Gouda, the cheese capital or Gouda, the crucial cheese ?
Gouda is a city in South-Holland. The cheese is named after the city around where it was produced and where it was sold since the XVI century. The production increased with the industrialization of the cheese fabrication at the beginning of the XX century. It is known all over the world and it has become the main cheese of the Netherlands and it is now 60% of the total cheese production of the country. In our minds, it is very tightly associated to the Netherlands and we don’t even know that there are other cheeses produced in that country: Leiden with cumin, Edam with red paraffine wax, Tynjetaler, goat’s cheese and sheep’s cheese (which can be also named Gouda cheese) which also deserve our palate curiosity.
Gouda cheese could be produced anywhere until 2010. It has now a protected geographical indication (PGI) as Gouda Holland for cheese made in the Netherlands from pasteurised milk.
The major part of the Gouda cheese production is made in an industrial way. In a small percentage it is still made in a traditional way in almost 200 farms and in some cases with non-pasteurised milk (Boerenkaas) in South-Holland and near Utrecht. You will find some farms in the polders around the city of Gouda.
Most of the cows who produce the milk, are from the Prim’Holstein species, black and white, typical cows. They come from the Netherlands and are bred in all of Europe because they produce a lot of good quality milk. And you will need a lot of milk to produce this cheese: ten liters of milk to produce one kilo of cheese!
There are several stages to produce Gouda cheese. At the end the cheese is immersed in the brine and then covered in a plastic coating, which protects it and prevents dehydration. It also gives the cheese its particular color yellow or orange. At the end you have a whole cheese with a weight from 0.5 to 16 kilos. There are even cheese wheels of 25 kg and 60 kg made in wooden cheese vats.
Only one Gouda ?
Compact, without holes, pale ocher or yellow, with complex flavors (caramel, honey, butter) all depends on the duration of refining.
This is distinguished by six stages:
- 4 weeks: Jonge kaas
- 8 -10 weeks: Jong belegen
- 16 – 18 weeks: Belegen
- 7 – 8 months: Extra belegen
- 10-12 months: Oude kaas
- More than one year: Overjarige kaas or Heel oud
Depending on the maturation stage, you’ll have a sliceable cheese at the beginning, and a hard cheese at the end (as hard as Parmesan) because it becomes dryer and dryer.
You will also see an indication of the percentage of fat, which is linked to the age of the cheese too, because it is calculated on the percentage of the dry matter — the older the cheese, the higher the percentage of dry matter. If you have the following indication: Jonge 48+, it means that 48% of the dry matter is made of fat. In the case of a young cheese the percentage of dry matter is approximately 58%, so in total you have 28% of fat in 100g of cheese.
Gouda is self-sufficient to provide you a real trip in the world of cheese flavors but you will find also Gouda flavored with, inter alia, cumin, mustard seeds or fenugreek.
They also produce Spring cheese made with the milk of the cows who have just been sent back to the green pastures. Its taste is particularly fruity and soft.
The cheese market, be a Dutch cheese buyer for one morning.
The cheese market takes place every Thursday morning from the 7th of April until the 1st of September 2016 from 10am to 1pm (except on Ascension Day, 5th of May). You’ll see how the cheese wheels were weighed in front of the Waag (the Weighing House) and sold in the past — deal sealed with a handshake and cheeses delivered on wooden carts. Enjoy the spectacle and visit also the Cheese and Crafts museum inside the Weighing House. There is plenty to keep everyone entertained, especially the kids.
Moreover, in autumn Gouda melts the cheese during SensationKaas! It’s an excuse to celebrate cheese, theatre, and Gouda during two days.
Pack Your Bags
With April you begin to feel the warmth of the sun in Gouda, but the weather can be changeable, so don’t forget a warm sweater and an umbrella. As one of the European Union member countries, the Netherlands currency is the Euro (EUR). The Netherlands is on European Standard Time (EST), one hour ahead of Greenwich Meantime (GMT).
You can take a regional train to Gouda from the main cities in the Netherlands (for example, 55 minutes from Amsterdam) or a bus from Amsterdam with a tour.
Easily accessible with your car, take care to pay your parking, controls are frequent.
“Gouda has one of the most beautiful historic city centres in Holland, full of splendid monumental buildings to admire and ancient canals with attractive terraces and pleasant shops to promenade past.” (Holland tourist information website)
Gouda’s City Hall (Stadhuis). This 15th-century building is one of the oldest Gothic city halls in the Netherlands.
St. John’s Church, a catholic church at first, became protestant. It is 123-metres long (the longest In the Netherlands) and has splendid stained-glass windows.
Gouda kaarslicht: one night in December, the city celebrates the light with music and candlelight all around town.
Visit the Cheese and Crafts museum to learn more about cheese, Gouda craft, and to attend a demonstration.
The Tourist information centre of Gouda will give you all you need to know about Gouda, where to sleep, etc…
If you want only information about the cheese and all activities related in Gouda city, go straight to Gouda, the capital of the Gouda cheese.
The website about PGI indicates how the “real” Gouda is produced.