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The Last Couple of Weeks at Ribblesdale Cheese

It has been a very busy couple of weeks.  Business wise, we have had both a good April and a good May which has been great, to be busy.  We have been making goat cheese twice a week and I have been practicing some

My latest NPD

My latest NPD which is actually, even though I say it myself, quite edible

potential new cheeses.  Maybe I am not very experienced, but it amazes me that it is possible to make such different cheeses from the same starter but using different techniques.

Our goat curd is going from strength to strength and we seem

Little pillows of Goat Curd

Little pillows of Goat Curd

to spend a disproportionate amount of time potting and bagging it up, but it is all good stuff and I don’t mind, even if it is terribly time consuming, it’s great to get it out there!

The highlight this week has to be winning three silvers at the British Cheese Awards, for our goat curd, natural rinded matured goat and our aged gouda which I am thinking of calling something like Gouda Gold – what do you think?  Mind you, we only managed to get our entries in by the skin of our teeth, because I forgot…

Another highlight was scoffing Stu’s dad’s rather lovely

Our Goat Curd Silver certificate 2014

Our Goat Curd Silver certificate 2014

banana cake – thank you Mike!

I had a great road trip the other Tuesday, to Scotland.  My internet at home has been very intermittent in the last few months, (partly why little blogging) which caused a bit of a problem, for, when I sat in my car outside my house at 7.30am tapping in the postcode of my destination, the sat nav would not accept it and I had no internet to find an alternative.  So, after a little swearing, I thought there was nothing more I could do other than point the faithful cheesemobile northwards.  I knew I had to aim for Edinburgh, so I headed up the M6 and followed the signs to Edinburgh and somehow, quite out of character, I found the industrial estate I was aiming for with no trouble at all, no getting lost, most out of character.  The journey passed surprisingly easily, I listened to Radio 4 and my ipod thingie which streams music through my radio.

southWhilst I found the industrial estate, I drove around for 15 minutes looking for the right place only to be stumped – typical, hey, I get there without sat nav or maps but cannot find an industrial unit until I noticed a Cheese Cellar van.  Aha, I thought, follow that van and sure enough it took me to the door.  Excellent!

I had a great meeting with some lovely, enthusiastic and knowledgeable people.  It was a pleasure to meet them.  We had a good cheese tasting session and I was treated to a look around their cold room – wow, some fabulous cheeses in there and I hope ours will join them.  Coming back, I tapped ‘Home’ into the sat nav which told me to turn right after 3.4 miles.  Hhhmm.  It was considerably more than 3.4 miles when I realised that the sat nav was no longer talking to me.  In fact, it had died.  Not only that, I was not going back on any route I remembered, the radio wouldn’t work and my ipod gizmo had also expired.  Almost 50 miles later after having driven up and down a mountain pass with zero villages, towns or any obvious landmark, just forest and a helpful sign saying River Tweed, I finally reached the motorway and mysteriously joined the M74 2 junctions further down than I had got off coming up.  I have no clue where I had been, still don’t, but that less than enigmatic sign saying ‘South’ was a very welcome relief.

We had a great two day commercial cheese making course.  It was intense, but I enjoyed it because the four people all had a great deal in common and all were some way down the road to starting their own dairy, which is exciting, not to mention life changing – good luck to Becky, Chloe, Sophie and James and I look forward to hearing how they each get on.

Our annual EHO visit is booked for the middle of June so that is one to tick off.  Hope not to forget it this year!

Other things that have happened include sending for the doctor again for the forks as its little rubber feet had come apart, making it hard to manoeuvre, so Ray the forklift mender came from Darlington and ministered to it.  We had a ratty man visit and I am trying to plan our dairy expansion which is proving very tricky.  I have asked for some help from a very experienced cheese maker friend who is so busy we haven’t yet been able to meet up, but it’s one of those things that I know I cannot do by myself and I am afraid of not doing it properly.

Our Natural Rinded Matured Goat Silver certificate

Our Natural Rinded Matured Goat Silver certificate

In brief, I have bought a boiler to generate steam and an oil tank to feed it.  We plan to convert to using steam to heat a new large  vat and our new pasteuriser.  We are going to have to rearrange all of our dairy equipment (again!) to make best use of the space and possibly move the dividing wall between the dairy and the wholesale area.  It’s a really big job and to be honest, I am dreading the upheaval, installation and commotion.  In my experience, it’s when you change things that things start to go wrong so we are going to have to be extremely careful to maintain our routine and quality.

We also had a visit from one of our larger customers, in person, so we were very honoured; it was a pleasure to meet with him at our place.  I showed our guest one of my new product development trial cheeses (pictured above) – and he liked it and said he would take it!  Yay!  So I have to start scaling up and perfecting it.

I have had a hideous time getting quotes for more labels.  I asked for a quote from 12 companies.  Seven replied and quotes ranged from 3.3p per label to 12.1p.  It was a 50/50 mix between digital and old fashioned plate printing, for the first timeI have opted for digital, so it will be interesting to see if there is a difference in quality.

I started a Twitter account which allows me to have conversations with people I don’t know, but would like to.  I

Our Aged Gouda Silver Certificate

Our Aged Gouda Silver Certificate

am a real newbie so am probably not doing it very well, so it’s early days.  Our Twitter is: @RibblesdaleC.

Thursday was a really busy day, some end of month orders, which is great, but very pushed to get them out in time and a funeral to go to.  Stu came in for half a day to cover for me which was very noble as this week has been a holiday week for Stu.

The major lowlight was the death of our part timer Andrew’s step dad, Dave aged only 48: too soon and too cruel.  The funeral was on Thursday with an amazing turnout and a lot of lovely shared memories to keep thoughts alive.  My thoughts are with Dave’s partner Heather,step son (our) Andrew and Dave’s mum and dad.

Friday, I was scheduled to do a cheese tasting at a customer of ours, but my car died, right outside my front door – it simply would not start.  I felt awful about letting our customer down, not to mention piles of cheese samples, clean apron and Ribblesdale Cheese banner languishing in the back of my car.  Yesterday, Monday, my faithful cheesemobile was returned to me, with a new battery but no radio.  I would rather have a functioning car, though but how to get radio 4 back?

Let’s see what June brings us!



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A New Free On-Line Cheese Magazine Just Launched (not by us!)

Notice of this new on-line cheesey magazine landed in my inbox yesterday.  It looks pretty interesting, and as it is free, I thought I would pass it along.  I tried to find out who is behind this, but could not – anyone any ideas?

It also features our friend Kristen of Gringa Dairy and also our friend Andy Swinscoe at the Countyard, Settle.

To take a look, click here – you have to sign in.

The first issue of the FREE online magazine dedicated to all things cheese is ready for you!
Are you a cheese lover? Well we have just launched a quarterly magazine devoted to the world of cheese and we are offering people the chance to access Issue Oneand a FREE year’s online subscription just by registering today. No catches, no obligation.
The Cheeseboard aims to support the cheese industrywhilst educating you about the huge variety of cheeses out there, informing you about the different textures & tastes as well as production techniques & provenance. There will be regular features focusing on cheese and wine pairings, regional and international cheese articles and lots of cheese based recipes for you to try.Have a friend you know loves cheese and maybe interested in reading the Cheeseboard?Please forward this email to them so they can benefit from this offer too.

Visit www.cheeseboardmagazine.co.uk | Register Today | Terms & Conditions | Contact us

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Last Week in the Life of Ribblesdale Cheese

Wow, what a week!

Phew - clothed and in the press!

Original Goat in the press

Last Monday we took the last batch of Original Goat out of the press, vac packed and weighed it.  We then rustled up a few orders to go out and potted out 28 x 500g pots of our luscious goat curd to be picked up the next day, only it wasn’t.  I then resumed the search for a new energy provider as the one I had agreed a rate with refused to get back in touch, despite assuring me that everything was kosher; it hasn’t.  So that took care of the rest of my day.  Stu prepped 36 cheeses to go into the smoker as we usually smoke cheese overnight on Mondays to wax on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday was the usual waxing day, though it was not a mad waxing day, just a mild waxing day, as waxing days go.  It is pretty quiet at this time of year, so we did not need to wax a huge amount to replenish the shelves.

Wednesday was an office day for me and a day for clearing up e-mails and sending one out about cheese making class availability – a one day at short notice on 20th Jan, which as it happens, only had one taker, so we had to cancel it.

Stu waxing two cheeses at a time

Stu waxing two cheeses at a time

Wednesday was a Goat Gouda making day for Stu and Andrew.

Thursday was an Original Goat making day for Stu and Andrew whilst I had a visitor!  I have been talking with Simon who runs Blooming Branded Media who offered to make us a 90 second web tease – something I had never heard of, but no surprise there as my knowledge of media and marketing, is, as everyone knows, not, er….very good.

Simon has a tremendously impressive film and production pedigree, (BBC, ITV, Sky, Channel 5 etc) and approached us with a view to extending their portfolio of work and help us at the same time – see here for some examples of their web teasers that include Bronte Guesthouse, Swaledale Woollens, Jarrod Headley Opticians and award-winning Butcher David Lishman.  Of course, I said yes!  By the way, they are offering web teasers for a 50% discount – see here or call: 0113 815 1113.

One table laden with 210kgs of newly made Original Goat

One table laden with 215kgs of newly made Goat Gouda

So we spent the morning bothering Stu and Andrew in the dairy, getting various shots of cheese making and my drivel before we decamped over to one of our customers, Country Harvest.  We did a little bit of cheese tasting with some daring customers at award wining Country Harvest and Simon took some really lovely pictures of our cheese.  A big thank you to Janet who runs the cheese counter at Country Harvest for her time, help and patience.  What a great day!  As readers of this blog will know, I absolutely hate having my photo taken, so I am awaiting the final piece with a fair amount of trepidation.

On Friday, we vac packed Wednesday’s Goat Gouda make, I prepared Monday’s orders and Stu tinkered in the dairy, making some minor repairs to our press whilst I then continued my e-mail catch up which seems never ending.  We called it a day at 4.30pm as the weekend beckoned.

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The Last Couple of Weeks in the Life of Ribblesdale Cheese

The newly potted out Tasty Yorkshire

The newly potted out Tasty Yorkshire

Two weeks ago, on Monday, we made a vat of Tasty Yorkshire, on Tuesday we had our usual mad waxing day to stock up the shelves for the coming week.  On Wednesday, we made a full vat of Superior Goat Gouda and on Thursday we made a full vat of Original Goat.  On Friday, we vac packed the gouda and matured some cheese.

Also on Friday I had a funny inquiry from a lady who is representing a pizza making business who has a contract with Booths supermarket.  She was interested in our goat cheese.  We discussed prices, potential quantities, availability and so on and then in a very worried tone of voice said that they were a halal site.  I was somewhat bemused when she then went on to ask in a very concerned way, ‘but what about Penny and Snouter?’  I roared with laughter and explained that they were my pet pigs and lived at home which is 14 miles away and are in no way connected with our cheese making business.  I have not heard back from Anneka.  Oh dear.

We had a really interesting visitor, Debbie, from Australia who is a cheese maker from down under (isn’t there a song about cheese makers from down under?) and also teaches cheese making classes.  She helped Stu and Andrew make the gouda and we had a good old chat about the technical side of cheese making.  Debbie has also visited White Lake dairy and worked with them for a little while and I arranged for her to meet our friend Kristen, an American living in London and making cheese in Peckham on her way back to Heathrow to fly back home.

As a parting gift, Debbie gave me some cheese making recipes which look rather interesting.  I would like to give a couple a go in the new year when we are

Debbie Allard

Debbie Allard (not in our dairy)

quiet, if we have milk.

This week, we made two chutneys on Monday: our Granny’s Apple and Caramelised Carrot after having taken the Original Goat out of the press, vac packed, weighed them and cleaned down the dairy.  The pear has to wait.  I received news from our contact Rosie, at York University who helped us obtain a grant to have our cheeses tested for nutritional value and chemical composition.  I received the report.  This is a brilliant piece of work and I am very pleased with this being done and the results are interesting.  It also means that we can pass this information on to customers.

On Sunday night, I thought we may have a snow book winner as it snowed hard and heavy between about 10pm and midnight at my place and settled as I hastily moved my car.  But in the morning it was raining, not even a frost, though there was a lot of slush on the tops on my journey to work.

On Tuesday we had a mad waxing day and got a fair bit done.  Also on Tuesday, Stu bought in (half!) a cake baked by is dad, Mike: coffee without walnuts and it was very tasty, yum, yum, thank you Mike!  Our first batch of goat curd to Bettys went out, thank goodness, though it was an incredibly time consuming and fiddly job.  It was vac packed in 250g bags, dipped to shrink, then labelled up and batch coded.  

On Wednesday, Stu and Andrew made a vat of Superior Goat and though we were shorted on our milk, down by 1,000 litres, we made around 150 kgs of goat gouda.  I have started to make calculations and plan for the possibility of having little goat milk in Jan and Feb.  It will be touch and go…..I did up the orders for most of Wednesday as we had a fair bit go out on Thursday.  Andrew’s car died on Wednesday whilst driving to work, making him late which we ribbed him about until he explained what had happened.  After cheese making, Stu took him to retrieve it about 6 miles out of Hawes and he was able to limp back after having used jump leads on it, but as soon as he turned the ignition off, it died again.  I took him home, well, to his girlfriend’s parent’s farm, some 30 miles from Hawes.  It was a worthwhile trip on three counts: firstly, it got Andrew back and he can use his girlfriend Cath’s car, secondly, I got a bale of hay for the piglets and thirdly, my hand was licked by a baby calf – and let me tell you: if you have not been licked by and stroked a baby cow, then you have not lived.  I met Cath’s parents and her dad revealed

British Friesans - not Cath's dad's cows, but a library stock picture, they look identical....so beautiful!

British Friesans – not Cath’s dad’s cows, but a library stock picture, they look identical….so beautiful!

(whilst we were standing in their milking parlour – what beautiful cows!) that he used to buy goat milk from my uncle for his orphan lambs and that my uncle had gave him a (very noisy) male and female peacock, both of which came to a sticky end.  What a small world!

On Thursday, we made a vat of Original Goat and today, Friday, we had our friend Mike who is a builder, all harnessed up complete with hard hat (not!) change some of the strip lights that had gone out and cleaned out the diffusers.  Neither Stu nor I are capable of going up scaffolding.

The place looks so different and bright, it is hard to believe that we did not notice.  Stu lagged the external whey pipes with really expensive reclaimed lagging and has done a super job.  (He found it is a skip opposite us at 5.30am one day a few weeks back.  If it had not been for the old piano on top of the skip, we could have pinched some more, but c’est la vie!)  I submitted the VAT return and prepared two week’s of lab samples for the lab.   Must remember to call them on Monday for a pick up.  We are really lucky with our new lab because they visit our friends up the road on a daily basis so that can nip down to us without taking too much time out of their day.

Nantwich 2012 Gold Award Winner: Natural Rinded Mature Goat

Great Taste Awards 2013 3 gold stars winner; Nantwich 2012 Gold Award Winner: Natural Rinded Mature Goat

The best news of the week is that Booths would like to stock two more of our cheeses: Matured Natural Rinded Goat cheese, the one that won three gold stars at the Great taste Awards 2013 and our unpasteurised Wensleydale, which I am very pleased about because it really is a nice cheese and we have few takers for it.  We have to get through the technical hoops yet, but it is looking positive.

On a personal note, the builders have almost finished though they cannot get to two rooms, there are just bits and bobs left.  I received a phone call about 5.30pm yesterday telling me not to go home for a few more hours as they had sealed the sitting room floor.  I long for the time when I can go home to my home knowing it is exactly as I left it and start to clean and tidy.  It is getting cold for Penny Pig and Snouter who seem to spend all day semi-hibernated under straw, emerging only for food and piddling type activities: -2 oC this morning at my place and +0.5 oC here in Hawes but it hasn’t yet snowed and settled.

And that was about it – how was yours?

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The Last Few Weeks in the Life of Ribblesdale Cheese

Well, it has been a stressful time one way or the other.

Let’s concentrate on the good things:

We had the best month of the year in October, so that was pretty good, we were busy, especially toward to the end of the month.  Here is hoping for a good Christmas period for everyone in business.

And it hasn’t snowed yet, though as I type on a Sunday afternoon, the hail from yesterday is still sitting on my conservatory roof unmelted.

We are in discussions with Booths supermarket to get another cheese in with them, so let’s see what happens there, there are still a few hurdles to get through.

And we had a great four person cheese making class a couple of Mondays ago and John stayed on to do a commercial class with me the following day which I certainly enjoyed and I hope John did too.  I look forward to hearing how John progresses his craft.

Stu finally received his new car – and I mean brand spanking, shiny new!  It is a very smart Dacia, and not withstanding the time it took to get to the UK (Stu thinks by donkey and cart) I think he feels it was finally well worth the wait.

On the downside, Stu’s mum sadly passed away, condolences to Stu, his brother Mark and his dad Mike.

Not quite on the same scale, my downstairs at home has been completely unlivable in for four weeks, which mainly accounts for the lack of blog posts as I cannot sit downstairs as the floor is up – everywhere – and it is very stressful, so I have been hibernating in my bedroom where I do not get internet access.  I hope the new flooring will also be worth the wait, though there have been occasions when I walk across planks of wood balanced on bricks and see the dust and muck and dirty things put on clean things and stuff broken that I have really wanted to pack myself and the pigs off to a tropical island because it is probably warmer, cleaner and more harmonious.  I have arthritis in my hands which tends to only flare up in the cold, these last couple of weeks they have been behaving like bananas so waxing or holding on to things is painful and difficult which is annoying and frustrating.

The mice have taken up residence again in my house because of the cold and they have taken to holding late night parties at the back of my wardrobe that I cannot get to.  I shall find a way…..

And to top it all, our computer ground to a halt and after taking it to a computer repair man it was pronounced terminally ill with a corrupt hard drive and though he managed to save most of our files, I cannot open the backup!  Then there is the ongoing spat between a technical person and I at a potential new customer which at this stage is just not worth going into, needless to say, I am extremely unimpressed.  Actually, I am hopping mad!

So on that cheery note, I am off to my local, the Station Inn to do day 2 of a cheese tasting stint, so if anyone reading this is local, see you there – and mine’s a pint of Landlords!

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Three Reasons Why We Like Our New Curd Table

The curd table on the trailer

The curd table on the trailer

Curd tables are an under looked piece of kit when planning a dairy, but you do need something to put pots on, pot out on and a whole load of other things too.  Traditionally, people use them to pour curd on to and then pot up.  We pot up in the vat and transfer the pots from the vat to the table to rest, three high and give them a ‘mini’ press.

Our old curd table was a great piece of kit, but ultimately not really quite big enough for our needs, especially doing cheese making courses where we spread out a little, leaving Stu little space to work with.

I bought the curd table, which was in excellent condition, quite a while back from an old Stilton maker and it has been

The tricky job of getting the curd table off the trailer and into the dairy

The tricky job of getting the curd table off the trailer and into the dairy, thank goodness it is on wheels

sitting in our equipment supplier Brytec’s yard.  The time came to put it into use, but first we needed to put wheels on it and also create some large metal sheets to spread across the bottom so that we can stand pots on it.

Brytec did the honours for us and bought it from their place at Longridge on a trailer.  I had warned Stu how big it was and we had mapped our dairy out on graph paper to see how we could rearrange our various bits and bobs to accommodate it.

The trailer arrived with the curd table on it and Stu couldn’t quite believe how big it was!  Brian rewired our wash tank so that we could move it into a better position and as the new curd table is on wheels, we can wheel it around to make the most of our very small space.

The new curd table in use at our last cheese making class

The new curd table in use at our last cheese making class

So the five reasons are:

  1. It is bigger and therefore we can conduct a cheese making class on it and still put our pots on it
  2. It is on wheels which makes life a lot easier to manoeuvre it to make the most of the space we have
  3. It is at a better working height

Thank you, Bryetc!

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A Ribblesdale Cheese Press Release (with a little help from the Great Taste Award team)



The 2013 Great Taste results are now out and Ribblesdale Cheese is a winner


Nantwich 2012 Gold Award Winner: Natural Rinded Mature Goat

Great Taste Awards 2013 3 gold stars winner; Nantwich 2012 Gold Award Winner: Natural Rinded Mature Goat

Hawes based Ribblesdale Cheese is celebrating the news that its Matured Natural Rinded Goat cheese has wowed judges in Great Taste 2013 by being awarded 3 stars – in the world’s largest and most rigorous food awards scheme involving over 400 judges and thousands of hours of blind tasting.

Great Taste is simply about taste, not clever branding or smart packaging.  Judges are presented with, for example, a piece of cheese, a pie or a little dish of chutney, with no wrappings, jars or marks – and they taste, confer and re-taste before making the decision on whether a product should be a 1-, 2- or 3-star winner.  In total more than 12 judges will have tasted and commented on each product.

‘We are so pleased to have been awarded 3 stars at the 2013 Great Taste Awards as we are only a two and a half person artisan cheese maker and there was some serious competition.  We also won one gold star each for our Original Goat and our Original Sheep cheese.  This comes on the heels of our gold award at the Nantwich International Cheese Show 2013 for our new mystery product.  We hope that these awards will show our customers that we make outstanding artisan cheese and will help to raise our profile’, said Iona Hill, the owner of Ribblesdale Cheese.

Out of almost 10,000 products entered into Great Taste 2013 just 125 have been awarded 3-star.  All 3-star products have been re-judged by a panel including Masterchef judge and restaurant critic Charles Champion, food buyers from Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Whole Food Markets and Michelin Star chef Russell Brown who have together decided on the 2013 Top 50 Foods, the Golden Fork Trophy winners as well as the new 2013 Supreme Champion.

Finally on Monday, 9 September, at a nail-biting Awards’ Dinner at the Royal Gardens Hotel, London, the great and the good from the world of fine food will gather to hear who has won the Golden Fork Awards and the final applause will be reserved for the Great Taste Supreme Champion 2013.

Date: 8th August 2013

For more information: Iona Hill, tel/fax: 01969 66 77 88 or e-mail: ionahill@gmail.com


The Great Taste Awards Press Enquiries:

Joanne Myram: joanne@positivepr.co.uk Telephone: +44 (0)1935 389497

Notes for editors:

What is Great Taste?

Great Taste is the largest and most trusted accreditation scheme for speciality and fine food & drink. Established in 1994, it encourages and mentors artisan food producers, offering a unique benchmarking and product evaluation service leading to an independent accreditation that enables small food and drink businesses to compete against supermarket premium own label brands.


Since 1994 over 80,000 products have been evaluated. This year alone, almost 10,000 products were blind-tasted by panels of specialists: top chefs, cookery writers, food critics, restaurateurs and fine food retailers.

What are Great Taste judges looking for?

They’re looking for great texture and appearance. They judge the quality of ingredients and how well the maker has put the food or drink together. But above all, they are looking for truly great taste.

How do they work?

Working in small teams, experts taste 25 foods in each sitting, discussing each product as a coordinating food writer transcribes their comments directly onto the Great Taste website which producers access after judging is completed. Over the years, numerous food businesses, start-ups and well established producers have been advised how to modify their foods and have subsequently gone on to achieve Great Taste stars.


Any food that a judging team believes is worthy of Great Taste stars is judged by at least two further teams. Only when there is a consensus will an award be given – that means at least 16 judges will have tasted every accredited product. For Great Taste 3-star, every single judge attending the session, which can be as many as 40 experts must unanimously agree the food delivers that indescribable ‘wow’ factor.

What should consumers look for?

The logo. The Great Taste symbol is their guarantee a product has been through a rigorous and independent judging process. It’s not about smart packaging or clever marketing – it’s all about taste.


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