This week Norton & Yarrow, a fantastic cheese maker here in the Chilterns, won the Best New Producer Award in the Great British Cheese Awards. We caught up with Fraser and Rachel to find out more about a typical day.
The alarm goes off at 6.30 and we always start with a good breakfast and chat about what the day has in store. As a relatively new business (we got our first goats in January 2016), we are still growing and changing quickly, so each day has new and different challenges! Next we head down to the Earth Trust farm, where we keep the goats, for morning feeding and milking. It’s a beautiful spot, between the Thames and the Wittenham Clumps, and deer, hares and red kites are all common early morning sights. The goats are always pleased to see us!
Once the goats are fed and milked, our next port of call is Nettlebed Creamery, where we are tenants, for cheesemaking to begin. Depending on what stage of the making process we are at, this might involve ladelling curd into draining bags, salting and moulding up cheeses, turning cheeses, wrapping and labelling up orders…and always lots of cleaning! You need a spotlessly clean environment for making cheese and so that occupies a few hours every day.
On days when we start off a cheese make, the afternoons are when we pick up milk from the farm and bring it back to the Creamery to start the acidification process. Our cheeses are made to traditional French recipes which involve very slow, gentle acidification, resulting in very delicate, light cheeses. This means that once we have started a vat off in the late afternoon by heating the milk to 22C, adding a little starter culture and vegetarian rennet, we then leave it overnight to do its thing. The afternoons also provide an opportunity to catch up on tasks around the farm –trimming the goats’ hooves and routine healthcare and maintenance jobs often need seeing to. We’ve been transforming an old dilapidated barn into a small milking parlour over the summer, so that has kept us busy too.
We do an evening feed and milking of the goats around 5pm – bedding them down for the night, giving them fresh feed and concentrate and freshening their water. We are lucky to have lovely hay from the Earth Trust wildflower meadows on the banks of the Thames, and it has a wonderful smell so topping up the mangers is always a favourite job! In the early days when we were running the business on top of other jobs, we often ended up making cheese late into the evening after work but now we are full time cheesemakers, we are usually home for dinner by 7 or 8. So then it’s just the small matter of making sure we’re on top of the admin – accounts, orders, emails, website, all the usual things involved in running a small business. We also like to make sure we have some time to relax and unwind.
Norton & Yarrow; www.nortonandyarrow.co.uk; email@example.com.