Scottish cheese – the great revival
Scotland had lost all its farmhouse cheeses. They’d all gone to the great farmhouse cheese heaven.
In 1972, the Scottish Farmhouse Cheese-makers Trophy was discontinued, as there had been only one entrant in six years: a certain Mr Finlay. Even he gave up making cheese in 1974, and it looked like Scottish farmhouse cheese making had disappeared forever.
A similar trend was being echoed throughout the UK, as farmers gave up making cheese through pressure from the Milk Marketing Board and a lack of demand for true farmhouse cheese.
Traditional Scottish cheese had always differed from that of England and Wales, as the Roman’s never invaded Scotland and spread their cheese-making techniques. Scottish cheeses tend to be more Celtic in origin: weak-bodied acidic cheeses such as cottage cheese.
The classic Scottish examples were Caboc (acidified cream rolled in oats – Highland Fine Cheeses example is pictured) and Crowdie (acidified skimmed milk). With industrialisation and the blurring of boundaries, Scotland also became noted for other cheeses such as Dunlop, a similar cheese to Cheddar. Alongside this, many farmhouse varieties sprung up, including a number of sheep’s milk cheeses. Slowly but surely, however, as with the decline of British cheese, they disappeared from existence and it seemed like Scottish farmhouse cheese had gone forever.
But things would change.
The early 1980s saw a revival, as some farmers returned to cheese making. New producers making quality artisan cheese started to arise. Slowly but surely the movement gained momentum and more and more farmers joined the fold, so that some of these farmhouse cheeses can now take pride of place at The Courtyard Dairy.
Three Scottish cheeses definitely worth looking out for are:
- Criffel. Since 1985 Loch Arthur have been pioneers of Scottish farmhouse cheese. Criffel is a rich, vegetal washed-rind cheese that breaks down over 3 months to produce a supple creamy texture.
- Lanark Blue. One of the cheeses that pioneered the revolution: Scotland’s spicy rich answer to Roquefort. Developed by Selina’s father Humphrey Errington in 1985 – Humphrey is widely regarded as one of those key figures that fought off the authorities to keep unpasteurised cheese alive. Read more about it here. Humphrey also developed a fermented wine drink made from whey left over from the Errington’s cheese-making – an ancient Scottish drink (traditionally called Blaand, their version is called Fallachan) … interesting is all we’ll call it! (It’s a bit like a cheesy sherry!)
- Anster & St Andrew’s Cheddar. Made by Jane Stewart in Anstruther, Fife.
- Anster is a recent invention using her husband’s unpasteurised cows’ milk, it is aged for three-months and is crumbly and moist, with a lemony finish. Buy Anster cheese here.
- St Andrew’s Cheddar is a mature, tangy Scottish Cheddar, again using their own milk and aged for 12-months.
- What better time to enjoy Scottish cheese than for Burn’s Night – You can buy all four cheeses as part of The Scottish Cheese Gift Selection here.
- Some of the other great artisan Scottish cheeses include:
- Isle of Mull – Cheddar, Hebridean Blue Cheese
- Dunlop Dairy – Dunlop, and from goats’ milk: Ailsa Craig, Glazert, Bonnet
- Highland Fine Cheeses – Strathdon Blue, Morangie Brie, Caboc, Crowdie, and from sheep’s milk: Fearn Abbey, St Duthac
- Connage Highland Dairy – Dunlop, Clava
- Errington’s also make a cow’s milk blue: Dunsyre, and a goats’ milk blue: Biggar Blue as well as a hard sheep’s milk: Corra Linn.
- Loch Arthur – Cheddar, Criffel
- Barwhey’s – Cheddar style
- Cambus O’ May – hard cheeses including Cambus O’ May, Lairig Ghru and Lochnagar
(if there is any missing – please let me know!)