If you would ask me to describe the Netherlands in only three words, without even thinking I would list the following: tulips, wind(mills), and cheese. Gouda Cheese! Big yellow round wheels or thin sliced in boxes with the Dutch flag on it, Gouda cheese is absolutely famous and known all over Europe, even around the world. Nowadays Gouda cheese (named after the town of Gouda) has become the name with which most foreigners associate cheese made in the Netherlands. The cheese is, however, produced mostly industrially these days and made from pasteurized cow milk. Some 300 farmers still make Gouda cheese from unpasteurized milk and offer the so called boerenkaas at farmers markets.
Can you imagine that the first mentioning of Gouda cheese goes back to 1184? Unbelievably old and still so delicious! There are six different categories of Gouda cheese, based on the age. The young cheese is very mild in taste as well as soft while being cut, while with the age the taste and consistency change a lot. The old and very old cheeses are getting hard and crumbly, with notable cheese salt crystals. They also have a very deep yellow, sometimes even up to light orange, color.
|Cheese stage (English)||Cheese stage (Dutch)||Age|
|Young matured||Jong belegen||8-10 weeks|
|Extra matured||Extra belegen||7-8 months|
|Old cheese||Oud||10-12 months|
|Very old cheese||Heel oud||12 and more months|
The name Gouda is actually related to the place where the cheese was originally traded, so Gouda cheese means the ready produce was tasted, weighed, and sold in the town of Gouda. Currently there are still four cheese markets in the Netherlands, opening for tourists in the summer months and depicting the traditional cheese trading on open squares. Gouda, Alkmaar, Edam, and Hoorn are the places to head to, if you want to experience an event like this. The table below provides a short overview of when to head where. The city of Woerden also has a cheese market, but this one is a more modern one.
|City||Weekday and Time||Period|
|Hoorn||Thursdays (12.30-1.45pm& 9.00-10.15pm)||End June-end September|
How do you best enjoy the Gouda cheese? Gouda cheese may be put to use in different ways. The bars and pubs serve it cut in squares, often accompanied by local mustard. Be adventurous and forget the French rule (cheese pairs good with red wine, which of course is true), but do like the local – try it with a good beer. No doubt that Gouda cheese is great on or in the big Dutch pancakes and in sandwiches. But if you still need to figure out which is your favorite, your best bet is to visit a local market or a cheese shop. Then simply point at the ones you would like to taste and the vendors in most of the cases will slice you a piece to taste with the typical Dutch cheese cutter. However, you have not experienced it all, if you have not tried the special cheese sorts such as the ones with spices (with added cumin, fenugreek, nettle, pesto) or the other very delicious hard cheeses made from goat or sheep’s milk. Don’t miss your chance cheese-lovers, these delights are not sold abroad and are only to be found and bought on Dutch ground.