Crowdie – an essentially simple but historic Highland cheese.

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Crowdie

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

Connage Highland Dairy

Milton of Connage, Ardersier, Inverness, Highland, IV2 7QU

Connage Highland Dairy is a traditional, family-owned, fully organic business. A family business in the true sense of the word, Connage is owned by brothers Callum and Cameron and their wives Jill and Eileen. Callum and Jill manage the cheese side of…

Devenick Dairy

Bishopston Farm, Banchory-Devenick, Aberdeenshire, AB12 4RS

Devenick Dairy was born in 2006 when the Groat family decided to use their fresh milk to create their own products. They now produce a wide range of cheeses, yoghurt and cheesecake – including a cranachan flavour with raspberries and toasted oats. At…

West Highland Dairy

Achmore, Ross-shire, Highland, IV53 8UW

Having spent almost 40 years between them working, consulting and teaching in the dairy industry, it’s safe to say David and Kathy Biss know something about cheese-making. So much so that Kathy even wrote a book - Practical Cheesemaking - on the…

Comments

1. Amadan Dearg9 Oct 2016, 2:14pm Report

Crowdie or "gruth" as we call it in Gàidhlig, was never in danger of "dying out". My relatives were making it when I was wee, they learned how to make it from their parents and I could make it now from memory. What you are referring to is a commercial production of what is literally a "cottage industry" to this day. The very idea of buying crowdie is bizarre! Incidentally I use full milk and add a little salted butter at the end. Crowdie is also nice with chives or thyme if it is being used fresh.

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