Tag Archives: Ribblesdale Cheese

Tuesday Person Wanted to Help Us Wax Cheese

Stu waxing two cheeses at a time

Stu waxing two cheeses at a time

As readers of this blog may know, we spend our Tuesdays waxing cheese.

Our current Tuesday lady, Stacey will be leaving the area at the end of June with her children to join her partner, who is not very well, in Bradford.

This leaves us with a bit of a gap, so if anyone knows anyone who can work Tuesdays from 9am til 3pm and fancies their hand at a bit of cheese waxing, please get in touch: ionahill@gmail.com


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A Long Ribblesdale Cheese Two Week Catch Up

Two sheep makes being put away in the cold room where they will mature for 12 months

Two sheep makes being put away in the cold room where they will mature for 12 months

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 outside our unit at 5.30pm Tuesday 11th Feb 2014

Snow outside our unit at 5.30pm Tuesday 11th Feb 2014

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

My very hairy journey home on Tuesday evening.  We don't get gritters or snow ploughs up my way

My very hairy journey home on Tuesday evening in a snow storm. We don’t get gritters or snow ploughs up my way

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.

Me and Stu with our Superior Goat: Yorkshire Gouda

Me and Stu with our Superior Goat: Yorkshire Gouda

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.

One of Hackfall's goats

Milking goats

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

Newly waxed Smoked Superior Goat Cheese

Newly waxed Smoked Superior Goat Cheese – we not only MAKE this cheese ourselves, we also smoke it ourselves too

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.

Little pillows of Goat Curd

Little pillows of  250g shrink wrapped Goat Curd

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: ionahill@gmail.com and we have room on our first two day commercial cheese making class on Thursday and Friday 20th and 21st Feb.


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The Last Week at Ribblesdale Cheese

Yet another January week gone by in a blur.  I have a theory that January days go faster than other days in the

A gratuitous picture of Penny Pig (left) and Snouter crammed into Snouter's bed

A gratuitous picture of Penny Pig (left) and Snouter (right) shoe horned into Snouter’s bed

rest of the year.  Mondays are always busy for both of us.  Last Monday, Stu made a small vat of Wensleydale which was timely as we had run out.  Whilst tending the vat, the pair of us put the press load of Original Goat cheese into vac packs and I took them into the wholesale area and vac packed and weighed them.

I always weigh each make to establish firstly the average weight, to ensure that they are the right sort of size (and we are not getting carried away at potting up time – sometimes when they are a little on the …er…chunky side, they don’t fit in their boxes!) and secondly the yield.  If the yield is out of kilter, this could point to an issue with the make or the milk, something we need to know so we can investigate.  It is also useful to know how the yield varies according to the season.

Also on the agenda every Monday is decanting goat curd into 500g plastic pots for a customer collection on Tuesday.  Last Tuesday was not a mad waxing day which felt very liberating.  We are quiet and we did not need to replenish the shelves, so we thought we would give ourselves a break from waxing.  Stu pottered in the dairy whilst I researched buying more goat curd pots, only I would like to replace them with clear plastic.  I contacted a large number of pot makers, only to be told by the majority that I would need to speak to their rep who would contact me.  To date, we have been contacted by one rep who very kindly sent a couple of samples, which we tried out today, so I will be placing an order.  Tuesday was restocking day: I ordered more advice note books, new weight ticket labels, more sellotape and pallet wrap, starter culture – all very exciting stuff.

One very clean dairy

One very clean dairy

Wednesday and Thursday were dairy days for Stu and Andrew making 1,900 litres of Superior Goat Gouda, 300 litres of Goat Curd and 1,600 litres of Original Goat.

On Wednesday, after the dairy had been put to bed and Stu and Andrew had left for the day, I had a visitor, Richard Clarke, the production director for WDP who came for a brew and a chat and to see if they could use our dairy to make another batch of unpasteurised Wensleydale.  It was nice to see Richard, always good to catch up with cheesey friends.

On Thursday, I went to see a cheesey friend, Simon Lacey who makes cheese up at The Station in Richmond and had a good catch up.  Simon has been making cheese at The Station in Richmond for six years now.  Doesn’t time fly!

And on Friday, first thing, Stu and I took care of Wednesday’s Superior Goat Gouda make and whilst I vac packed and weighed it, Stu cleaned down the dairy.  Then we salted and packed that week’s goat curd.

Whilst Stu spent the rest of the day in the dairy, I had the pleasure of Andrew and Sally’s company for the rest of the afternoon – our first paid consulting gig!  Andrew farms, though I have to say he is the first farmer I have met with a PhD!  His wife, Sally, is a special needs dentist and together they are thinking of possibly entering the cheese making arena, not now, but maybe in a few year’s time and wanted to fact find to determine whether this could be a viable proposition.  I think we all agreed that it could a viable business as they have their own cows and the idea fits with their current priorities and lifestyle; we did some sums and talked through a wide range of issues and requirements.  It was a great way to end the week, talking cheese with an interesting couple.

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The Guardian and The Grocer: the Goat Cheese Shortage of 2014

There is an article in the online version of the Grocer, but it will not let me copy and paste – how very wise – so here is an article from the Guardian that starts off in what I hope is a tongue in cheek kind of way.  But before that….

This is the time of year when the goats kid and goat milk is scarce.  Lack of supply is exacerbated by the weather, so, for example, goats like most of us, do not like the snow and cold.  The Guardian points to an increase in demand for goat cheese and difficulty in obtaining milk as the supply is ‘sewn up’ – this is so true.  I reckon (this is a guesstimate, based on my knowledge of goat milk availability) that between them, St Helens and what was Delamere probably have control over about 96% of all goat milk in the UK.   One factor which isn’t discussed much is that the large processors cannot get enough local milk resulting in the need to import it, particularly from Holland, where producer numbers, especially at the smaller end of the scale, have fallen because of low prices and rising costs together with the latest disease to affect goats: Q Fever.  The Guardian also cites a European reduction in demand for soft cheese such as chevre, something I have not heard before.  Everyone is saying that goat cheese production should be back to normal in April and I am sure this will happen.  As for us, the tiniest of all tiny goat cheese specialists, we do have milk and we also have cheese, so fear not, the Ribblesdale Cheese cold room is fully stocked.

This is the Guardian article: Why are supplies of chèvre running so low, and whatever will vegetarians eat until the situation is resolved?

Goatr's cheese and onion tart

Goat’s cheese and onion tart: Delia has a lot to answer for. Photograph: Antonio Zazueta Olmos/Antonio Olmos

Stockpile the chèvre and bulk-buy the rosary ash: there’s a goat’s cheese shortage. Warnings have been circulating for months, but now restaurants and retailers are reporting supply problems. Pizza Express isrunning low on goat’s cheese in some of its branches and while supermarkets haven’t run out of goat’s cheese yet, some are anticipating problems: “there may be some supply issues as we move into February,”a Co-op spokesperson told The Grocer. “Cheese producers are telling me they’re finding it hard to get goat’s milk,” says John Farrand, managing director, Guild of Fine Food, which runs the World Cheese Awards. How did we get here, and how long will goat’s cheese lovers and gastropubs have to cope without their favourite fromage?

“It’s a perfect storm of rising demand and falling production, in both the UK and Europe,” says Mike Hind, marketing manager at St Helen’s Farm. “There’s been a steady increase in demand for fresh goat’s milk, primarily from people realising they might be having digestive issues with cow’s milk.” Demand for the milk has a knock-on effect for the cheese, particularly as “the UK is not self-sufficient in goat’s milk”. Things were made worse here in the UK because of the poor weather last winter, which lead to lower production, says Hind. The growing popularity of goat’s cheese means more producers are getting into the sector, “but finding it hard to get milk as established producers have the supply sewn up,” says Farrand.

To meet demand, some British producers import goat’s milk from the continent, but it’s there where shortages are really beginning to bite. Production is down across Europe, particularly in France, where some goat farmers have quit the industry because of low prices, and Holland, which is yet to fully recover from a 2010 cull to prevent the spread of Q fever. Couple decreased production with Europe-wide demand for soft French chèvres in particular, and the fact that goat’s milk production is naturally lower in the winter et voila: un shortage. “On an industry level, we’re aware that in some cases demand is outstripping supply, particularly for French goat’s cheese,” says Chris Dawson, cheese buyer at Waitrose.

Industry experts predict that the great goat’s cheese shortage of 2014 will last until around April. In the meantime, British goat’s cheeses seem to be more easily available than soft French ones: “We stock such an extensive range of British goat’s cheese, that we’ve maintained good availability.” says Waitrose’s Dawson. “We’ve been able to keep up with demand as we make a hard goat’s cheese like a cheddar, and the majority of the market is for soft goat’s cheeses,” says Hind.

Without soft chèvre, what will chefs offer vegetarian diners? “As bad as the shortage is for farmers, it might be a nice thing for vegetarians who’ll finally get a bit of variation when they’re eating out or round people’s houses,” says food writer Alice Hart, author of Vegetarian. “Goat’s cheese became a stock vegetarian dish in the 1990s, around the same time that balsamic vinegar and sun-dried tomatoes were huge,” says Hart. “Delia has a lot to answer for with those caramelised red onion and goat’s cheese tarts that ended up on every menu.” In the States, goat’s cheese found its champion in Alice Waters, who sparked a craze for salads topped with baked chèvre in the 1980s.  Both goat’s cheese tarts and salads are still menu fixtures in restaurants and pubs across Britain. Hart would like to see chefs move away from the cheese and create more inventive vegetarian options: “Thai salads, vegetarian summer rolls – something with a bit of pep to it.” If the goat’s cheese shortage lasts much longer, they may be forced to.

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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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One Day Cheese Making Course Monday 20th January 2014 – cow’s milk

It is a little bit short notice, but we are running a one day home enthusiast cheese making course on Monday 20th Jan.  We will be making a cow’s milk Wensleydale.

We need a minimum of two people, maximum four or five and so far have one person, John.

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.

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, 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 Wensleydale if you fancy it.  We hope to give you enough knowledge and confidence to make decent cheese safely at home.

We should finish at about 2.30pm.  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 ionahill@gmail.com


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