A festive cheese board is a staple in many a festive feast and we’re super lucky to have a great local cheese maker in the form of Norton and Yarrow right here on the Earth Trust Farm.
Rachel and her partner Fraser set up their Anglo Nubian herd at the Earth Trust Farm back in February 2016 focussing on creating high quality, local cheese in a sustainable way. The Anglo Nubian goats are described as the ‘Jersey cow of the goat world’ due to their rich and creamy milk. At the end of the nineteenth century goats were carried on P & O steamers to provide passengers with fresh milk. These goats originated in the middle east and were know ‘Nubian’ goats. When the ships docked in the UK interested goat keepers bought up the goats and they were then cross bred with english or ‘anglo’ goats and the Anglo Nubian was born.
Fraser and Rachel have 52 goats in their herd – 29 adult milkers, 3 billies and the rest kids born this year who will join the milking herd when they are older. We paid them a visit earlier in the month and discovered each one has a name. Rachel told us she used to be a teacher and had to remember a year groups worth of children’s names so it was no problem telling us which goat was which. Mr Frosty, one of the billies was a particular character and very inquisitive, we definitely understood why Rachel used the term ‘mad as a box of frogs’ to describe him. As with the other livestock farmers at the Earth Trust farm, Fraser and Rachel’s goats will be making an appearance at the Earth Trust’s annual lambing weekends in march so you can go meet Mr Frosty for yourself.
The goats are fed on hay from the wildflower meadows at the Earth Trust Farm. They are put out to pasture in the spring but in the winter they much prefer the warm cosiness of their barn and we can’t blame them. Norton and Yarrow recently won ‘Best New Business’ at the Didcot First Business and Community Awards. and are planning on spending the prize money on adding more pen enrichment for the goats.
You might no realise it but, as with fruits and vegetables, cheeses are best enjoyed when nature intended them to be – in season. Fraser and Rachel work within the goats natural milking cycle to produce their cheese which is a method french cheese makers swear by. This means that the flavour of their cheese can vary slightly depending on the time of year. Experts estimate that up to 30% of the flavour of a cheese comes from the animals’ diet and as Norton and Yarrows herd is fed on hay from the Earth Trust meadows their diet will vary as the year goes on too. As well as fresh cheese, they also produce an aged cheese called Sinodun Hill which is matured for up to 21 days to develop flavour and texture. The result is a more flavoursome cheese with a light nutty edge and a smooth texture. Its rind naturally develops some blue and grey moulds as it ages, which add to the flavour and character of the cheese. The Sinodun Hills is the ‘proper’ name for the Wittenham Clumps, standing just above the Earth Trust farm where the goats graze. You can read more about the rind of Sinodun Hill over on Norton and Yarrow’s blog.
In the short space of time they’ve been operating Norton & Yarrow have done fantastically well, winning several awards for their cheese as well as getting their cheese stocked in lots of local outlets and some further afield including Paxton and Whitfield, cheesemakers to the queen. For December we’ll also be selling their Sinodun Hill cheese at each of our stops helping you make your festive cheese board a little more local, ethical and delicious.