Hattit Kit is a Scottish dessert made from milk with sugar and a flavouring such as cinnamon or nutmeg.
It is essentially a fresh, soft-curd cheese. In its preparation, it is very similar to Crème Fraîche.
To make the “genuine” recipe, you would use unpasteurized milk. Variants may call for (unpasteurized) sour cream. More modern recipes call for rennet to make up for modern milk being pasteurized.
To make it, in the morning, you’d take 2 quarts (2 litres) of warmed buttermilk and add to it 1 pint (1/2 litre) of whole milk, and let it stand all day. In the evening, you’d mix in another 1 pint (1/2 litre) of whole milk. The coagulated layer that formed on top was called the “hat.”
You’d skim that off, and serve it flavoured with sugar, and powdered nutmeg or cinnamon if available.
Earlier versions may have been related to what became known as “syllabub”, with some recipes directing you to get the whole milk straight from the cow to ensure it was warm (in a borrowing from syllabub recipes.) There is also an occasional allusion to wine being added, making it even more syllabub-like.
Literature & Lore
“A remarkable preparation is hatted kit, in Erse, Bain ne ce. Buttermilk is put into a kit with a spiket, and left to stand for twenty-four hours: warm milk is poured on twice a day, for three or four days; the top is then a sort of coagulated cream; the lower part is let to run off. It is now, like Carstophine cream, falling into disuse. It is mentioned in the Gowrie trial two and a half centuries ago. “Ane fyne hattilkit wt sukar comfetis, and wyn.” — PITCAIRN’S Trials, part iv, p 285.” quoted in Urquhart, David. The pillars of Hercules, or, A narrative of travels in Spain and Morocco in 1848. London: Richard Bentley. 1850. Vol II, page 183.
“…and thereafter I would meet your Lordship in Leith, or quietly at Restalrig, where we should have prepared an fine hatted kit, with sugar and comfeits and wine…” — In: Arnot, Hugo. A Collection and Abridgement of Celebrated Criminal Trials in Scotland: From A. D. 1536 to 1784. With Historical and Critical Remarks. Glasgow: A. Napier. 1812. Page 62.
“He exalted his voice amid the clatter, shouting and roaring in a matter which changed Mysie’s hysterical apprehensions of the thunder into fears that her old fellow-servant was gone distracted. “He has dung down a’ the bits o’ pigs too — the only thing we had left to haud a soup milk — and he has spilt the hatted kit that was for the Master’s dinner.” — Caleb in Scott, Walter. The Bride of Lammermoor. Columbia University Press. 1995. Page 95.