Whether it’s creamy, crumbly, tangy, nutty or stinky, SCOTTISH CHEESE is developing a reputation for excellence. Ruth Hedges charts the growing success of this sensuous treat, while cheese maestro lain Mellis chooses and
describes our finest produce.
ime was when you’d go down your local Scotmid and get a big block of mild Cheddar wrapped in plastic and that would be you — cheese needs met. If parents were generous
Dairylce triangles or a tube of Primula spread. but only for treats. Now. you can’t walk further than a few hundred yards without catching a whiff of Stilton or a ripe Brie. So what‘s happened? There‘s been something of a change in the air over the last 20 years and it‘s a fine. rich. heavenly honk.
Post-war rationing limited Britain’s production to seven varieties and the ensuing drive for mass production made these seven — but just in ever-greater quantities. And then all of a sudden they didn‘t seem so appealing any more. With holidays spent on the continent and a bit more money in the pocket. Brits. not famed for their discerning culinary taste. started getting a bit demanding: a bit (’.l‘])(’l‘ilﬁ(’l11(l/. Vacuum packed Cheddar just didn‘t cut it. So the 80s saw something of a cheese revival and Scotland rediscovered an art that had been forgotten in the glinting flash of 20th century mechanised farming. Small farms from Grimbister on the Isle of Orkney to Beeswing in [)umfries started going back to their traditions to produce cheeses such as Criffcl. Loch Arthur. Bonnet and Dunsyre Blue. and created a quality of fromage that is now coveted worldwide.
It is part of a radical shift in food habits. Hams. salamis. olives. breads. beers and pales have become
‘; i3"; 8 must have
they‘d indulge the kids in a round carton of
foodstuffs for which curiosity and appetite are seemingly now insatiable. and the very need for such a thing as The List’s Deli & Good Food Guide speaks volumes. Movements such as the organic one. mottos like ‘think globally. act locally‘. BSE and the rejection of mass-produced. bland. bulk-driven produce have all influenced this and turned farmhouse industries like the Scottish cheese one into a rich. thriving scene whose problems are often only in keeping tip with the demand.
Iain Mellis is Scotland‘s best known purveyor of these specialin cheeses. He has worked with The List to select his top ten — starting with his two favourites below - and over the next three pages will navigate you through their flavours. textures and origins: revealing where they‘re from. what makes them so special and tantalising your taste buds with lavish descriptions.
Debate still rages in The List as to whether cheese is a sensual stuff in which to indulge or a distinct turn off. In some camps there is almost a fetishising of this milk. fat. bacteria and mould product. Creamy slithers melting in the mouth: rich. pungent chunks crumbling on the tongue: gentle. smooth pieces spreading across the palette. It‘s the new chocolate for food sex. With this in mind. and wishing to help enhance all areas of our readers’ lives. we‘ve asked some of Edinburgh and Glasgow‘s top restauranteurs for their best recipes using Scottish cheese. And so as not to leave anyone high and dry. there‘s a directory of the best sources for purchasing this magic mould. Now. say cheese.
that Lanark Blue is available
emu Who Barry Graham. Beeswing. Dumfries
From Unpasteurised cow's milk
Why so gorgeous This semi soft cheese is made from the milk of Shorthorn cows raised slowly on organic pastures. It is moist with a Creamy richness that makes its Subtle flavour most satisfying. Tasting many different cheese daily as we do. yOu might s00n tire of aggressive flavoors that lack substance. Cheeses with big powerful
balance and understatement. Barry's high quality organic milk is a strong foundation for a Subtle but rich, moist cheese. There is a slight fragrance of good clean earth abOut it and a strong double cream taste and texture that lingers in a memorable aftertaste. This Scottish cheese will continue to please after other cheeses have. perhaps. lost their allure. Taste test Sweet. buttery. tangy with a hint of cool. musty cellar.
Who Humphrey Errington. Ogcastle. Carnwath. Lanarkshire
From Unpasteurised. sheep‘s milk
Why so gorgeous High up in the Clyde Valley. 1000 feet above sea level, Errington farms and milks the sheep to make his Lanark blue. It's sometimes referred to as Scotland’s Roguefon. Errington was the first person to milk sheep commercially in Scotland. His sheep lamb twice a year and this means
all year round. Because the milk varies slightly. depending on what stage of lactation the sheep are in, the cheese will be slightly different from season to season — but this is the beauty of real farmhouse cheese. Try Lanark blue With a drizzle of mild clover Scottish honey. Taste test Early season: long. lingering sweet flav0ur with a sharp sav0ury undertone. Late season: develops more of a savoury undertone and a tangy punch.
Scotland is up there with the best of them when it comes to producing good quality cheese, but we’ve got some catching up to do on the volume front.
Britain consumes over half a million tonnes of cheese every year, but that amounts to less than 10kg per person. And the vast majority of it is Cheddar. Among European nations. only Portugal and Spain eat less. By contrast. the Greeks are avid cheese noshers. consuming 24kg each. But perhaps we are catching the disease: imports of Feta grew by 45% in 2003.
Britain imponed just under 100,000 tonnes of Cheddar in 2003. 65% of which came from Ireland. French farmers sold 58.000 tonnes of cheese to Britain in 2003. of which 9.000 tonnes were Brie or Camembert.
France is the world's largest cheese consumer, with every inhabitant eating an average of 25kg a year. Surprisingly. France's most popular cheese is Emmental: it is twice as popular as Brie.
Switzerland's favourite cheese is also Emmental. lndividual Emmentals mea8ure up to 1 metre across. Such a cheese would require around 1500 litres of milk to produce.
In the USA. a Department of Agriculture directive in 2001 halved the size of the holes allowable in domestically produced Swiss cheese (the US name for Emmental). to make it easier to cut in industrial slicing machines. The Swiss were predictably outraged.
Nonh America's most popular cheese is Cheddar. but Emmental runs it a close second. Finland is the leading importer of emmental into the USA.
10—24 June 2004 THE LIST 15