Mission accomplished! Claire is out from behind the castle walls, and off with the lads to collect the rents and “attend to a wee bit of business here and there.” (TV Dougal can be so damn ominous.)
Along for the ride with Claire and the MacKenzies is an old book favourite of mine, Ned Gowan. Gentleman Ned, an adventurous solicitor originally from Edinburgh, looks after all of the MacKenzies’ legal requirements, including the recording of rent monies and their equivalents.
In place of coins, Ned will take bags of grain or turnips, well-trussed fowl, perhaps even a goat. On no account, however, will he take a live pig, which seems pretty reasonable to this semi-rural girl, who has hopped the gate of a pig pen just in time on more than one occasion.
Another common currency accepted as rent in the Highlands was cheese, specifically crowdie.
Scotland’s most ancient cheese, crowdie dates back to Viking and Pictish settlements. At one time, every crofter in the Highlands made it by souring freshly skimmed milk beside a warm fire then cooking gently until it curdled. The whey was drained away, leaving a crumbly white cheese.
Now, because most of us no longer have access to raw (unpasteurized) milk, and the fact that modern food-safety sensibilities would result in hives on many if I asked you to leave the milk out of the fridge to develop into a bacteria bath overnight, we’re going to change up the process a little bit for our homemade crowdie.
I’ve made a number of unripened cheeses in my time; most of the world’s cultures have at least one variety. Paneer from India, Mascarpone from Italy and Queso Fresco from Mexico, just to name a few. They all use acid, in the form of vinegar or lemon juice, to curdle the milk and separate the curds from the whey.
Their processes result in cheeses with similar textures to, and the fresh taste of, crowdie (which I have tasted on multiple occasions). Just as important, they’re made with ingredients and tools that most of us have on hand.
Sounds like a winning Outlander Kitchen recipe to me!
If you’re interested in a dairy that still makes crowdie using traditional methods, check out Connage Highland Dairy. I have had the pleasure of devouring two of their Organic Cheese Boxes whilst on vacation in the Highlands in 2011, and again in 2013.
Holy cow, they make great cheese.
Other Outlander Kitchen recipes that pair with Episode 105: Rent
If you have access to raw milk, by all means use it! I suspect you’ll get a better yield than the rest of us using pasteurized milk from the grocery store.
Embrace your inner crofter and make some crowdie. Who knew you could make your own cheese easily in under 2 hours?
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
: A soft, unripened cheese traditionally made by Scottish crofters. Delicious on oatcakes, bannocks, scones and sandwiches.
Yield: Approx. 1 Cup
- Whole Milk – 1 Quart
- White Vinegar – 2 Tble
- Salt – ½ tsp
- Whipping Cream – 1 to 2 tsp (optional)
Heat milk in a large, non-reactive saucepan (do not use aluminum) over medium heat. Stir occasionally to prevent milk from scorching.
Continue to heat until milk simmers and foams sligtly (195° F on an instant-read thermometer), about 20 minutes. Do not allow milk to boil. Remove pan from heat and drizzle in vinegar. Stir gently, once, then allow to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
Check to ensure that milk has curdled, meaning that the white curds have separated from the translucent whey. If not, stir in another tablespoon of vinegar and wait another 5 minutes. Once the curds and whey have separated, allow pot to sit undisturbed for 30 minutes.
Line a colander with muslin or 4 layers of cheesecloth. Ladle curds into colander, and drain until the crowdie is like a wet cottage cheese, about 30 minutes. To speed up the draining, use a rubber spatula to gently fold the curds over each other occasionally. Do not press down on curds.
Gather corners of cloth together, and tie around a wooden spoon handle or sink faucet. Hang cheese 30 minutes. Twist bag gently once or twice to expel the last of whey.
Scrape into a bowl and stir in salt and optional whipping cream. Store covered, in refrigerator, for up to 5 days.
Ith do leòr! (Eat Plenty)
- Using unpasteurized (raw) milk will result in a greater yield.
- A thermometer is not required for this recipe (wait for the milk to foam, but not boil), but an instant-read thermometer is a handy multi-use, inexpensive tool for both cooking and baking.
- No vinegar? Substitute 2 Tble of fresh lemon (or lime) juice.
- No cheesecloth or muslin? Clean cotton/linen dishcloths or t-shirts work well, as does a coffee filter. I rotate through a set of ancient, but almost unused, avocado green linen napkins that I bought from my local thrift store for 10 cents each.
- Use the cooled whey to make bread, in smoothies, feed it to the chickens and pigs, or at the very least, pour it into your compost.
- My crowdie was creamy enough without adding the cream. Although the traditional finish to crowdie, I’ve made it optional.
- Flavour up your crowdie! Mix in chopped herbs, garlic or black pepper. I kept my crowdie unflavoured, but served it with fresh cracked black pepper and smoked salt, which was delicious.