Yes, dragged proverbially kicking and screaming into the 21st century, we are now on Twitter.
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Yes, dragged proverbially kicking and screaming into the 21st century, we are now on Twitter.
Our Twitter is: @
Please follow us!
Pinched from the BBC website
Thousands of people gathered in Gloucestershire for the traditional cheese-rolling races on Cooper’s Hill.
The unofficial event was organised by rebel cheese rollers, after plans for an official event were shelved in 2010.
An estimated 5,000 people turned out to watch thrill-seekers chase a 3.5kg (8lb) wheel of double Gloucester cheese down the 1:2 gradient hill.
The winner of the first race, Josh Shepherd, said he was “really happy” but “doesn’t really like cheese”.
In total, four 3.5kg (8lb) and three smaller 1.5kg (3lb) cheeses are used – made by Diana Smart, 87, who has been producing them for the event for more than 25 years.
Last year, in a bid to make the race safer, revellers had to chase a foam imitation of a double Gloucester 200m (656ft) down the hill at Brockworth.
But this year, the fake fromage was binned in favour of a real wheel of cheese.
‘Roll with the flow’
The winner of the first race, unemployed Josh Shepherd, 19 – from Brockworth, Gloucester – said he was “really proud” of himself.
“I’ve run quite a few times before but it is the first time I’ve won,” he said.
“My tactic was to stay on my feet and go as fast as I can and roll with the flow.
“But I don’t know what I’m going to do with the cheese. I don’t really like cheese unless it’s melted, cheese on toast maybe.”
The second race was won by another local man, Ryan Fairley, 24, from Brockworth, who said his tactic was “just to go”.
“I didn’t do the first race this year but it’s absolutely brilliant to have won,” he said.
“I also won a cheese last year.”
The women’s race was won for the third year running by Lucy Townsend, 17, from Brockworth.
The tradition dates back to at least the early 19th Century.
In 2009, the official event was axed after more than 15,000 people turned up, sparking safety fears over numbers at the site.
Every year since then unofficial races have been organised during the late spring bank holiday by local enthusiasts.
This year, Gloucestershire County Council closed roads up to 2.5 miles ( 4km) around the slope to keep disruption for residents to a minimum.
Thursday 5th June 2014 using goat milk
Thursday 12th June 2014 using goat milk
Thursday 17th July 2014 using goat milk
Start time is 8.15am, bring clean shoes that you do not mind getting wet or clean wellies and a notebook if you want to take notes. We will provide whites and hairnets and all equipment.
The cost is £125 +VAT = £150 and you will take home your cheese for further pressing. During the day, we will discuss the science behind cheese making, common pitfalls, cheese safety awareness, the various steps to hard cheese making, answer any questions you may have and you will be able to help make a larger vat of cheese if you fancy it. We hope to give you enough knowledge and confidence to make decent cheese safely at home. We always hold cheese making classes at the same time as making 1,900 litres of goat cheese in our large vat so it can be interesting to compare small makes to large makes – it is the same process. Goat milk handles in exactly the same way as cow’s milk for anyone wondering!
We should finish at about 2.30pm, but you are welcome to stay on for a brew and watch or even join in the rest of the cheese making in the large vat. If you need somewhere to stay, we recommend Cocketts Hotel in Hawes, but here is a link to Trip Advisor on all Hawes B&Bs and hotels.
If you are interested, please e-mail Iona at email@example.com
Wednesday and Thursday 25th and 26th June 2014
Wednesday and Thursday 9th and 10th July 2014
Wednesday and Thursday 23rd and 24th July 2014
The first day is discussion day and is geared towards the activities you need to consider to make cheese commercially, from what to make, how much, how often, equipment needed, financial costings, where to sell, the legalities and so on. The course is tailored to your needs and is completely flexible but very intense.
Start time for Day 1 is 9am. Bring a note book, I will provide a comprehensive set of notes for you to take away. We should finish at about 4pm.
Day 2 the start time is 8.15am, bring clean shoes or wellies and a notebook if you want to take notes. We will provide whites and hairnets and all equipment. We should finish at about 2.30pm and will take a break for 30 minutes whilst I clean down and this will give you chance to consider any questions arising from our cheese make and the previous day’s discussions. We always hold cheese making classes at the same time as processing 1,900 litres of goat milk so you can compare small scale to large scale and see us at work on that.
The cost is £375 +VAT = £450 and you will take home your cheese for further pressing.
If you are interested, please e-mail Iona at firstname.lastname@example.org
I know I promised um, more posts and the next post would be about starter culture, but I digress. What’s new! Promise, I will write about starter because I have recently learned a lot about it and would like to pass it on, if it helps anyone.
The competition at the British Cheese Awards was tough and almost all of the big players were there, so we are really chuffed that we managed to achieve silvers for our
Aged Goat Gouda, a relatively new invention – it is hard, nutty and sweet, our Matured Natural Rinded Goat cheese which has won more awards than any of our other cheeses, as stocked by Delifresh and The Courtyard Dairy amongst others and our goat curd won a silver which is nice, though it received a gold at Nantwich last year – stocked by Delifresh and Wellocks and used by Vanilla Black plus others.
We entered the British Cheese Awards (BCA) 2014 by the skin of our teeth. It is usually in September, I think, but the BCA has amalgamated with the Royal Bath & West show and the date has been bought forward by several months which has thrown a good many people.
Anyway, we had a great two day commercial cheese making course last Thursday and Friday with Becky, Chloe, Sophie and James and I completely took my eye off the ball about getting our entries down to Somerset. Ooops, so it was with a great deal of scrabbling
around that we eventually managed to get our entries down to Somerset; don’t ask!
This year, I think that fewer cheese makers entered because the date changed and also, the competition was the day after a Bank Holiday which is not good for getting cheese down to Somerset.
According to this, 178 cheese makers entered the show with a total of 1,015 cheeses. There were 839 cow cheese entries, 56 sheep, 102 goat, 12 buffalo and 12 mixed. 801 entries from England, 68 from Ireland, 74 from Scotland, 1 from Ulster and 70 from Wales. The biggest category entered was cheddar with 150 entries, followed by blended cheese with 111 entries. Five fewer cheese makers entered this year compared to 20134, I suspect because of the change of date. Our poor friend Kristen at Gringa Dairy recently tweeted ‘epic fail, our entry parcel was not picked up last week’ – my heart goes out to her because there but for the grace of a bit of fast action and string pulling, went us too. Only it was my fault.
Congratulations to our friends, Mrs Kirkhams to their gold for their traditional Lancs, Wensleydale Dairy, our friends up the road for their multiple wins, Shepherds Purse for their multiple wins, Belton, Quickes and too many more to mention.
For a full list of the winners and categories, click here.
Apologies to those who follow this blog and occasional readers too. I have been a little bogged (sic!) down with work, house and pig matters.
Well, where to start! It has been an interesting and varied couple of months. There is European legislation afoot to charge all food manufacturing businesses in the UK for their EHO visit. Previously, the proposed legislation contained a small business exemption, but Brussels were voting in April to get rid of this, so there has been an online petition to reinstate the small business exemption, which I signed. Personally, I cannot see British councils giving up on an opportunity to charge small businesses for their regulatory visits – we will see, talking of which, we are due a visit from Steve our EHO pretty soon.
It is competition entry season at the moment. It seems to come earlier and earlier. So far, I think I have completed the forms for the British Cheese Awards and the Great Taste Awards (I think) and I am struggling with the Nantwich forms which for the first year seem to be available on line but you cannot write in the document, so paper again. These are the only three competitions we enter. I will not be entering the Yorkshire Show this year as quite honestly, it is a waste of time and entry fees. Say no more, though I hear on the grapevine that the old cheese organising person has left. Nor do we enter the World Cheese Awards.
We have met some great and interesting people on our recent cheese making classes. I tell my cheese making class attendees that they could consider entering a competition as there are categories for newcomers and to win something would be fantastically validating. It would be fantastic to see a Ribblesdale Cheese alumni win something at say Nantwich! The competition is very tough and there are so many entrants in these things and there is some very good cheese out there, so we try not to get our hopes up. Even one minor win is brilliant news to us. Winning awards does not automatically translate into more sales, but it makes us feel better about life and hopefully means we are doing something along the right lines. We shall see!
A good thing that happened in March was that I hired a new part timer, Stacey to take over my waxing duties on Tuesdays which has meant that I can start to get out and about and do a bit of new business development. As a result of this, we have picked up some new customers and I have seen a couple of our existing customers with a view to persuade them to take a little bit more of our cheese. Stacey is a mum of two: Magggie and Sophie and lives locally. Unfortunately, almost as soon as we took her on, she became ill, ending up in hospital with suspected appendicitis, but she is a lot better and is now back with us. Stacey has worked for Wensleydale Dairy in the past, so she brings some good experience with her.
Our goat curd sales are looking up and if they continue, will account for a significant portion of our sales. So, hot on the heels of the introducing the goat curd, I have set about developing some new cheeses. I use the word developing very loosely as I make up the recipes, so they may turn out to be not very good. With the help of Ken, my new starter culture contact, I have started some soft cheese trials which is actually quite exciting to me, at least. We will see if any of them turn out to be edible; shall keep you posted. See the end of this post for details of a 5% discount offer on starter culture.
We had a lovely article about us in the April edition of the Dalesman, written by our journalist friend Betsy and the article about us in Flybe was also put into Portfolio magazine for Emirates Business Class passengers, which can’t be a bad thing! Thank you Andy and Betsy.
Last month, Wensleydale Dairy came and make cheese in our dairy one Monday, it was nice to see them again. Oh and we had a very memorable audit by the RPA. My back was up when the auditor made initial phone contact and ordered me around with zero nicety. We were audited because we have changed purchaser status so we no longer have to submit monthly returns. Things got considerably worse when she finally arrived an hour and a half late when I had deliberately planned my trial cheese making around her. I find it hard to deal with people who treat you as if everything you do is wrong and you are stupid which pretty much sums up the experience. She was horrified that we did not get our milk delivered by a tanker with a ticket and asked in accusatory tones, well how do you know how much you have got? I felt like damaged goods after her visit.
I am receiving loads of unsolicited e-mails from lab and label companies in preparation for the new food labelling EU Regulation 1169/2011 will come into force on the 13th December 2014, stipulating that any products sold on the market must have labels that are easily visible, legible, indelible and have a minimum font size of 1.2mm and have a nutritional declaration – that is going to be extremely onerous for many small businesses – it is dreadfully expensive to get your product analysed for its nutritional/chemical composition. We were lucky and managed to obtain a grant to help us do this last year. Allergens must be emphasised in the list of ingredients using a specific type set which clearly distinguishes them from the rest of the ingredients. Note to self: must get the wretched scales sorted. You know, the ones we do not know how to use. Before anyone seizes the opportunity to write in, industrial scales are not straight forward, easy to program with descriptions etc but the rest, Avery have the monopoly on being deviously, inscrutably incomprehensible.
Other than the RPA audit, the biggest trauma occurred when I had to put prices up on April 1st and even today I still get ripples from this. Putting up prices is the most awful thing to do for a small business owner and I cringe each time we have to do it, which is not often. I don’t put up prices on whim, I do it because our prices have gone up, specifically, we are paying 15p a litre more for goat milk than 2 years ago which equates to an additional £1.50 cost of producing just one kg. Our cow and ewe’s milk have gone up significantly too and we cannot afford to keep prices the same. It is basic business survival. Having said all that, the best news all year is that we had the best April in 5 years of my records and that is after the prices went up! All of our cheesey friends had a good April which is very encouraging, let’s see how it goes in May.
Poor old Snouter has been very poorly with his little trotters. He has an ongoing problem of split pads which get badly affected when his paddock is muddy and boggy. Usually, a couple of doses of pain medicine gets him back on his feet, but this time, it wasn’t that easy. I felt the rest of his little leg and it was hot, so I guessed he had an infection. I went to the vet. Was it the Big Fella or the other one? Big Fella. Ah. The vet will not inject him because he is so big and his tusks getting larger each year and may hurt them, accidentally. I asked if I could inject him, which I am happy to try to do, but they didn’t like that idea either. So I came away with a small bottle of antibiotic powder: 10g for 20 litres of water. It was interesting adding the antibiotic water to his food and also to his drinking water. When they were small piglets, I told them that they should not eat food or drink water that didn’t taste right and I think they remember that conversation. Initially, poor old Snoutychops was in so much pain he could scarcely get up, other than to do his ablutions, so he stayed in his piggie bed all day every day for about a week. This meant I had to feed him twice a day by hand in his pig bed. Dressed in my piggie suit with a hat and bin liners spread all over his bed, I hand fed him all over Easter and longer to make sure he got the antibiotics in him. I looked like a brown Jackson Pollock painting and needed an immediate shower and the pig bed, no matter how hard I tried to keep it clean needed many replenishments of straw. Eventually, with a combination of pain medicine and antibiotics, he started to get a little better and I tried to encourage him to leave his pig bed and eat by himself still in the pig house but outside his bed. This met with an exchange of wills until one day I caught him out of his bed and he immediately scuttled back in and from that point, I no longer hand feed him (he has me wrapped around his little trotters!) and he now, after 3 weeks, is starting to eat outside again with Penny Pig, who by the way has been a model of delightful piglet perfection all through Snouter’s illness, very out of character – no grumpiness or growling.
My next post will be about a new starter supplier. Well, he is not new but I have only just come across Ken who owns the company and is offering a 5% discount on starters if you use the discount code Iona23. Take a look at his website as he sells smaller sachet quantities which is far easier for smaller cheese makers. Also available are things like rennet, yoghurt making starter, lipase etc. Ken’s e-mail address is: Sales@JKM-Foods.com
Almost 90% of our sales are goat cheese. We process around 3,800 litres each week and make Superior Goat Gouda, Original Goat, Matured Natural Rinded Goat, Goat curd and two smoked varieties from our small smoker: Smoked Superior Goat and Smoked Original Goat. That makes 6 core goat cheeses from Ribblesdale Cheese. Sometimes we make an unpasteurised goat cheese and sometimes we put cranberry in to the Original Goat.
Our best seller is the Superior Goat Gouda, followed by our Original Goat. They are two very different cheeses, the
former being a gouda, so a dense, creamy, smooth paste with a slight tang and the Original Goat is made in a Wensleydale style: mild, crumbly and creamy.
Our new goat curd is going from strength to strength and if it continues selling as it is, it will soon account for about 7% of our
Q: Why is goat milk white?
A: When we run cheese making classes, after we have finished and washed down, we have started doing a little cheese tasting.
Only afterwards do I point out that all of the goat cheeses are white. This is because goat milk lacks beta carotene, the yellow/orange pigment that imparts rich golden tones in most cheese, particularly those made with cow milk. A goat converts beta carotene into Vitamin A, which lacks color and that is why goat milk and cheese is white. Grass is rich in the antioxidant vitamin beta-carotene, so you tend to find that the milk from grass fed dairy cows result in the deepest yellow cheeses; the buttery yellow colors in cheese develop over time, so while a fresh cow milk cheese may be nearly as white as a fresh goat cheese, the differences in color tone will be much more apparent in aged cheeses.
Q: How much milk does a goat give?
A: Typically, a goat will provide about 2-3 litres of milk a day. Compare this to a cow which can give between 15-25 litres of milk a day and you start to understand why goat milk is more expensive than cow’s milk – about twice the price per litre, but interestingly, our goat cheese does not cost twice as much as most cow’s cheese. Something wrong there…..
Q: I am lactose intolerant, can I drink goat milk?
A: If you are lactose intolerant and unable to drink cow’s milk, it is worth trying goat’s milk. Goat’s milk contains less lactose than cow’s milk and is often recommended if you are allergic to cow’s milk. Your allergy is probably caused by a protein found in cow milk called alpha S1 casein protein. Both human milk and goat milk lacks this protein.
Q: How long can a goat live for?
A: Up to about 12 years. They are clever and inquisitive creatures, with far more character than say a sheep. They like to live together in families with a routine and are usually housed in large barns, bedded on straw with plenty of light and air and space to jump around.
Q: What is the gestation period of a goat?
A: 5 months
Q: What kind of goats are there?
A: The most popular breed of dairy goats in the world is the Saanen, derived from goats that originated in the Saanen valley in Switzerland. The milk from this breed of goat is very similar to that from Friesland cows in terms of solids, i.e. butterfat and protein content. Saanen milk is white and has a creamy texture, and tastes a little sweeter than cow’s milk. Other breeds of goats include British Alpines, Toggenburgs, also from the Swiss Alps and floppy eared Nubians which give high solids. The British Toggenburg occurs when a Toggenburg is crossed with any other of the Swiss breeds.
Other strange facts about why goat milk is good for you
It has been a busy couple of weeks, so lots to report. Today, we are making the third of our four sheep cheese makes. January was predictably a quiet month and so far, February has picked up a fair bit – time will tell, I don’t want to get too excited!
The quest for transparent pots to put our goat curd in has finally come to fruition and we received a delivery yesterday, but my goodness, I had to pester the company I bought them from because despite the fact they were the only people to send out a sample, they didn’t appear to want to make the sale. The other ten or so pot makers I contacted just did not bother to reply to my inquiry for 1,500 pots: weird.
Snow! There is no 2014 winner of the snow book. It officially snowed here on Tuesday 11th Feb. I shall do a dedicated blog post about the 2014 snow book.
We had our annual visit from the bank manager, Wayne, who came and went. I read somewhere that Google was more trusted than banks. No surprise there. Personally, I think it is only a matter of time before our high street banks become obsolete or at least have to radically change their practices and start to compete (really??) and offer service and value for money. If you think about it, all a person or business really needs is a current account to receive money in and make payments out of. Why can’t we all shop around for current accounts, loans, mortgages, savings deals? I don’t see why anyone, be it Google, Amazon, Coca Cola et al couldn’t offer better, more competitive current accounts, taking into account better rates from different jurisdictions and associated financial products for individuals and businesses to pick and choose the best deal from, much like any other service or commodity we use; I do not go to the same supermarket all the time, why should I use the same bank for everything? UK supermarkets have made
a bit of an attempt, but I see it changing much more in terms of new more trusted entrants offering a more innovative and flexible range of financial products and a change in customer habit – consumers being encouraged to cherry pick the best deals (and switch) and having choice to use several ‘banks’. Here is hoping!
The award competition season seem to start earlier and earlier. This week, I received notification that we should enter our cheeses in to the Great Taste Awards – five months before judging – and have a 2 week window during which each cheese entry costs £31 + VAT as opposed to £41. I am in two minds about this – £31 to enter one cheese in a competition is to my mind, really expensive. We have been lucky enough to win awards in the past and whilst I would love to say it results in additional sales – it does not. It adds to our credibility, that we can and do make fabulous, award winning cheese, but if you are thinking of entering a few cheeses, it becomes really expensive and one wonders about the benefits. We usually enter three competitions: The Great Taste Awards, Nantwich and the British Cheese Awards. I have given up on the Yorkshire Show as I don’t think we stand a chance – say no more.
I am still no closer to working out how to program our new scales. I have left two messages now with Avery Berkel who show no sign of getting back to me. The manual is utterly incomprehensible. How stupid do I feel that we have scales that we do not know how to use? Very. Anyone who uses commercial scales that spit out weight tickets will know how frustrating programming scales can be. Talking of weight ticket labels, I have been having ongoing discussions with our label printing company who took over from Clearprint in Lancashire after it closed (we miss you, Elaine!) about 50,000 weight ticket labels that do not work in our scales. Eventually, I sent them all back and reached an amicable agreement with the printers who finally agreed to give us a refund, though come to think of it, that has not arrived either. Sometimes I feel that I spend a disproportionate amount of time chasing people up just to get something happening, like the customer who, according to Sage, take on average 153 days to pay us, so I sent a reminder e-mail (and have left two telephone messages) to the business owner and the accounts dept five days ago and have not heard a thing, let alone received payment.
The scales issue is becoming very irritating as it would solve receiving rude and unnecessary e-mails like the one I received on Sunday evening from a man who signed his name with an ‘F’ in between his first and last name and managed to use the word ‘disappointing’ about 8 times. He left an exceptionally rude tirade on this blog (I receive an e-mail copy) about how he bought some of our Superior Goat Gouda, as it was promoted as being a British made cheese, during British cheese week, which readers of this blog know we started to make ourselves about two years ago, making it not just British but Yorkshire! He left this message, saying that our Superior Goat Gouda was Dutch on the blog, but did not bother to search for it on the blog, if he had, he would have seen pictures of us making it. Because we cannot change our scales, unfortunately, the weight ticket says, in very small writing, that it is made in Holland. It was, but no longer is – we make this. And that is why we put a ‘we Make This’ sticker on the front of the pack, but this man seemed to be on a mission to be as unpleasant as possible on the blog. I trashed his blog comment and replied as graciously as I could muster at 11pm on Sunday evening and pointed out the truth and invited him to come and make Superior Goat Gouda with us. As is always the way, he did not have the courtesy to reply.
And still on the subject of labelling, I received an e-mail from a customer asking us to confirm that we complied with EU Regulation 1169/2011. I had to admit that we did not, but did not want to say only because I don’t know how to program the wretched scales and Avery Berkel sneer at me when I ask for help and don’t get back to me. I did send the tech spec document which contains all the data anyway; we have all the nutritional information that we need to disclose, courtesy of Rosie at York Uni. Hopefully I will sort out the scales before December 15th 2014 when this piece of legislation comes into force.
For the first time ever in the history of us making cheese, our regular Tuesday delivery of goat milk arrived but then had to be sucked back up again at the end of the day due to an antibiotic failure. Just goes to show that product recall systems really do work. It was a bit of a shock, but thank goodness we found out before Wednesday when we would have processed half of it. Antibiotics would have destroyed the starter which means the milk would not become acidified which in turn means we would not have been able to make cheese – in case anyone wondered. This really threw our week, last week and Stu and I could not get used to the days as we did not make goat cheese on Wednesday or Thursday, it was weird. Andrew came in on Wednesday and with Stu gave the three maturing rooms a complete deep clean over two days. Wow, they really look spotless now.
My working week is slowly starting to change. I mutter darkly from time to time about not being able to get out and about and see customers or develop new business because there is always too much to do, nearly all computer/ paperwork which I hate. That, combined with bloody annoying arthritis in my fingers which makes
waxing very painful and difficult and slow – I have lost my ability to grip – the fact that I drop keys, teaspoons, lids, pens, (cheese), can’t do up buttons finally made me decide to take on some help with our weekly Tuesday mad waxing sessions which relieves me of my waxing duties and frees me up one day a week which I hope to use to get out and about, which I enjoy! As a result, I have managed to see three new potential customers, two of whom have already placed orders which is far more satisfying than not being able to wax cheese.
I have applied for a grant to help us do some PR and marketing work with a mentor. We have chosen Yorkshire based Annie Stirk who is a bit of a food PR and marketing guru to help us and the grant is called the Growth Accelerator. Before anyone asks, no, you can’t use it for capex. It involves meeting up with a coordinator, answering 100 questions on-line and costs £600 plus a lot more VAT and can be used to employ a consultant to help you fill in gaps in your business knowledge and capabilities.
Another little initiative I have got going is that I am planning a bit of NPD and have been working with a very helpful chap called Ken who is very kindly going to let me have some starters for me to play with. We’ve even been talking lipase. I am hoping to trial about 4-5 new cheeses and if I can get one of them right, I shall be a happy bunny; it will take time. I am really looking forward to developing (making up!) some new recipes, I enjoy that. It will be um…interesting! I tend to think that making the cheese is the relatively straight forward part, it is the maturation and keeping the cheese that can be tricky. But we will see. My last bit of NPD was our goat curd back last summer and I am really pleased with the take up of that. Watch this space!
I think it is about time that we started to sell cheese on our website/blog. This is something I have wanted to do for a while, but as always, it is a question of time. I have started investigating making this blog into a proper website and adding an e-commerce platform. It is a fair bit of work but I have started investigating how to do it, so once again, we will see how it pans out.
I think I mentioned a while back that we had a media company come and do some filming with us. They have made a 90 second webtease for us and here it is. It shows me at the height of my podginess, Stu stirring the vat and Andrew polishing cheese but it is a really good bit of filming, even if I say it myself. Thank you to Simon and his team and also customer Country Harvest for letting us film there.
We had a great five person cheese making class two Mondays ago and everyone had a lot of fun, but more importantly, I am hoping that we have given enough knowledge and confidence to our attendees to make good and safe cheese at home. Two of our class were already fairly experienced and both said it was good for them to compare their makes with everyone else’s and our main big vat as it gave them the experience to be able to judge acidity development, which is really good.
We still have places left on Monday 17th one day course, if you are interested, please-mail Iona at: email@example.com and we have room on our first two day commercial cheese making class on Thursday and Friday 20th and 21st Feb.