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La Suisse Normande

Family cheese dairy

"Le Sabot de Blanchette"

A slice of Switzerland and Normandy…
in Saint-Roch-Ouest!

by / Monday, 06 May 2019 / Published in FANZINE

NAME

There’s Magaly, Thibault, Bénédicte, and their parents Fabienne and Frédéric. There’s also Laetitia and Antoine (who don’t work on the farm but are close to the family). And then there’s the children and babies (there will soon be 11 of them). This is the “Mathieu-Guitel” family, a wonderful group united by the strong bond they have with the land.

 

COMPANY

La Suisse Normande is both a dairy farm in the heart of the beautiful Lanaudière region, with more than 300 Alpine and Saanen goats, and a cheese maker that processes all the milk from the farm’s goats, to our great satisfaction. The farmers practice sustainable and well-managed agriculture, working the land to produce a healthy diet for the herd.

 

PRODUCTS

Cheeses inspired by Switzerland and Normandy, crafted according to the rules of the art by cheese makers who put the utmost care into their products.

Goat’s milk cheeses:
Le Sabot de Blanchette (named after Mr. Seguin’s goat), Le Capra (meaning “goat” in Latin), Le Barbu (the name of a goat in the herd that proudly sports a huge and imposing goatee), Le Chevronné, Le Crottin (inspired by Crottin de Chavignol cheese), Le Petit Poitou, Le Flacon, Le Flacon à la fleur d’ail (garlic flower does not give you bad breath!), La Bûchette, Le Caillé, Le Fermier and L’Apéro (only during the Holiday season).

Cow’s milk cheeses:
Le Pizy (the name of the Swiss village where Fabienne lived, a hamlet of fewer than 80 people), Le Freddo (Frédéric’s nickname), Le Petit Normand (Frédéric’s native region of Normandy) and Le Fromage Blanc (available in plain or maple syrup flavour).

 

BACKGROUND

The family would not be here today if Frédéric Guitel, a native of Normandy, France, had not replied to an offer to work on a farm in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland.

Frédéric had no idea that a few years later, he would find himself in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. Meanwhile, he had married the daughter of the Swiss farmer who hired him, started his family (which would be large), and moved to Canada to work on a farm owned by his father-in-law who, like many Swiss did at the time, had bought land in Quebec to farm.

It must be said that the pool of Swiss farmers living in Quebec is very large, to the extent that a few years ago, the producers of a Swiss TV series, Dîner à la ferme, chose to devote a season to Swiss agriculture … in Canada!

A few years after arriving here, Fabienne and Frédéric decided to buy a dairy farm in Saint-Roch-Ouest (a few kilometers from Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan). Seeking to diversify from the existing herd of cows, they soon added a herd of goats, whose milk they sold to major cheese makers. However, it was difficult in those days to sell goat’s milk, which was less popular than it is today. So they decided to make their own cheese. “Actually,” explains Magaly Guitel (their daughter who took over the cheese dairy with her sister Bénédicte a few years ago), “my parents dreamed of being as independent as possible. By becoming cheese makers, they got closer to achieving this goal of being able to oversee the process from beginning to end, from plough to plate.” So they embarked on this beautiful adventure. Today, La Suisse Normande is recognized throughout Canada for its delectable cheeses made from cow’s milk and goat’s milk.

After a few years, they sold the herd of cows, keeping only the goats. Today, they still make cow’s milk cheeses, but they get the milk from the herd of cows on a neighbouring farm: La Ferme L’Achigan. “The milk we use always comes from the same herd,” says Magaly. “That’s important!

 

TRAINING

Neither Fabienne nor Frédéric knew the art of artisanal cheese making. “My father decided to take evening classes with André Fouillet, a well-known cheese maker of French origin who has lived in Canada for a long time. Soon after, my mother followed in his footsteps. Eventually, Bénédicte and I also took courses. I studied in Switzerland and she went to the ITA (Institut de technologie agroalimentaire). Of course, most of our ongoing training happens ‘on the ground,’ i.e. in the cheese dairy.”

Cheese making: from pasteurizing to maturing

  • After the milk is delivered from the farm, it’s pasteurized (heated to a certain temperature for a given time) to eliminate all harmful bacteria.
  • The milk is then seeded with bacteria that produce the various qualities of the cheese, such as texture, rind colour and unique flavours.
  • At this stage, the milk begins to solidify as the enzymes in the rennet turn it to a gel. It’s now called “curds.”
  • After the curds are cut up, they are put into moulds, where they are compressed together and the liquid (called “whey”) is forced out.
  • Whether the cheese is soaked in brine or sprinkled with salt in a sieve, salting boosts the flavours and prolongs the shelf life.
  • Rubbing the rind or simply turning frequently creates the ideal conditions for maturing, when the cheese develops its colour, texture and subtle flavours. Some cheeses are matured a few months, while others are matured only a week.

INITIAL SPARK

“Love, love of the land, love of cheese!”

 

BIGGEST CHALLENGES

It’s a family business, and in this context, the most important thing is to work in harmony. We all have our ways of thinking and functioning, along with our responsibilities, and it’s essential that we can manage our misunderstandings, in order to communicate effectively. Communication is the cornerstone in running our company smoothly.

 

NICEST SURPRISES

For my mother, I would say it’s the fact that we’re together on the farm, that Bénédicte and I have taken over the cheese dairy, that Thibault has taken over the farm… We all have other jobs (Bénédicte is a massage therapist, I was a nurse), and the fact so many of us are working together is really a nice surprise for my mother, who was born on a farm in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

INSPIRATION

Our parents aimed for their business to be as independent as possible. They instilled in us this commitment to give it our full attention at every step, from working the land to making the cheese, and to respect Nature. Everything is connected: if the land is properly farmed, there will be enough food for the herd, which will provide enough milk, and the best quality milk, to make the cheeses, which we can then share with the world. That’s where our true inspiration lies.

 

ASPIRATIONS

We are currently getting a beautiful project underway, that of expanding our store to make it more like a community store, where we sell regional products at affordable prices. We’d like to broaden our selection, bring together producers who, like us, have a close bond with the land and respect nature and people.

 

HIGHLIGHT

The highlight is that this incredible adventure continues, from Normandy and from Switzerland. First the cows, then the goats, then the cheese dairy… A totally crazy project but one that succeeded!

 

FAVOURITE DISH

For Magaly, the best dishes are shared dishes, around a beautiful table. For her part, Bénédicte likes strawberries picked in the field. For Thibault, it’s a nice meal of fresh mussels.

 

ENFANTS TERRIBLES SINCE 2019

Welcome to the farm!

The Guitel family operates a store on the farm every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (reduced hours in January and February). They offer local and regional products that reflect the values La Suisse Normande in terms of buying locally and responsibly.

Our farm is open to all. We don’t offer guided tours, but visitors are welcome to walk around and see what farming in Quebec is really like. They can pet our adult and baby goats (which are also called ‘kids’). For those interested, there are two birthing times per year: early spring and late August.”

Website: lasuissenormande.com

Facebook: facebook.com/LaSuisseNormande

Instagram: instagram.com/lasuissenormande

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