I have been sharing my love of cheese with you now for a little while, in my last article I said I would give you some more details of my visit to local dairy Nortons, based in Frettenham. I was first introduced to Nortons soft delicate cheeses at Aylsham’ Agricultural Show. Their original (base) cheese is soft, white with a sweet, citrus, creamy yet salty finish, to this they add flavours including, Apricot, Chilli (my husbands’ favourite) and award-winning Lavender. I am not normally a fan of Lavender, yet Emily’s marriage of this with the cheese is magical. As with other edible flowers the taste is often less intense than the aroma, the delicate herbal yet slight perfume plays across the palette in a unique way, combining to make a soft cheese that not only pairs well with an oaty biscuit on your cheese board, but gives a different dimension to cooking. As cream cheese the Nortons cheese range lends itself to cooking. A crumbly based malty cheese cake is heavenly with the Apricot. I’ve used the lavender as a stuffing for chicken breast with herbs, paired with new potatoes and carrots.
So, we have a great local product but where does it come from? I contacted Will and Emily and asked if I could visit. (They hold educational visits and are happy for people to visit as long as you book in advance via their website). I met Will just outside the sheds where the ladies were spending their final weeks before heading out to the fresh grass that surround the farm. The herd is a ‘closed’ herd, this means the cows do not leave the farm and new cows are the offspring of the herd. Most of the cows are Brown Swiss, selected for their hardy hooves perfect for the soft Norfolk terroir, high-quality milk but mostly for their nature. They are gentle giants, the gentlest of these big-eyed beauties is aptly nicknamed ‘Cuddles’ (legal name Beth Emerald). This grand lady is about to be 12 years old, the herd also has her daughter and granddaughter. Cuddles was relaxing at the end of the barn but I met her daughter, as she was heading to the automated milking area with her silky deep grey brown coat, she stood a hand above the others around her. Will informed me that most of the herd will see a long life and even once Cuddles is ready to stop producing milk she will have a roll in the nursery, where the calves grow until they are either added to the herd or take a short walk over a couple of fields to join a different herd for beef production.
The dairy (20yards from the milker) pasteurises the milk ready for sale to a local milk man or suppliers. As well as cheese they also make, yoghurt and butter. Ronaldos use the cream to make their ice-creams. You can also purchase Nortons products from local farm shops for delivery, including, White House Farm (Sprowston), Meales Farm shop (Wroxham), Beeston Garden Centre and once re opened Jarrolds Cheese counter.