Sinodun Hill is made by Fraser Norton and Rachel Yarrow, who only decided to become cheese-makers in 2014. Fraser worked in Project Management and Rachel was a teacher, but they felt a yearning for a different way of life. Such momentous changes take time to bring to fruition, but, in February 2016, they were ready to welcome their first goats to the barn that they had rented at Earth Trust Farm, a charity which helps people start up new agricultural businesses through a Farm Step scheme.
The first two goats, mother and daughter, arrived in February, and eight more arrived a week or so later. Fraser and Rachel now have 24 milking goats, another 10 due to kid in early Summer, another 15 goatlings (coming up to a year, but will kid for the first time next February), and 18 female kids who are 1-4 weeks’ old. What a difference a year makes!
Their aim has always been to make the highest quality goats’ cheese from the milk of their own herd but you have to start somewhere, and so, while they build up their herd, they have been buying excellent milk from a local goat farmer.
From the very beginning their standards were high, and their ambition has paid off. They looked to the great goats’ cheeses of France for inspiration, and have chosen a very slow, lactic set recipe, which preserves the flavour of the milk. They toyed with using no rennet at all but were not happy with the results, and have settled instead on using a tiny amount of French thistle rennet coagulant. This makes for a fabulous texture: smooth and rich, mouth-filling, but never cloying or claggy. The cheese has a thin, beautifully wrinkly coat that develops natural spots of blues, greys and greens over time. The taste is great too: sweet, almondy and complex. All in all, a truly lovely cheese.