The climate and geography of Scotland are well suited to cheese-making. The short making season in Scotland meant that traditional cheeses usually required to be capable of being stored (matured) through the winter - hence the predominance of hard (matured) cheese in Scotland and Britain. At one time most farmhouses or crofts made their own cheese, but there was little financial return. Improved transportation of milk changed the scene dramatically.
Cheese from Scotland and Scottish Cheese Makers.
Today there are still more than two dozen cheesemakers across Scotland, ranging front large industrial Cheddar creameries to the handful of artisan and farmhouse cheese makers. Scottish Cheddar accounts for 70-80% of the total output but other cheese types including Dunlop, Caboc and Blues are gaining in popularity. The main creameries are located at Locherbie, Stranraer and Campbeltown with smapller artisan operations on the islands of Bute, Arran, Islay, Mull, Gigha and Orkney. Some of the creameries are open to visitors and there is often an opportunity to buy from the farm shop. The advent of modern temperature controlled facilities and refrigerated transport has revived artisan cheesemaking in small creameries and farms across Scotland
Restaurants and specialist cheese shops have popularised the lesser known cheeses. The larger companies such as A McLelland & Son Ltd have created and marketed a range of Scottish cheeses including connoisseur cheeses to satisfy the palates of foodies anad cheese lovers around the globe. In recent years the main supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose, the Co-op and Aldi have stocked a selection of Scottish cheeses and specialist cheese shops in Scotland's main towns have extended their ranges.
If you come across interesting local cheeses while you eat out in Scotland, it may be worth enquiring where these can be bought.
Some of the Scottish cheeses to look out for are:
Bonnet: Amid, pressed goats milk cheese from small Ayrshire dairy.
Brie: Howgate Scottish Brie, traditionally made, matures to a soft runny texture - similar to Howgate Camembert.
Caboc: a Scottish cream cheese usually formed into small logs and covered with oatmeal, peppercorns or black pepper.
Crowdie: a traditional soft fresh cheese, several versions, mainly available only locally. Originally made using milk left after the cream had separated naturally. Plain or flavoured with peppercorns, garlic or herbs(Hramsa, Crannog, Gruth Dhu etc.)
Dunlop: resembles Scottish cheddar with softer distinctive texture. Mostly creamery-made in blocks on Arran and Islay but also traditionally in Ayrshire (Burns), near Dumfries and at Perth (Gowrie).
Dunsyre Blue: cows milk farmhouse blue cheese made on the same firm is Lanark Blue, with vegetarian rennet and unpasteurised milk.
Isle of Bute Cheddar: produced on Bute) is a hard medium cheese with all the characteristics of a good cheddar.
Mull of Kintyre: from the Campbeltown Creamery, is a mature cheddar with a nutty aroma and rounded taste.
Isle of Mull: traditional unpasteurised farmhouse cheddar from Tobermory. Cloth-bound.
Highland Cheddar: a mature cheese also from Campbeltown, has a unique, soft texture with a smooth flavour and strong aftertaste.
Arran Cheddar: made by traditional methods by the Arran Dairy, this is a deliciously mellow medium to mature cheddar with a creamy soft texture.
Howgate: Established artisan farmhouse cheesemaker, originally from Howgate near Edinburgh, now in Dundee, pioneered the making in Scotland of continental cheeses including Howgate Brie, Camembert and Pentland. Other cheeses include St Andrews, Bishop Kennedy, Strathkinness and Howgate Highland Cream Cheese.
Kelsae: unpasteurised pressed cheese made near Kelso from Jersey milk. Like Wenslensdale but creamier in texture and taste.
Lanark Blue: unpasteurised ewes milk cheese in the style of Roquefort.
Loch Arthur: traditional farmhouse organic cheddar from Loch Arthur near Dumfries.
The Orkney Isles Cheddar : distinctive cheddar whose history goes back nearly two centuries, made in two creameries on Orkney.
Pentland: white moulded soft cheese made in small quantities and not widely available.
St Andrews: award winning full fat, wished rind soft cheese, mild creamy, full flavoured with characteristic golden rind.
Strathkinness: award winning Scottish version of Gruyere, nearly 50 gallons of milk goes into a cheese! Matured 6-12 months. Limited availability.