Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum

A few minutes off HWY 401 in the town of Ingersoll, Ontario, you will find the Ingersoll Cheese & Agriculture Museum. The museum is spread out among multiple buildings, including the main museum building, a barn, a blacksmith’s area and a replica of a 19th century cheese factory. We walked into the main hall and to our surprise discovered that admission is free, and we were invited to wander as we wish amongst the various displays.

The main hall contains a history of Ingersoll, from Indigenous Peoples pre-contact to about the 1980s. European settlement began in the eighteenth century and among the first families to establish themselves includes a name that is known to most Canadians: Laura Secord, née Ingersoll. Indeed, the famous heroine of the War of 1812, was the daughter of Ingersoll founder, Thomas Ingersoll.

The museum is proud of its relationship to cheese, in fact the entire town boasts of it. For example, back in 1866, in a promotional venture, local cheesemaker James Harris (pictured above) produced the Mammoth Cheese, which weighed over 7,000 pounds. Clearly this was a magnificent feat!

The Mammoth Cheese was packaged up and brought to Saratoga N.Y. before being transported across the ocean to England, where it spent some time touring prior to being cut up and sold to an English merchant. A model was created of the cheese wheel which demonstrates the sheer size of the cheese: it is over six feet tall and roughly the same across.

I found that I enjoyed the factory barn the best out of all of the museum’s buildings (this is not the official title), where visitors can learn of the process involved in making cheese. After separating the cream, it is curdled and folded, then re-folded, packaged and left to rest.

After this process the cheese is then waxed and sealed. We found it useful to watch a video from 1989 explaining how cheese was made prior to the automatization of many of the steps that go into cheese production today.

Some practical advice to visitors: stop for a snack before heading over, as reading about cheese can make the stomach growl! Just a short jaunt down the road you will find a B&B that serves a wonderful cheese plate. It wouldn’t be fair to learn about making cheese without trying some afterwards, right?

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Emélie Perron-Clow