« Where’s my cream cheese? » Where is Liberty? »
St-Viateur Bagel manager Saul Restrepo answered these questions from weary customers rummaging through his store’s refrigerators, unable to find the locals’ beloved dairy product.
And they won’t find it anytime soon.
In a blow to Montreal bagel lovers, the company that now owns the product, General Mills, has pulled the infamous schmear from the shelves.
A short paragraph posted on its FAQ page does little to sweeten the news.
« It is with great sadness that we have to confirm that we will no longer be able to continue to manufacture our Liberté cream cheese, which meets the expectations of our consumers », can we read.
Losing the cream cheese, with its light texture that makes it easier to soak, will be a tough pill for Montrealers to swallow, according to Restrepo.
« People are asking for Liberty…it’s better cheese, » the longtime bagel store manager said.
« I’ve been here for about 40 years, so since I can remember Freedom has always been there. It was part of the bagels. »
Long history in the city’s Jewish community
Kat Romanow was heartbroken when she heard the cream cheese news. So much so, she writes an elegy for that.
« It was really different from Philadelphia or anything sold in stores. It tasted really tangy and the texture was really light and fluffy, » she said.
Jewish food historian and co-founder of The Wandering Chew blog, Romanow is on a mission to share the diversity of Jewish stories through food.
And like the bagels that Montrealers love, Liberté cream cheese also has Jewish origins.
Founded by the Kaporovsky family in 1936, Liberté — originally known as Liberté Dairy Products — originated in a building at the corner of St-Urbain and Duluth streets in Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal borough.
From there, the Kaporovskys sold kosher dairy products such as cream cheese, cottage cheese and sour cream to the Jewish community living in the area, according to Romanow.
The company was eventually acquired by multinational yogurt producer Yoplait, then by General Mills in 2021.
Still, Romanow says Liberté’s recipe was still reminiscent of the type of cream cheese that would have been made when the product was invented in the late 1800s.
« There was nothing else like it. It’s something that has such a long history in Montreal’s Jewish community and it’s so ingrained in the bagel culture in this city, » he said. she declared.
So what do people have to schmear now?
Romanow said it might be time to start making her own cream cheese, to send some love to other grieving Montrealers.