, and my son and I polished all of that off with great abandon. Their selection of fresh and aged cheeses is quite something, but it was their 2108 Port-aged “Pecorino” that really caught my attention.

Pecorino has historically been one of my favourite cheeses, and so to discover an extremely local take on the Italian classic and an example with extended ageing (in Port, no less!) was like a dream come true.

But would this hand-crafted, clothbound and cheddared cheese ever live up to my great expectations?

Thankfully, it delivered in spades.

The Port infusion and resultant colouration give the cheese a fascinatingly attractive, rippled, marbled look. One can also spot the hallmark of a properly-aged hard cheese: the telltale sparkles of those sought-after calcium lactate crystals.

For a “Pecorino”, I found the bouquet quite powerfully pungent, much more so than I had expected. I do tend to prefer my cheeses on the funkier side of the spectrum, so this only made my anticipation peak even higher.

In the mouth, the Pecorino Porto was unbelievable: mouthfilling, creamy, sweet, and pleasingly astringent simultaneously with a deeply fruity and nutty flavour. The aforementioned calcium lactate crystals give the palate a distinctive, crunchy mineral “grain”, elevating this cheese to a different level. That salty/sweet, mineral character continues into the persistent and satisfying finish.

I usually choose to serve a cheese course over dessert, and this cheese certainly checked all of the right boxes for impressing guests at your next dinner party. Just remember to allow it to warm up to room temperature before serving.

I’ll be getting more of this ambrosial cheese, that’s for certain; it worked an absolute treat alongside my rowanberry jelly.

Check out their website for more details of their products and farm tours (if you fancy a visit).

(Four and a half out of a possible five apples)