Oka is a Canadian cheese named after the small village of Oka, Quebec where it originated in 1893. Since that time, Quebec has evolved as a centre of quality artisan cheeses. Indeed, many small-scale producers now market some fairly impressive selections.
Oka cheese has a pungent aroma and soft creamy flavour, sometimes described as nutty and fruity. Oka is covered with a copper-orange, hand-washed rind. The consistent high-quality of care lavished on this distinctively fragrant cheese options it as an excellent substitute for many semi-soft ripened cheeses in any dish — or as a component on cheese platters.
There are four types of Oka cheese, regular, classic, light and providence. 'Regular' Oka can be made from both pasteurized and raw cow's milk. It is a pressed, semi-soft cheese that is surface ripened for some 30 days. The 'Classic' is ripened for an additional month. Aging is done in refrigerated aging cellars. The cheese rounds are placed on cypress slats and the cheeses are periodically turned and washed in a weak brine solution. 'Providence' Oka is of a much more creamy and soft texture then either 'Classic' or 'Regular, while 'Light' is similar to 'Regular', but with a lower percentage of fat.
Oka cheese was heavily influenced by the work of the monks of the Cistercian Abbey of Notre-Dame du Lac (fr. Abbaye Cistercienne d'Oka). Within a few years, through an affiliation with the Université de Montréal, the monastery created an agricultural school. Frequently called the Abbaye Notre-Dame-du-Lac, the Trappist monastery became well known for its Port-Salut cheese, made from a Breton recipe brought with them from France.