The Tale of Two Cheese Makers

The Tale of Two Cheese Makers is a mini photo story that illustrates two, very high quality cheese makers, who champion markedly different approaches to what is essentially the same, millennia old, cheese manufacturing processes.

Tim Reidar Stenberg & Anne-Lise Søndrol both live and carry out their business close to the shadow of the mighty Hallingskarvet mountain plateau in Hallingdal, Norway, and I met them whilst working on a larger commission for Ostebygda - a collective of 8 award winning mountain farm cheese producers firmly established in their local community of Hol.

Tim's clean aesthetic opens this gallery, followed by Anne-Lise's earthy warmth. And yes, much cheese was sampled during this commission.

Tale One / Hol Ysteri

Exacting and passionate about taste, texture and the quality control from his family’s Hol Ysteri (ysteri is Norwegian for cheese factory), Tim Reidar Stenberg represents a new wave of highly technical, world class cheese makers.

After qualifying as a Master Chocolatier and pastry chef and rapidly building a promising career, Tim to decided to change course, as he thought there was good opportunity to be part of the growing movement around food provenance.

Growing up on the family's farm, (which until recently primarily raising goats) and learning all the associated practices, and therefore understanding hidden value in its livestock, Tim calculated that by combining some considered financial investment with his meticulous approach to recipe development, he could produce noteworthy goats cheese and reinvigorate the farm's purpose and future enrichment.

That considered risk paid off, as Hol Ysteri's goat and cow cheeses are amongst the finest in Norway, and after only a couple of years' progress - made a noted winning debut at the World Cheese Awards!

Tale Two / Fagerdalen

Anne-Lise Søndrol refers to her cows as friends. Extraordinarily, since 1702, her family have run a remote summer mountain dairy (commonly known in Norwegian as a ‘støl’) called Fagerdalen. Every process the small farm holding carries out, is by hand - from the twice daily cow milking and cheese production - to supplying the støl's kafe with utterly sumptuous Rømmegrøt, Asningskaku and Kvikaku, three traditional and much loved food staples in any proud Norwegian's diet.

Fagerdalen produces the very finest Trøgost / Knaost (kneaded cheese) Surystil (kind of cottage cheese) and Kvite Kyosten (a very traditional white cheese) and can be visited each summer, once the deep snow clears.

Arriving at dawn, ready to document the cows wander into the milking shed from the surrounding hillside (with the precision of homing pigeons I might add) I joined Anne-Lise for strong black coffee. Throughout the day we talked about her family's historic rural lineage, the demanding work, and her passion for continuing to produce some particularly rare hand made cheeses, unchanged yet refined during the course of 300 years.

Fagerdalen støl is carved into rugged pastoral scenery, an untroubled landscape that provides Anne-Lise and her husband Leif Rune a simple, yet productive mountain hideaway.

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