Crowdie is a traditional fresh Scottish cheese dating back to the Viking era, and possibly even back to the Picts, a tribal confederation of people who lived in early medieval periods. Traditionally made in every farmhouse on a small scale with milk from their traditional house cow – Ayrshire or Galloway, Highland, Black Angus, Fife Cattle (who is now extinct) or North Dairy Shorthorn.
Today the regulations in Scotland won’t allow anyone to produce raw milk crowdie as it is a cheese with a very short shelf life and a high moisture content, which leaves it open to pathogens. The traditional Crowdie Cheese is still made by some producers who make their pasteurized version with traditional methods, and use the milk from local traditional breeds of cows, whilst the industrial versions use blends of milk to create a cheese that bear no resemblance in taste to the original product.
Crowdie is a soft fresh cheese – rich and creamy with a sharp tang. It is a fresh cheese with no preservative so has a short shelf life of 14 days so buy little and often. Made from cows’ milk, it used to be soured naturally and the warmed curds hung up to drip in muslin cloth. It is then set aside to drip then the fresh cheese is salted and the result is a soft crumbly moist fresh cheese, in its simplest form. The natural curding gives it a unique taste and citrus flavour. A small amount of rennet was regularly used. Today we use pasteurized milk and reliable cultures so rennet is not essential but still sometimes used as it makes a firmer curd.
Its texture is delicious soft and creamy with a clean fresh citrus flavour. Crowdie is often eaten with oatcakes. It is a very versatile cheese being suitable for cooking, ideal for topping carrot cake and in cheesecakes. A Scots classic is with freshly caught trout, potato scone and crowdie (pictured) There are some variations of Crowdie cheese available, Gruth Dhu is crowdie mixed with double cream and rolled in toasted oatmeal and black pepper. Hramsais a crowdie mixed with wild garlic and white and red pepper. Galic Hramsa is rolled in crumbled flaked hazelnuts and almonds.