Meet the Maker: Norton & Yarrow
Barbury Hill is delighted to introduce our latest small, independent food producer, Norton & Yarrow. And it’s good news for all you cheese fanatics, this is the newest addition to our artisan cheese category! Hailing from the Earth Trust Farm in South Oxfordshire, it’s a small but growing independent business and the awards are already rolling in. Find out more about Norton & Yarrow below and head to our Barbury Boxes to sample the delicious Sinodun Hill.
Meet the face behind Norton & Yarrow
While Barbury Hill’s Artisan Cheese is a popular category with an extensive range of handcrafted, organic cheeses, we’ve been on the search for a goat’s cheese to add extra choice for our customers. And as soon as we tasted the delicate mousse-like texture and fresh, citrus flavour of Sinodun Hill, we knew we’d found ‘the one’.
Meeting Fraser Norton and Rachel Yarrow and seeing the passion they held for their produce confirmed that their goat's cheese was perfect for Barbury Hill. Their story began almost serendipitously, with a holiday in a villa in Sicily where a past visitor had left a copy of ‘Woman & Home’. An article about a goat’s cheese maker sparked an idea that they grabbed with both hands. Both had been on the look out for a new challenge and this was it.
Luckily, while Fraser was working in project management and Rachel as a teacher, both had farming in their blood - Fraser's grandparents had a 200-acre farm in Nottinghamshire, and Rachel's parents farmed in South Wales in the 1970s. Nevertheless, cheese making was something new, which arguably made the challenge even greater! But driven by a passion for high animal welfare standards and sustainable farming, they’ve joined a growing movement of independent producers reviving the British tradition of high quality artisan cheese making.
They heard about an initiative, Farm Step, run by the nearby environmental charity, Earth Trust, that offered tenancies to farm businesses pushed out of farming by high land prices. This provided the base they needed to start raising their goats and working on their artisan goat’s cheese. They sold their first cheese in 2016 and in just a few short years their cheeses were being featured on cheese counters of some of the biggest names in the business.
Meet the Goats
Norton & Yarrow’s herd of 160 goats is made up of purebred Anglo Nubian goats, with a handful of British Toggenburg. The high fat content of Anglo Nubians’ milk has given them a reputation as 'the Jersey cow of the goat world', and is responsible for the wonderful creaminess of their cheese. This creamy texture is enhanced by the goats’ diet; hay from the wildflower meadows at Earth Trust Farm where they graze outside on permanent pastures from March to October. It’s thought that around 30% of the flavour of a cheese is created by the animals’ diet, and we’d argue that the delicate, fresh flavour of Sinodun Hill is evidence of their natural diet.
As you know, Barbury Hill places great importance on sustainability and high animal welfare practices, and Norton & Yarrow is no exception. They’re careful to avoid soya and palm oil in the goats’ supplementary food, and follow high welfare standards that include allowing the kids to be naturally reared by their mothers until they are old enough to be weaned off milk, which is sadly unusual in the dairy industry.
Award-winning Goats Cheese
Winner of Best New Cheese at the British Artisan Cheese Awards 2017, Gold Medals in 2017 and 2018, Gold at the World Cheese Awards 2018 and Best New Artisan Producer at the 2017 Great British Cheese Awards, Sinodun Hill has quite the fanatical follower amongst cheese connoisseurs. And for good reason; this pyramid cheese is moreishly flavoursome with a fresh, citrus flavour that deepens as it ages to reveal almond and red fruit notes. We’re particularly keen on its creamy, mousse-like texture.
These delicate layers of flavour and creamy texture are the result of careful crafting and a traditional process which is slow and uses very little added cultures and rennet, allowing the milk itself to be the star of the show. It takes 4 days to create the cheese, after which it is ripened for up to 21 days to develop the beautiful ivory rind and draw out the complexity in the flavour and texture. Good news for vegetarians - the rennet is derived from the cardoon thistle so is vegetarian.
Sinodun Hill in Barbury Boxes
You’ll find Sinodun Hill in our newest offering; The Barbury Box. Created in response to your requests for hand-picked selections that showcase the best of Barbury Hill’s small producers, our first Barbury Boxes focus on cheese, and include Norton & Yarrow’s Sinodun Hill, along with items from Black Cow Cheddar, Chiltern Charcuterie and crackers from Peter’s Yard. Check them out here and discover the creamy, mousse-like elegance of Sinodun Hill.
Rebecca, a talented writer, is a friend of Barbury Hill’s. When she’s not eating the best of British food and drink, she is writing about it. And when she’s not writing about it, she’s thinking about it.