Hindrum Gårdsysteri Portal Låven
Produsenter | 23.10.23

The gothic cheesemakers on the Fosen Peninsula

Is it possible to be a gothic industrial electronica DJ and make cheese on a farm dating back to the 1500s? Absolutely. At Hindrum Dairy Farm cows and cheesemakers join together in the hillside overlooking the Trondheim Fjord.

by Mai Løvaas/Oi! Trøndersk Mat og Drikke

It's a grey October morning in the tiny town of Hindrem on the Fosen Peninsula. Up on the hill above the fjord towers the farm Hindrum, and curious young cows tread around in the wet pastureland. 

Inside the Hindrum family kitchen herbs and flowers are hanging from the ceiling to dry and kombucha is brewing silently on the counter. From the window by the kitchen table you can see the view of the ocean and Trondheim on the other side of the fjord.

Kombucha brewing on the kitchen counter

This is the farm where Frode Hindrum and Lise Mathiesen run Hindrum Dairy Farm.

From what they know Hindrum Farm has been here since the 1500s, probably even longer, explains Frode Hindrum. 

Niels Lykke mortgaged the farm from the Tautra Abbey. Then came the reformation and the king took properties from many, including Nils Lycke. He lost the farm and both Tautra Abbey and Reins Abbey were given to Lady Inger of Austråt. That's how Reins Abby came to be the proprietor of Lower Hindrum Farm around 1537, although the the true owner was Lady Inger of Austråt. 

- There have been farmers in this area all along, and the farms in the 1600 and 1700s were large. The farmers paid taxes in the form of cheese, Hindrum says with a laugh.

The Hindrum Farm

From the music scene in Copenhagen to the private music festival on Hindrum Farm

Lise Mathiesen and Frode Hindrum met each other in Copenhagen in 1999, when he studied film and cinema studies and she studied egyptology. He told her that he would be inheriting the farm, and invited her to come visit in the summer. She did, and was charmed by the beautiful farm and the villagers of Hindrem.

Together they decided to run the farm, and Hindrum began school at the Organic Agriculture College in Copenhagen. In 2016 they moved from the city and onto the farm for good.

- We were urban city people for a good part of our lives. We love Copenhagen, so we had to bring something with us from that world and up here, says Mathiesen.

Lise Mathiesen and Frode Hindrum have many walls in their house filled with records, as one of their major interests is in music

At the farm they have built a stage, and every summer they have a private festival with invited music friends from the US, The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. The musicians bring their families on vacation to Hindrum, and they love being able to play music on a farm in Norway. They set long tables together for a Viking feast and have dormitories for the guests in the barn. 

- They love our cheese too, says Hindrum and laughs.

They enjoy traveling abroad to experience music. For 22 years they have traveled to the world's largest gothic music festival Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Leipzig in Germany, where Frode Hindrum is resident DJ. The festival marked its 30 year anniversary last year.

They have a large record collection in the living room, and describe their music taste within the genres of gothic rock, industrial, dark electronic metal and a lot of folk music and 70s rock.

CD-collection in the living room

In 2009 they turned the farm into an all organic farm. At the same time Mathiesen, who by now had finished her master's in history of religion at The Norwegian University for Science and Technology in Trondheim, was involved in a car accident. She was getting a migraine by sitting too much in front of the computer, and found herself doing other things, like experimenting with making things from their fresh farm milk. For a few years they ran the Hindrum Mountain Dairy Farm, selling milk and butter, waffles and traditional Norwegian sour cream porridge.

The living room at Hindrum

Goddesses and dairy cows from egyptology and mythology

Even though Mathiesen didn't become an academic, her education in history of religion and egyptology was not wasted.

Every year they have around 16 calves on the farm, and every year they give the new calves names originating in a specific mytholog, and usually they are goddess names.

One year they had Nordic goddesses grassing the fields, such as Frøya and Frigg, another year there were Egyptian goddess cows: Bast, Isis and Seshat. One year they had Indian goddess names: Parwati, Lakshmi, Saraswati, and the year after they were goddesses from the South-American Incan culture: Pachamama, Saramama and Chaska. They also had a season with African goddesses as Mbaba Mwana Waresa, Inyanga and Nomhoye.

- What's the mythology this year?

- Star Wars! exclaims Hindrum and laugs.

- We have decided that Star Wars is its own mythology. We have cows by the names of Ahsoka, Amidala and Leia, he says.

The Star Wars gang, out grassing the fields

A dairy farm in the making

In 2011 the cheese making journey began for real. From what used to be called Leksvik Municipality they were asked to make a business plan and were referred to the innovation company Proneo.

- We got an incredibly talented mentor at Proneo named Paul Sverre Røe. He helped us with lots of things and together we created the business plan. Trøndealg County Authority actually gave us an award for our business plan, Hindrum says. 

Then things took off. They got help to write a funding application for Innovation Norway, they got extra funding from Trøndelag County Authority, and they got to take cheesemaking workshops with the well known cheesemaker Pascale Baudonnel and with Ragnhild Nordbø from Grindal Dairy Farm. Nordbø also assisted with planning and development.

Frode Hindrum and Lise Mathiesen inside the cheese ripening room. Here the cheddar named Kjerringklump has been ripening for six months.

English cheese processes and the cheddar Kjerringklump

Around the time they started developing into cheese makers they found that in Norwegian grocery stores there were either just traditional Norwegian cheeses, or French cheeses like Brie and Camembert. They traveled to England and took classes to learn about traditional British cheese making processes. There they developed a fascination for cheddar, which led to them developing Kjerringklump, a cheese that after pressing is covered in butter they make on the farm and dressed in cotton cloth for further ripening for six months.

Hindrum is inspired by English cheese making processes, something that has resulted in several kinds of English cheeses

- Kjerringklump is quite a bit of work to make, but it's a fascinating process to make it, Mathiesen says.

Kjerringklump has the Norwegian Specialty Brand and won silver in the World Cheese Awards in 2019 and 2021.

The name Kjerringklump (meaning 'Old Woman Hump') comes from the nearby Fosen mountain Kjerringklumpen, which is the region's tallest mountain at 601 meters above sea level. it's also a popular hiking trail.

- We have a lot of older women coming to buy it and laughing about the name, says Hindrum.

- And one time I was selling cheese at Torvet, the town square in Trondheim, when then prime minister Erna Solberg came by. I gave her a cheese. 'An old woman hump for an old woman hump she said, says Hindrum and laughs.

Local mountains and nature name the cheeses

All the cheeses have names from local mountains and areas in nature in Fosen. The cheese Aksnes is named after an area right below the mountain Munken ('The Monk'). Aksnes is marinated in beer - it used to be organic beer from Reins Abbey but since they stopped production the beer now comes from the Trondheim brewery Monkey Brew.

- We have a really good collaboration with Monkey Brew. It's great to be able to work with one of Trøndelag's best breweries, Hindrum says.

Aksnes has received both silver and bronze in the Norwegian Cheese Awards and has been awarded as Organic Product of the Year during Trøndelag Food Festival in 2019.

Frode Hindrum and Lise Mathiesen together with the judges at Trøndelag Food Festival when they were awarded Organic Product of the Year. Photo: Wil Lee-Wright

- We're bringing with us the Aksnes IPA-jack for the World Cheese Awards next week. Unfortunately we can't say that the cheese is organic anymore, as getting ahold of organic craft beer in Norway is impossible. We could import from abroad, but that does not go along with our values, Hindrum says.

Kjølhei Cheese is inspired by the British cheese Chesire and Våttåhaug Cheese is a version of the very popular American cheese Monterey Jack, and Dragestrand is a porter-cheddar.

Then they have feta. All cheese makers make feta, explains Hindrum. The cheese Oldervik is a cheshire bathed in Old Sloth Barleywine from MonkeyBrew.

Both Hindrum and Mathiesen enjoy a variety of visual expressions. Their logo shows a female deer, in old Norwegian language called a 'hind.' 'Um' is also an old expression, meaning 'resting place.' The female deer - the hind - is resting under the trees. The logo also shows movements appearing like water. Mathiesen explains that the river nearby is called Hindra, a name from the Viking era. 

The Hindrum Gårdsysteri logo.

Hindrum supplying cheese to Trondheim restaurants and markets

So where can we buy cheese from Hindrum Dairy Farm? 

The cheese can be had in Trondheim restaurants like Kraft Bodega, Credo, Britannia and Kalas og Canasta in Trondheim. In Oslo the gourmet food store Matcompaniet stocks their cheeses and sells both in the shop as well as online.

As for themselves they prefer to prioritize Trondheim, and don't need for the cheese to travel so far. Locally they supply cheese to the popular Mevassetra, a mountain dairy farm and café in the 'Fosen Alps', as the locals like to call them.

Selling the cheese is not a problem and they would have loved to have the time and capacity to make even more. They have stands at Trøndelag Food Festival every year and also the farmers markets. And they will have a stand at The World Cheese Awards in Trondheim October 27-28.

Lise Mathiesen at Trøndelag Food Festival. Photo: Albertine Vestvik

When the Christmas Market has emptied the stock they enter a somewhat calmer season in winter, a time where they make cheese for the coming year.

They both enjoy food and cultural events, both Norwegian and international and travel to farms in other parts of the world to see how they do things there. But they also enjoy just staying at home on the farm.

- Hindrem is a small town, but very inclusive of everybody. We're very happy to be here, and then we have both Danish and Norwegian friends, both on nearby farms as well as in Trondheim, which is nice. Here life is good, says Mathiesen.