Discovering Dutch Cheeses
Amongst the famous windmills and glorious green pastures full of grazing cattle, Holland’s history has a heritage of cheese, milk, and butter that dates back centuries. Although the country is just a speck on the world map, it may be surprising to know that such a small European country is, in fact, the world’s largest exporter of dairy products! Holland sends the majority of their cheese to America, Western Europe, and Japan, the dairy industry is what keeps Holland thriving.
The Dutch cheese industry has undergone a massive modernisation in this last century. Modernisation that has brought technology such as milking machines and computers to farm. Despite the advancements, there are still many dairies who make cheese the traditional way, as well.
Cheese making remains an art which is ingrained in Dutch culture. Traditional cheese markets are still held in the towns of Gouda, Edam, Woerden, and Alkmaar, to this day. Not only that but visitors can explore cheese museums and sixteenth and seventeenth-century whey houses throughout the Netherlands.
As we all know, Holland is home to one of the world’s greatest cheeses-Gouda, but it is also home to many more excellent creations which are definitely worth appreciating:
This cheese showed up a little late to the cheese game, being created in the 1990s. Nonetheless, this sweet buttery cheese is delicious in its own right, is made from cow’s milk and a lot less expensive than the original Swiss variety. Its shape is like a boulder and is domed on top and has large holes throughout. You can enjoy this cheese in many different ways, salads, sandwiches, and breakfasts.
Famous all over the world, Edam is Holland’s second most exported cheese, after Gouda. It is made from skimmed or part-skimmed cow’s milk and is semi-hard. The pressed cheese is usually shaped balls which range from 1-4 pounds in weight. People generally consume Edam whilst is is still young in age. The color is pale yellow with a smooth texture and sweet, nutty flavor. You can enjoy this cheese in many ways such as with a tall glass of Pinot Noir or a pint of dark beer.
Leyden is a traditional farmhouse cheese which is a big favorite of the Dutch. It is made from a partial blend of skimmed cow’s milk and buttermilk. Cumin seeds or caraway are mixed in with the curds before they are pressed so that the aroma gives off a spicy note along with a creamy, nutty flavor. It can be quite similar to Gouda, but it is a lot drier and is shaped differently. The rind is also painted with red plastic or annatto. You can enjoy Leyden with a nice glass of dark beer and bread on the side.
This is definitely Holland’s most famous cheese and it is also its biggest export, contributing to more than half of the country’s cheese production. Gouda gets its name from the Dutch town which is outside of Rotterdam and the flavor is very similar to Edam, with the exception that it is made from whole or part-skimmed cow’s milk. The creamier texture and yellow interior are due to the higher fat content. You can either eat Gouda fresh or aged. The vary in flavor is that when it is young, the flavor is sweet and fruity. When it is aged, it is more complex and cheddar-like. If you mature it for over 18 months, the cheese is coated in black wax while younger variations are covered in rinds of yellow wax. Gouda can be a delicious table cheese or a great addition to a wine pairing.
Even though this cheese is produced in some of Holland’s modernized dairy plants, the savory kind is still smoked using ancient brick ovens which are filled with smoldering hickory chips. A lot of cheese lovers will attest that the brick ovens make the smoky, brown rind the cheese’s best part. The cheese as a whole is creamy yellow colored and can be flavored with garlic or herbs. Smoked Gouda would definitely be an amazing addition to a cheese board.
Dutch Mimolette (Commissiekaas)
This creamy, hard cheese made from cow’s milk is bright orange with rough gritty skin. It might as well be an aged Edam colored with carrot juice. This cheese takes around 6-12 months to ripen and when young the texture is firm and oily. When it is aged, however, its colors turns into a deeper orange and the cheese texture becomes harder. Its aroma is fruity with a nutty flavor.