Heart shaped toast with BC inspired ingredients. Buy local.

Celebrating the Power of Local

These are heady times. Masses of Canadians are staying in, working from home, and doing our duty to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It’s a scary time, but also a really uplifting one.

We’re seeing throngs of friends and neighbours discovering the power of LOCAL.

Our food producers and purveyors are responding to this situation with creativity, with kindness, and with heart. Here are some of our favourite businesses, both on island and off, and how they are responding to the crisis:

40 Knots Winery 

Craving some social interaction? Fill your favourite goblet and your social quota chat with their online book club. Also offering free wine delivery to anywhere in BC & AB. 2400 Anderton Rd, Comox (855) 941-8810. 

Comox Valley Farmers’ Market

The market has been moved to Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds (4839 Headquarters Rd; parking by the curling rink).

Hot Chocolates

Hard times require serious chocolate. Now offering online ordering & delivery service of their decadent chocolate treats. 368 5th St, Courtenay, BC (250) 338-8211.

Local Collaboration

Recently we’ve been impressed by how a local food group and a Courtenay restaurant have stepped up to help out. Lush Valley has gone into high gear to provide baskets of fresh food and groceries to families, with the School District using their bus for deliveries.  And Guerrilla Pizza and Coast Environmental have spread the love by surprising our health care workers with pizza to help them through their shifts.

Langford Subway

The owner of Subway at 1016 McCallum Road in Langford is offering free meals to those in need. Drop by and ask for the “happy meal” and they’ll hook you up. (250) 478-5711.

Lentelus Farm Stand

Get your free-range meats, eggs, fresh sourdough bread, wildflower honey and fresh veggies at their Farm Stand. 1300 Comox Rd, Courtenay, BC (250) 218-4640.

Nanaimo Youth Services Association

On Thursday nights the NYSA is handing out free food boxes for young families in need. Also offering help to those looking to understand the new financial aid options for families in need. 

290 Bastion St, Nanaimo (250) 754-1989.

Ox Chophouse

Looking to indulge in some truly elevated dining? You can now order takeout from Ox Chophouse on 2253 South Island Hwy #5, Campbell River (250) 926-0606.

Sooke Brewing Company & Route 14

This award-winning brewery has partnered with nearby @route14 for food and drink delivery each day. There are also beer kegs for purchase, with pumps to rent. Call 250 642-0106 or check them out on Instagram @sookebrewing. 2057 Otter Point Rd, Sooke, BC.

Discover Comox Valley Business Services Directory

“Comox Valley Economic Development & Tourism is providing a tool for local businesses including restaurants, retail service providers, farm markets/stands, and winery/brewery/distilleries to outline their current services being offered, in one common location.”

https://discovercomoxvalley.com/discover/explore/supporting-comox-valley-businesses/

There are so many more locally and further away who are responding to this situation in amazing ways. We wish we could list them all, but we are proud to be part of a network of businesses and people who put their community first.

For ourselves, we are still open for business. We are offering $5 delivery in the Courtenay area.

To order: call 250-334-4422, extension 4.

Or email: cheese@naturalpastures.com.

Orders can be pre-paid by phone or we can accept payments by credit card at the door. Pickups can also be made at 635 McPhee Avenue, Courtenay.

We offer a huge shoutout to our fellow small food producers for using online ordering & offering contactless delivery methods that are safer for everyone during this time: 😍 .

Have a new favourite way to enjoy local food? Tag your local food producer in the comments!

Valentines Day pasta dish with cheese and two forks.

How to Make Valentine’s Day Extra Romantic (with cheese!)

Show your sweetheart just how much you care through thoughtfully selected and lovingly prepared cheese dishes, of course! 

These dishes require some prep, some technique, and a huge amount of love. Be sure you have the time to fully indulge your loved one, all day long. 

Start Valentine’s day off right with an elegant and classic breakfast.

Call us cheesy, but we like to start the day with a flute of our favourite “breakfast juice” – a classic mimosa! Refreshing, bubbly, and a little bit naughty. It’s a great way to perk up the senses. If you’re feeling more ambitious, try a delightful Bellini. Of course, it’s best you have nothing pressing to do afterward.

Follow your “breakfast juice” with a classic french omelette, stuffed with savoury Boerenkaas. This is a thing of beauty. Brush up your omelette skills with Jacques Pepin. 

This omelette is delicious on its own, but some lovely thin-sliced gala apple with toasted squares of buttered bread are always welcome players in your V-Day game.

On to lunch! A smorgasbord for the senses.

It’s hard to beat the visual appeal of a well-crafted cheese board bursting with all of your favourites: olives, caramelized onions, fruit, charcuterie meats. If you’re looking for inspiration, just check out Vancouver cheese monger @cheesedarling on Instagram. She’s doing amazing boards with locally sourced ingredients on the regular. 

A cheese board inspires conversation; about the ingredients, the flavour pairings, and eating slowly means you’ll be less likely to overstuff. For more fun, invoke Rule Zero: you must only feed another, not yourself. Stay at home for this portion, or face public scorn. 😄

Our Natural Pastures Comox Brie and Camembert pair great with Lesley Stowe’s crackers, Le Meadows Pantry’s jam and marmalades. Head out to your local market and grab some artisan products and have fun with it!

And finally, dinner: Cacio e Pepe

This elegantly simple pasta dish gets right to the point – fresh pasta, grated Aged Farmhouse and Parmadammer cheese, black pepper, and plenty of it. This dish is easy to prepare after a long day of wooing your loved one. A simple dish to warm anyone’s soul. Pair with your favourite BC produced Chianti, Pinot Grigio, or Riesling.

There you have it – this day of worshipping cheese (and your loved one) is complete! Until you want to do it again, that is.

There’s nothing more delicious than showing your love through food, and cheese is the best kind. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Meet the Contenders: Natural Pastures Award Winning Cheeses

Meet the Contenders

With 43 international awards in cheese making since 2002, we’ve found ourselves in great company. From the World Cheese Awards to Canada’s own Royal Agricultural Winter Fair – we’ve been making a name for ourselves across the globe.

We may have become known internationally, but our approach remains as homey as ever: the Comox Valley produces the best cheese on earth. But, you don’t have to take our word for it.

Boerenkaas

Pleasing to crowds and international judges alike, our Dutch ‘Farmer’s Cheese,’ is sweet and nutty, with a tangy finish. Best used for epic cheese pulls, delicious omelettes, and proper salads.

One reviewer states, “Dear Natural Pastures: I have never written a cheese fan letter before but… I tried a piece and nearly swooned… you are a cheese artist.” 

We’re blushing.

Winner of national and international awards, if you haven’t tried Boerenkaas – you must. It may become your dinner party dazzler.

Awards:

🏆 2013 British Empire Cheese Competition, Second Place, Class 2 Firm Cheese

🏆 2004 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, Category Finalist, Firm Cheese

🏆 2004 The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Third Place

🏆 2002 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, Category Winner, Semi-Soft Cheese


Smoked Boerenkaas

Many smoked cheeses are not actually smoked. Instead, smoke particulates are added to the cheese to give it a smoke-like flavour. That’s a process we weren’t interested in replicating. To make it right, we started by collaborating with neighbours Smoken Bones Cookshack, collected some local hardwood and mastered the process. According to the judges at the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, our natural approach was exactly right. Since then we’ve moved our cheese smoking in-house and are loving the results.

Awards:

🏆 2014 Canadian Cheese Awards, Category Finalist, Smoked Cheese

🏆 2014 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, Category Winner, Best B.C. Cheese

🏆 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, Category Winner, Flavoured Cheese (with Added Non‐Particulate Flavouring)


Aged Farmhouse

Our Boerenkaas, when aged, transforms into our sublime Aged Farmhouse. A taste of Comox Valley, its rich, bold flavour leaves a lingering sweetness on the tongue.

Awards:

🏆 2009 Pacific National Exhibition Cheese Competition, Overall Champion Cheese & Winner of Hard Cheese Category


Garlic & Chives Verdelait

What makes a World Championship Silver Medalist verdelait? We start with a combination of Cheddar, Dutch Gouda and Swiss Raclette. The flavour is further enhanced by garlic and shaved herbs. Our verdelait is semi-firm, creamy, and fantastic baked in eggy hors d’oeuvres like a quiche or frittatta. A champion melter, our verdelait transforms good dishes to sublime. 

Awards:

🏆 2008 World Championship Silver Medal

With all of this attention, we prefer to stick to what we know: producing some of the best artisan cheese on the planet. Luckily, you can find our cheeses at a grocery store near you.

Pacific Wildfire Verdelait: Made from BC.

Blending old world traditional cheese making with the heat and fire of inspiration – we pose a challenge to our most adventurous cheese eaters: Can you handle the heat?

Cheesemaking has existed for centuries. It’s a craft built on technique and tradition. We honour these principles to bring you the best cheese on earth. We take inspiration from the land and sea that surrounds us, and partner with local farmers who care for the animals producing our milk. Without tradition, we are nothing.

But sometimes you must part with tradition – to make way for something new, something a little more daring.

Today we introduce our boldest new creation: Pacific Wildfire Verdelait.

Smoke and Spice

You may have tried smoked cheeses in the past, and this is where we start. You’ll first notice the rich and complex smoke flavour, contrasted by the creaminess of our cheese blend. Then the heat kicks in. 

To imbue this new creation with heat, we chose locally grown hot peppers from family run Seal Bay Farm. This farm is run by the Lightfoot family, known for their hot sauces and pepper jellies. Their hot habanero is the one we chose for Pacific Wildfire – a fiery, fruity, and delicious pepper that packs a spicy punch.

To balance the heat from the peppers, we blend with our unique verdelait cheese, which has a hint of cheddar, raclette, and gouda. We finish with a touch of black pepper to accentuate the bold smokiness and turn up the flavour dial on the peppers. Believe us – you won’t find anything on the market quite like this. 

Pacific Wildfire. It’s vibrant and sassy, evocative with a lingering finish. It’s a bold cheese made for the very brave.

Help Support Our Firemen

Pick up Pacific Wildfire at your local market and help support your local firefighters. With every purchase, a percentage of sales will go to the Comox Fire Rescue Benevolent Fund. A fund to assist long-term sick or injured firefighters with costs not typically covered by insurance.

Asparagus & Mushroom Soup with Boerenkaas

What’s in season in May? On Vancouver Island we have fresh asparagus, celery, kale, mushrooms, green onion, peas, potatoes, radish, rhubarb, spinach, and turnip.

We have a lovely roasted asparagus soup topped with delicious Boerenkaas. 

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt & freshly ground pepper

1 cup chopped onion

2 cups chopped mushrooms

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

3 tablespoons arborio rice

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Shaved Boerenkaas 

Directions   

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss asparagus with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, until tender and browned in spots.

Meanwhile, in a medium to large pot, heat the remaining olive oil and cook the onion over on medium heat until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Toss in the chopped mushrooms and let them release their moisture, about 10 mins. After their moisture is released, they will begin to brown. Cook for another 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the mushrooms are nicely caramelized. 

Add the roasted asparagus, chicken stock, arborio rice and nutmeg and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook the soup until the rice is very soft, about 20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Or, transfer the soup to a blender and puree, then return to the pot. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a generous amount of shaved Boerenkaas.

National Poutine Day delicious poutine

Poutine, Reigning Champion of Canadian Junk Food

Do you pronounce Canada’s favourite dish “pou-tin” or “poo-teen”? Well, that depends on where you are and who you are talking to.

In the heart of poutine country in Quebec and New Brunswick, francophones vote “pou-tin” all the way. Outside of those provinces, it’s straight anglo with “pou-tine”.

Either way you slice it, poutine is the best thing to happen to potatoes since, well, cheese curds and gravy! And with National Poutine Day coming up on April 11, we ask you: 

Eat in? Or take out?

Origin

Coming out of mid-century Quebec, poutine’s true origin is not confirmed. One story from 1950’s Warwick, Quebec has a restaurant customer ask for fries, cheese, and gravy. To which the owner proclaimed, “Ça va faire une maudite poutine,” or, “That’s going to make a dreadful mess.”

Indeed. Poutine is a hot mess of the very best kind. What makes it so good?  

The Curds

Squeaky cheese curds are the benchmark for the very best traditional poutine.  You’ll only hear the squeak when the curds are very fresh, and some curd-experts insist that a curd must be eaten before it spends even one night in a fridge. However, although not as noticeable after refrigeration, the squeak will usually last a day or two before it finally dissipates. If you want the squeak, your best bet is to stop at our Cheese Shop in Courtenay (635 McPhee) around 1:30 on a Wednesday afternoon and you’ll be able to pick up a bag still warm from the vat. The taste, texture and shape also make it the perfect snacking cheese, as you can eat it straight from the bag like popcorn. We have customers who pick up two bags when they come to the shop on Wednesdays – one for making poutine, and one for the drive home.

The Gravy

Some gravies are lighter and chicken stock based, while others are dark and beefy. We prefer our gravy somewhere in the middle. For that, we look to French-Canadian and tv host, Ricardo. His recipe uses a 2/3 blend of both chicken and beef, which we think is the perfect balance. 

The Fries

We like our fries thick, hand-cut, and twice fried. The fries have to be heavily crispy to stand up to hot gravy, and will provide the best textural contrast in a meal with only three star ingredients.

From Vancouver BC, to St. John’s, NL you can find poutine in menus across the nation. When it comes to eat in vs take out, we like mastering the ingredients and preparing the best poutine at home. While there are countless recipes for it’s preparation, we like Ricardo’s recipe for Brown Gravy Sauce for Poutine.

Poutine with Ricardo’s Brown Gravy Sauce.
Image from the recipe link.

How to Choose Camembert

Native to Camembert, Normandy in France, this surface-ripened cow’s milk cheese is a brilliant foil to tart and crisp fruit, sweet jams, and bright, fruity white wines. But how to choose a good Camembert?  We’ve compiled six tips to help you get the most out of your soft cheese:

  1. Camembert is a bloomy cheese with an edible rind. Bloomy rind cheeses are considered a soft cheese and while choosing whether to eat the rind of Camembert is a matter of preference, most people enjoy the additional flavour it gives to the cheese.
  2. To get the flavour you most like, experiment! Check the best-before date. The flavour of our soft cheese changes dramatically during its 45-day life. When it’s first produced, it has a drier, lighter texture and somewhat tangy flavour. About mid-way through, the cheese will become creamier and stronger, and in the last two weeks it will develop its strongest flavour with the cheese becoming almost runny accompanied by a mild ammonia smell. Experiment and find out what taste you like the best!
  3. Do the squeeze test. If you want to eat your cheese tonight, gently squeeze the sides of the round. There should be a little give when the cheese is ripe.
  4. Keep your drink cold and your cheese warm. For best flavour, bring your soft cheese to room temperature (about 30 minutes) before serving.
  5. Pairing your cheese. Apples are a classic companion to cheese, but the mildness of brie and camembert are particularly suited to zippier acidic flavours like apricots, figs or a fruit preserve.
  6. Storing. You can eat part of a round of brie or camembert and re-wrap it in the breathable Natural Pastures wrapping, but for even better results, wrap just the cut area in plastic and then use its original wrapping to keep the rind from drying out.
Grilled Shrimp & Natural Pastures Camembert Stuffed Mushroom Caps

RECIPE: Grilled Shrimp & Natural Pastures Camembert Stuffed Mushroom Caps

INGREDIENTS

  • 150 grams cooked shrimp
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil- Salt & pepper to taste
  • 150 grams Natural Pastures Comox Camembert, cut into small cubes
  • 12 large mushroom, stems removed

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat barbecue to medium heat.
  2. Combine all ingredients, except mushrooms, in a bowl.
  3. Spoon into mushroom caps, ensuring 1-2 pieces of cheese end up on top.
  4. Place on grill, close barbecue lid, and cook 5-6 minutes, or until mushrooms are just tender and cheese is melted.

Try our these mushroom caps with a dry Rose, a Gamay, a Pinot Noir or a Merlot. If you’re looking for a smoother taste, reach for our Triple Cream Camembert. This one is a decadent, smoother, and richer Camembert with a creamy finish that complements the delicate note of mushroom.

You’ll be surprised and delighted. 

Our Pick for Healthiest Cheese Might Surprise You.

We love cheese – obviously!

It’s decadent, rich, and so tasty. Cheese is also an excellent source of vital nutrients such as calcium, protein and vitamin A. But along with the benefits of cheese, eating too much can hamper your clean eating resolution for 2019.

Not ready to dispense with our favourite indulgence, we asked ourselves: what is the healthiest cheese you can eat? Well, it turns out: that depends on your health goals.

A Little Goes a Long Way


Perhaps our favourite way to indulge is by choosing stronger flavoured cheeses, and using less of them. For full flavoured cheeses we recommend our Aged Boerenkaas, Smoked Boerenkaas, Parmadammer, King’s Peak, and Pacific Wildfire.

Perhaps our favourite way to indulge is by choosing stronger flavoured cheeses, and using less of them. For full flavoured cheeses we recommend our Aged Boerenkaas, Smoked Boerenkaas, Parmadammer, King’s Peak, and Pacific Wildfire.

Fewest Calories


Cheese is packed with nutrients, but some are higher in calories than others. If you are looking for the fewest calories balanced with the most nutrients, we recommend our Comox Brie. It’s a lighter cheese that sacrifices nothing in flavour or richness.

Low Sodium


Reducing your sodium is a great way to promote heart health and keep your blood pressure in check. For those who want to minimize their salt intake, we recommend our fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and our Buffalo Paneer. Try a light caprese salad with fresh tomatoes and basil with a crack of fresh black pepper. Delicious!

Highest Protein


If your New Year’s resolution is to gain more muscle mass, our cheese can help you reach your goals. For work-out heroes or maybe vegetarians who want to add a protein punch to their meals, our Buffalo Paneer is a great choice.


Fresh garden tomatoes and bocconcini

Digestion and Cholesterol

Cow’s milk can be difficult to digest for some, but did you know other cheeses can be perfectly fine? Our Buffalo cheeses are perfect for those who have difficulty digesting cow’s milk and are looking for other dairy options. They also happen to be lower in cholesterol – great!

During our first few weeks of the new year it’s important to make smarter, sustainable choices that we can stick to throughout the year. By choosing cheeses that fit our fitness and health goals, we can finally have our (cheese)cake and eat it too!

The Edible Valley Podcast, Episode 78 “Doug Smith of Natural Pastures Cheese” Comox Valley, B.C.

Doug Smith of Natural Pastures was gracious enough to join us tonight to discuss cheese! As one of the Comox Valley’s cornerstone food producers that help put our humble, beautiful Valley on the map, Doug is one of those key talents that took a small business idea, and turned it into a national brand! He walks us through the process of getting started, growing to fit your market, and establishing yourself amongst your peers. We had a great time with Doug – who is just a wealth of information of Valley history, business planning and above all: Cheese!… listen to The Edible Valley Podcast