Dunlop, a Cheese from Scotland
Scotland,the beautiful land of extremes, from its Highlands and stormy sea coasts, to the rolling hills of the Borders area.
While best known for sheep raising, was there ever a place for cows milk and cheese making here?
In this recipe we will look back at a cheese from Scotland that has it beginnings as far back as the 17th century. A cheese with a true traditional pedigree.
About Dunlop Cheese
The cheese for September is the famous traditional Scottish Dunlop, that was originally produced on a farm near the village of the same name in Ayershire Scotland.
The Dunlop cheese was traditionally made with a higher-moisture, then matured for five to seven months. The result is a mellow cheese, with a little tanginess.
Traditional Ayrshire Dunlop is a hard cheese made from the raw or pasteurized milk of Ayrshire cows. It is a natural pale yellow in color which is attributable to the Ayrshire milk. When cut it has a smooth close surface which feels moist to the touch.
In its early stages, Traditional Ayrshire Dunlop has a very mild nutty flavor and smooth close texture. As it ages, subtle, nutty, creamy flavors develop and the texture becomes smooth and slightly springy.
The shorter the period of maturation the milder the cheese. As the cheese ages, stronger flavors develop. The youngest cheese would be around 6 months and the oldest 18 months, but the most popular age is between 10 and 12 months. The more mature cheeses will have a drier texture as with time they will have lost some moisture.
The Ayershire is a breed of cattle which was highly regarded for its milk producing ability. The breed was initially called the ‘Dunlop Cow’, but is now known as the ‘Ayrshire Cow’.
The Ayershire cow is well adapted to cheese making with its balance of protein and fat, as well as the smaller fat globule they produce. They are also well suited to the more rugged terrain and aggressive weather of Scotland. They are hardy creatures that can spend long periods outdoors.
A Bit of History
During the 17th century in Scotland and it's Religious/Kings wars, many of the outlawed Presbyterians were exiled to Ireland.
One such woman was Barbara Gilmour who, on return to the west of Scotland, settled back with her husband John Dunlop onto the family farm in Dunlop, East Ayershire.
With her return, she brought her skills learned from making cheese in Ireland. However, the process ran counter to the existing manner of preserving milk which removed much of the cream as was common in much of England at that time. Gilmour's method was to use whole milk with no cream removed. The resistance to this new method was great and came very close to accusing her of witchcraft, which had dire consequences in those days.
She held to her methods however, and gradually it became well accepted for it's flavor and texture with the full cream. It became known as a "Sweet Milk Cheese" in comparison to the rather lean skimmed cream cheeses that were being made at the time. In fact this cheese won out and was eventually imitated by many farms in this region as well as throughout other parts of Scotland. Her method produced a distinctly creamy texture and mellow, nutty taste and was so widely copied that Dunlop soon became Scotland’s most famous cheese.
Unfortunately, those farm produced cheeses are hard to find today since production has gone to larger dairies and the cheese today is really made more as an earlier ripening cheddar style of cheese but still uses the "Dunlop" name. Traditionally it was a very unique style and quite different from today’s cheese.
In his historical writings on Cheese from the British Isles, Patrick Rance (one of my favorites) speaks of the fame of these traditional Dunlop cheese through the late 19th century but then waning during the early 20th century. He mentions that by the 1970's the traditional cheese was quite hard to find.
Today the name lives on but not in the same cheese that Barbara Gilmour introduced. Most of what is produced as Dunlop today comes from the large dairy, The Clerkland Farm.
I am hoping that my guidelines below and this enlightenment to follow are more in the character of that traditional cheese of Scotland.
The following was written by the Rev. Hamilton Paul circa 1800 – 1820On Tuesday morning at the peep of light,
Take all the milk that has stood overnight,
and, by the lustre of the dawning beam,
With a clean clam shell, skim off all the cream,
And from her lazy bed the dairy maid
Be sure to rise, and call her to your aid;
With rosy cheeks and hands as soft as silk,
Bid her hang on the pot and warm the milk,
Let not her heat it with too great a lowe,
But make it tepid, as warm from the cow;
Restore the cream, and put in good strong steep,
But through the molsy first let the milk dreep.
Now pay a due attention to my words;
And press, O gently press, the snow white curds;
Nor mash them small, (now mark well what I say)
Till you have squeez'd out almost all the whey.
Light be the weight for hours, one, two, or three,
And then the pressure may augmented be,
Oft change the clouts, and when the cheese is dried,
Send for the Parish Minister to Try't.