Happy Cheese Makers Since 1978

FREE SHIPPING | orders over $65 within the USA, applies at checkout

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?

This month 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.

at one time the essence of ... 'the Scots Made Cheese'

About the 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 – 1820

On 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.

Dunlop, a true Scot cheese

Traditionally the milk butterfat content ranged from 3.9% to 4.4% which passes into the high fat content of the cheese. This high fat content was enabled by the smaller fat globules of the Ayrshire cows milk, which allow an ease of incorporation of fat into the curd.

Today's dairy milk is standardized at about 3.25% butterfat. You can increase the fat level of this milk by adding 3-6oz of heavy cream to your milk.

The higher butterfat and the lower culture activity will result in a sweeter and moister cheese.

I find that this cheese works better in the larger 4 gallon size but if you would like to make a 2 gallon version simply reduce the culture and rennet by 1/2.

Before you Begin:

You will need:

Everything needs to be clean and sanitized.

Acidifying and heating the milk:

Begin by heating the milk to 86F (30C). You do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of very warm water. If you do this in a pot on the stove make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats

Once the milk is at 86F the culture can be added. To prevent the powder from caking and sinking in clumps sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in.

The milk now needs to be kept at this target temperature until it is time to increase for cooking the curds. Hold the milk with culture quiet for the next 60 minutes to allow the culture to begin doing its work. The culture activity will be very slow initially but will soon kick into its more rapid rate of converting lactose to lactic acid.

Coagulation with rennet:

Then add about 1/2tsp of single strength liquid rennet followed by a very even bottom to top mixing for about 1 minute.

The milk now needs to sit quiet for 45 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd. You should notice the milk thickening at about 15 min. but wait the full time for a good coagulation.

The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm during this period. It is OK if the temp drops a few degrees during this time.

Cutting curds and releasing the whey:

It is important to always check the curds for a good set. If you find it too soft simply wait another 5 to 10 minutes to check it again.
A good curd test is shown below.
This can be confirmed by lifting the curd with the flat part of a knife and watching it split. You should see a clean break meaning that the split is clean along the edges and no small bits breaking off as you see in the picture below.

Testing the curd for a good set
and the first cut shown here as whey rises post cut.

Once the curd has set well it is time to cut. The cut size for this cheese is larger than a cheddar curd for a moister cheese and the final cut size should be about 3/4".

  • First make vertical cuts at right angles to one another at about 3/4" spacing (It should look like a checkerboard as shown above).
  • Then allow cut curd to firm up for 5 minutes which allows the cuts to heal slightly before you make a horizontal cut of about 3/4" spacing. The second cut can be done with a flat ladle or knife cutting at an angle. When the curds have been fully cut, give them a very gentle and brief stir to avoid breaking the cut curds . Allow these to rest for about 5 min. again to heal the second cuts.

The next step is to stir gently for about 10 min. so as to firm the curds before beginning the cooking phase. The curd will be very soft at this point (remember this will be a moist cheese) so be very gentle with a bottom to stop movement. If the temperature has dropped during this time bring it back to the 86F temp.

Cooking the curds :

Next it is time to begin drying out the curds. This will be done by increasing the heat slowly to 97F (36C) during 20 minutes. The heat needs to be increased slowly at about 3-5F (1C) every 5 minutes at the beginning.

The total cooking time will be 20 minutes and may be extended another 10 min if the curds are still soft.

The final curds should be cooked well through and should be examined to make sure that enough moisture has been removed. A broken curd should be firm throughout and the curds should have a slight resistance when pressed between the fingers.

When this point is reached the curds should be allowed to settle under the whey. This is commonly referred to as pitching the curds (don't ask why???) . This phase allows the curds to become more acid while retaining a good final moisture. You can give them a brief stir every 5 min. or so to keep them from consolidating .. that is not what you want. This should take another 20-30 minutes before the right acidity is reached.

Removing the whey:

Once the curds are ready, remove the whey down to just above the level of the settled curds. They are then ready for draining and molding.

removing the whey once the curds are ready

The dry curds can now be transferred to a colander or drain pan lined with butter muslin.
They should be allowed to drain for 10 minutes and a gentle stirring will make sure that the whey drains off and curds form a compact mass.
Since the traditional Dunlop was set into larger blocks with more weight, add about 1 gallon (8+ lbs.) of warm water to the top of the consolidating mass.

draining the curds to produce a compact curd block for final acid development

The curd mass now needs to be kept warm for the next 2-3 hours while the bacteria continue to convert lactose to lactic acid. More whey will be released as this happens so allow this to drain off. You should also note a change in the taste of the whey as it loses its sweet character.
The higher acid will also cause a change in the protein and calcium causing a very different texture in the cheese. Keep the curd mass warm during this period.

Preparing the Final Curd for Salting and Press:

Once the curd mass is ready you will note that it has changed in character. It will have spread out as the acid production continued because some of the calcium that bonds the proteins has been released.
When the curd mass is torn in half, the regular curd structure that was normally regular and roundish when you began will be stretched out and the curd when torn will seem more like a cooked chicken in texture.

At this point we are faced with a large flatish mass of curds that need to be cut or torn into smaller pieces before salting and molding.

For this style of cheese, by the time we get to this point, we need to dry salt the curds because we have finished the work of the bacteria and need to stop them by using salt.

If we were to apply this salt to the surface of the large cheese mass it would take days or weeks to reach the center and this could finish as an overly acid and dry cheese instead of the sweet moist cheese we want.

In order to achieve this we need to reduce the mass to smaller pieces so that the salt can penetrate quicker. Therefore it is essential to cut or tear the mass. For this particular one about 3/4" is the right size.


Once we break the curds we can add salt.

The most accurate way is to determine the final curd weight and use 2% of that in salt.
For this particular cheese we weighed the curds at 4.75 lbs and 2% of that is 1.52oz or roughly 2.5tbs of salt if using a moderate grain cheese salt (measuring salt by weight is always better than by volume).

Add the salt in 2-3 doses allowing a few minutes for the salt to dissolve and penetrate the curds. Mix it well as you go.

Molding and Pressing:

Once the salting is complete, the curds can be transferred to the mold lined with a draining cloth. These should already be sanitized and ready for use in a place that the cheese can drain as it is compressed under weight.

For pressing we should begin very light and slowly increase the press weight to a moderate level:

  1. 30 minutes at 20 lbs.
  2. 90 minutes at 45 lbs
  3. 3 hours at 75 lbs
  4. 4-6 hours or Overnight at 75 lbs. after flipping

The rate of whey running off is simply a matter of drops and not a stream of whey being released. This is a good rate of whey removal during pressing and will slow even more as the residual free moisture is released. The form should show tears of whey weeping from the form very slowly. When this stops you can increase the weight slightly. The cheese should be removed from the press, unwrapped, turned, rewrapped, and put back to the press at the above intervals. To assure an even consolidation.

At each turn you need to remove the cloth and redress the cheese.
You will notice the cheese has formed a smoother surface and rests lower in the mold with each turn.

cheese as it appears at the end of the 2nd and 4th turn


The cheese can now be waxed for aging. For details on waxing the details are here.

The cheese can then be placed into your aging space at 52-56F and 80-85% moisture.
Your new Dunlop cheese can now be aged for 3-9 months and it will ready for your table depending on your preference.

Even with waxing the cheese needs to be turned every 5-7 days for exposure to a new free surface

time for the long sleep in the aging space where the magic happens

Sept 17&18 Beyond the Basics
Oct 1&2 French Style Cheese
Oct 22&23 Beyond the Basics

Jim Wallace has been our technical resource for a number of years now, teaching and answering our technical questions. He is also the person who researches, develops, and writes our recipe pages every month. He is an expert photographer, a great teacher and a wealth of knowledge.

For a more hands on and personalized experience in cheese making, Jim Wallace our Technical Guru offers several workshops at various levels to answer your questions. Each workshop is designed to work through the process of making 3 very different cheeses to explore as many phases of cheese making process as possible in the 2 day sessions. You will gain the knowledge & experience to apply not only to the cheeses made during the session but to many other cheeses in the future. This is because the study approach is the Why and How of the many individual concepts in each process and not just a set of instructions or written recipes.

His years of experience in working with cheese makers both here and in Europe plus his many years at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese (VIAC) program at University of Vermont will prove to be a helpful resource for you to move your cheese making to the next level

The workshops are kept small to provide time for everyones questions.

Imagine spending the weekend with a group of other cheese makers from all over having wonderful lunches together with plenty of cheese to taste. At the same time immersing yourself in the cheese process while getting all of your questions answered.

Anyone that has been here will agree that it is possible to have 'Uber' Fun while learning a lot.

More Recipes

Jim Wallace
September 2016

Share With Friends:

You May Also Like: