“The Tillsonburg Creamery and Cheese Factory was started in 1921 on Concession Street East,” says Gillies. “It was owned by the same family that operated the Springford factory. This operation specialized in making butter, cream, powdered milk, buttermilk and cheese.” In 1939, local cheesemaker Al- bert ‘Benny’ Bennington won the coveted British Empire Trophy and Gold Medal for cheese that he made at the Tillsonburg factory. “Bennington went on to win other awards at the CNE, the Royal Win- ter Fair and London’s Western Fair before starting his own operations at Zenda,” adds Gillies. Of course, it’s practically impos- sible to talk about Oxford’s cheesy past without mentioning Ingersoll’s James Harris. In 1866, Harris was the mastermind behind a massive 7300 lb wheel of cheese that toured the New York State Fair and England. It was a clever marketing ploy that ultimately led to Oxford County ex- porting more than 300,000 boxes of cheese a year to Great Britain. Intriguingly, however, it was actu- ally Harris’ mother-in-law—Lydia Chase Ranney who was the original “big cheese” in Oxford. Settling on a 50-acre uncleared woodlot with her husband Hiram in 1834, Lydia is thought to be the first person to make cheddar in Canada. She is also credited with being Oxford’s first cheesemaker. In the beginning, Ranney’s chee- semaking was for the sole benefit of her family. But once the pioneer schoolteacher’s herd of five cows became 10, she gave up her post and began making butter and cheese for sale to neighbouring towns. By 1853, Lydia and Hiram had grown their operation to 700 acres and 100 cows. As an alternative to hiring farm hands, Lydia offered cheese and buttermaking lessons to anyone would help with the chores. One of Lydia’s pupils was—you guessed it—James Harris, future cheese baron. “Once a year we run ‘Big Cheese

Where to go... Want to learn more about the Cheese Trail? Be sure to check out the Tourism Oxford website. OxfordCountyCheeseTrail.ca

Days’ where partners on the Cheese Trail offer mammoth meals, deals and experiences,” says Maywood. “In 2017, Big Cheese Days will take place every Saturday in May. In Till- sonburg, you’ll find a new cheesy quiche at The Cup and Cake, a dis- count on Cheese Trail mix at Coyles and free Dutch Frikadellen samples at Sundown.”


DTMag_Sprin17_draft9.indd 27

2017-05-23 10:45 AM

Made with FlippingBook - Online Brochure Maker