Visit with Mary Holbrook at Sleight Farm, UK
Over the course of the last week, I had the good fortune to be trotting around Somerset in the UK. The focal point of the trip was to attend a two day conference at North Cadbury Court, home of the Montgomery family and the famed Montgomery cheddar. I will be writing about this later - suffice for now to say, it was incredible.
Since the west country is home to so many remarkable UK cheesemakers, I also arranged a couple of other visits around the conference, including a visit to Mary Holbrook's Sleight Farm, located near Bath.
Having originally trained as an archaeologist, Mary became one of the UK's first goat cheese producers during the seventies and at a time when goat's milk cheeses were a rarity in England. She learned by visiting producers in France, Italy Greece and Portugal and over the course of the last forty years has become renowned for the quality of her raw milk cheeses as well as for production of Cardo, a goat's milk cheese coagulated with thistle rennet - a process normally associated with cheeses from Spain and Portugal.
The goats, who live outside on pasture during the summer months, have access to a varied diet and consist of a mixed breed herd, including a number of Boer goats. Boer goats are normally associated with meat production and although they give comparatively little milk compared to traditional dairy breeds, the quality and components of the milk are very high and, in Mary's view, add considerably to the overall characteristics of the milk she uses for cheesemaking.
Although Mary used to make several cheeses from sheep's milk as well as goat, in recent years she has chosen to focus on the goat's milk varieties. She currently produces Tymsboro, an ashed goat's milk pyramid, Cardo, a washed rind cheese inspired by a Portuguese cheese recipe and Old Ford, an aged goat's milk tomme.
On the afternoon of our visit, Fred Dickieson was in the dairy applying the characteristc mix of salt and charcoal to the outside of the freshly formed Tymsboro cheeses.
Here are a selection of photos from the visit