It’s been a heck of a week. Not in a bad way, just in a ‘How much work? And I have to hand in my Masters project (which is about cheese, of course)? And try and keep two offspring alive? Eek.’ So I nearly, very nearly, decided to forget the blog this week. But then I remembered that it’s St Andrew’s Day this weekend and I had recently tried a Scottish cheese and so fate stepped in, thwacked me sharply round the back of the head with a rolled-up newspaper and said, ‘Get on with it. Tell them about Dunsyre Blue.’ So here I am. And here is Dunsyre Blue:
Dunsyre Blue is a blue, unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese, produced by Selina Cairns of Errington Cheese on Walston Brahead Farm in South Lanarkshire, Scotland (they also make the renowned and mighty tasty ewe’s milk cheese Lanark Blue). Selina’s father, Humphrey Errington started the business in the early-mid eighties and Dunsyre Blue was created in the latter half of the decade to fill in the winter months when sheep aren’t milked. It’s made to a traditional recipe dating back to The Cook’s and Housewife’s Manual which was published in 1826 (and, some believe, was really written by Sir Walter Scott).
Scotland is not renowned historically for its blue cheeses but in fact surplus summer milk was often made into cheese on remote farms and back in the nineteenth century Sir Walter Scott (again) apparently wrote of the local blue cheese: ‘we have had the pleasure of eating Scotch cheese … as good as Stilton, and taken for it.’ The milk for Dunsyre Blue comes from a neighbouring farm and is collected each morning so that farmer and cheesemaker can chat about what the cows have been eating; this may sound like unnecessary pleasantries but the cow’s diet and even variations in the weather can drastically alter the make-up of the milk, which requires the cheesemakers to make tweaks to what they usually do.
Cultures – including the Penicillium roquefortii mould – are added to the milk and it’s gently warmed and stirred for an hour. Vegetarian rennet is used to set the curds and they are then cut to form small cubes and left to ‘heal’. The whey is drained away and the curds ladled into moulds and allowed to settle in a warm room. They are then turned five times in the afternoon to encourage the remaining whey to drain away, dry salted and placed on racks in a cooler room. Finally the cheese is pierced by hand with stainless steel rods to allow air to penetrate the cheeses and start the mould spreading. It’s wrapped in foil and matured for up to four months in a stone farm building.
And the taste? Well, if you like your cheese to be of the shrinking violet variety, Dunsyre Blue is not for you. It’s a kick-ass, tastebud-assualting blue cheese. If you think of every great tasting word concerning cheese – creamy, spicy, tangy, rich – then Dunsyre Blue is all of these. It even has those little pockets of gritty liquid that hide in the blue veins – nom, nom, nom.
Additional research from Scottish Food Guide and Patricia Michelson’s Cheese.