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How you can help save Norfolk cheese

PUBLISHED: 13:00 03 May 2020

Ferndale Farm Cheeses  Picture: Ellie Gillard Photography

Ferndale Farm Cheeses Picture: Ellie Gillard Photography

Ellie Gillard Photography

The first ever British Cheese Weekender runs from May 8-10 and it’s our chance to save and savour local cheeses

The milk for Nortons cheeses comes their cows, grazing on the family farm in FrettenhamThe milk for Nortons cheeses comes their cows, grazing on the family farm in Frettenham

Some of our cheese producers have been hit hard by the lockdown, losing the majority of their customers overnight as restaurants, cafes and pubs were forced to close. Now a new weekend celebrating British cheese has been put together by cheesemakers and independent retailers to encourage people to buy regional cheeses and ensure the coronavirus does not kill off local specialities.

While many supermarkets focused on factory made block cheeses, small dairies were left with maturing rooms full of stock, and, particularly for soft cheese producers, concerns about keeping it.

Here’s how to support our local cheesemakers, continue enjoying their delicious products and keep local businesses thriving through the pandemic and beyond.

Norfolk White Lady from Willow Farm DairyNorfolk White Lady from Willow Farm Dairy

Ferndale Cheeses, of Barningham, near Holt, is still selling its Norfolk Dapple and soft Norfolk Tawny cheeses via local shops but had to temporarily halt production as it had so much stock which should have gone to pubs and restaurants.

Arthur Betts of Ferndale said: “We have a full storeroom of Norfolk Dapple, a traditional English Cheddar-style cheese which at the moment we are not selling much of, as about 75% of our custom is usually from local pubs and restaurants. We’ve temporarily stopped production as we have so much in stock. We are still running our cheese-smoker, so have Smoked Norfolk Dapple as well.”

Norfolk Dapple is made with raw milk and matured using traditional butter-and-bandage methods. The final cheese reflects the diet of the cows,” said Arthur. “This is a good thing for us, as our cheese is made from the excellent raw milk of Abbey Farm in Binham, where the cows graze the lush pastures of the abbey grounds.”

Retailers selling the cheese include Walsingham Farm Shop, Roys of Wroxham, Tacons Farm Shop in Rollesby, and Budgens of Holt. Son of Christie Cheesemonger are delivering or couriering cheese to customers and anyone interest in buying direct should email Arthur.

Find out more here about Ferndale Cheeses.

Nortons Dairy at Church Farm, Frettenham, near Norwich, uses its own fresh milk to produce a range of cream cheeses including original, with chilli, with apricot and with lavender.

It has actually increased production and Will Alderton of Nortons said: “Thanks to the hard work of our brilliant team we have been able to continue to produce, and significantly increase, the amount of milk we are processing in our dairy. We have added on extra deliveries in order to meet demand and ensure that our community is well stocked with our cheese and other products!”

The cheeses are available via doorstep delivery in Frettenham and in farm shops and village stores including White House Farm in Sprowston, The Tacons Farm Shop in Rollesby, Meales Farm Shop near Stalham, Budgens of Aylsham and Holt, Algy’s Farm Shop in Bintree. A complete list is available on the Norton website and Will said: “Many of these outlets are working incredibly hard to not just keep their shelves stocked but to deliver to people’s homes too. The massive effort from these shops, and increased demand for local produce, has truly been amazing.”

At Fen Farm Dairy, Bungay, Jonathan and Dulice Crickmore will be showing virtual visitors around as part of the British Cheese Weekender. They make brie-style Baron Bigod, described as “a raw milk cheese which has a smooth silky texture and a golden curd, with a long lasting earth, farmyard and mushroom flavours” and have had to adapt how they distribute it, working closely with doorstep delivery companies and increasing online sales. They also supply to many delis and farm shops as well as having their own 24 hour self service shed where visitors can buy milk, coffee, fresh bread, eggs and meat as well as cheese.

Julie Cheyney of St Jude Cheese near Bungay is producing her St Jude and St Cera cheeses. Her sales plummeted with the closure of the hospitality trade but after making no cheese for three weeks she has restarted production. “Some of the shops that I supply have creatively reinvented themselves to supply customers in other ways and so there is a limited demand from them but at least there are some orders coming in and I am so grateful for that,” she said.

She does not sell directly but her cheeses can be bought in farm shops and delis and she has contacted online food businesses to ask whether they would add her cheeses to their ranges. “That way we keep the chain of businesses and workers in place and employed from the farmer, from whom I buy the milk, myself, couriers and the shop or online shop where customers can buy my cheese,” said Julie. “All my cheeses are made from the beautiful raw milk from the Montbéliarde breed of cow at Fen Farm, a family farm near Bungay.”

St Jude is her best-selling small soft cheese, presented in a wooden box, and Catherine said: “It is so delicious right now as the cows are at pasture during the day which influences the flavours in the cheese.”

Her recipe suggestion is:

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Roast off a selection of small tomatoes. Tear up fresh basil over the roasted tomatoes. Top with pieces of St Jude and grill until the cheese has melted. Serve on lightly toasted sourdough bread, perhaps with a glass of white wine.

Jane Murray of Willow Farm Cheeses, Deopham, near Wymondham, is still making all her ewes’ milk cheeses - Norfolk White Lady, Wissington, and Deopham Blewe - and selling them through delicatessans, farm shops, butchers and market stalls throughout East Anglia.

“When the hospitality sector ceased trading the demand for larger, cutting sized cheeses was greatly reduced. As a result I have concentrated on making more of the individual Norfolk White Lady cheeses as orders for these has remained very good.” She described the best-selling Norfolk White Lady as a creamy brie-style cheese, whle Wissington has been compared to a Manchego and Deopham Blewe is a lovely creamy blue cheese, deliberately less salty than some blue cheeses. All are made from ewes’ milk which means they are very creamy and often suitable for people with dairy intolerances.

Other Norfolk cheesemakers include Mrs Temples at Wighton, near Wells and Fielding Cottage at Honingham.

Where to buy Norfolk cheese

Mark Kacary, managing director of The Norfolk Deli, Hunstanton,is supporting local cheesemakers by relaunching its online cheese boxes and joining the national #supportourcheesemakers campaign.

Its cheese hampers are usually particularly popular at Christmas but now Mark is offering a variety of cheese selection boxes including Mrs Temple’s Delights featuring cheeses made in Wighton near Wells by Catherine Temple, the Norfolk Cheese Taster and the Norfolk Cheese Taster Deluxe. Other boxes include artisanal cheeses from Suffolk and from elsewhere in the country.

“The British cheese industry is in crisis,” said Mark. “Industry heavyweights such as Jamie Oliver have gone onto platforms like Instagram to highlight the plight of dairies.Many dairies have had to cut production because of the closure of restaurants and cafes. This the easiest way possible to buy a range of cheeses which many people will not have tasted, but which are not only delicious but vital to the survival of the British cheese making industry.”

Each box includes tasting notes and care advice.

The Norfolk Deli has also introduced “A night in at the theatre” platter of cheeses, charcuterie and deli delights, designed to be delivered ready to enjoy while watching one of the special lockdown theatre screenings.

Son of Christie Cheesemongers is Dereham Market on Fridays from 8am-1pm and offers free home delivery to postcodes NR19, NR20, NR21, NR23, PE32 and PE37 and can send cheese further afield by courier.

The Cheeseman stall on Norwich Market stocks many Norfolk cheeses and is opening 9am-2pm Thursday to Saturday. Owner Paula Taylor is also doing deliveries locally - full details at www.facebook.com/thecheeseman1/

The British Cheese Weekender has been put together by cheesemakers and independent retailers to encourage people to buy local cheeses. The free online cheese festival will feature live-streamed talks, tastings, farm tours, quizzes and cookery demos - including a tour of Fen Farm, where Baron Bigod cheese is made, and a talk by St Jude cheesemaker Julie Cheyney.

Farm Tour Live! is at 4pm on Sunday May 10, followed by St Jude Cheese: Raw Power, at 5pm. See here for full details.


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