Crowdie – an essentially simple but historic Highland cheese.
- Jo Ewart Mackenzie
- 1 May 2009
Possibly Scotland’s most ancient cheese, crowdie is thought to date back to Viking and Pictish times, and might have disappeared completely had it not been for an enterprising farmer’s wife in the 1960s.
Made at one time by every crofter in the Highlands, crowdie involved souring fresh milk by a warm fire or sunny windowsill, then cooking gently until it curdled. Once separated, the whey was drained then salt and cream added to the curds, making a crumbly white cheese. The Pictish version would have been firmer and saltier, pressed into crocks and covered with melted butter, to make a longer lasting cheese.
Crowdie production declined following World War II and the demise of crofting, but years later in the Ross-shire village of Tain, Susannah Stone continued to make it at home. One day in 1962, she made too much and offered the surplus to a local grocer. Heralding the return of crowdie to the Highlands, Susannah’s crowdie became the first artisan cheese produced by family business Highland Fine Cheeses, now run by her son Ruaraidh.
Further artisan cheese makers now produce their own crowdie, the version made by Connage Highland Dairy being crowned Best Scottish Cheese 2008 at the Great British Cheese Awards. ‘Crowdie was traditionally eaten before ceilidhs to line the stomach to help alleviate the ill effects of whisky,’ says Jill Clark, partner in Connage. Characterised by its whipped mousse-like texture, Connage crowdie goes particularly well on scones with jam, for a ‘Highland twist on the traditional cream tea’.
● Producers of crowdie in Scotland are Connage Highland Dairy www.connage.co.uk, Highland Fine Cheeses 01862 892034, West Highland Dairy www.westhighlanddairy.co.uk, and Devenick Dairy www.devenickdairy.co.uk