Buying Aged Gouda Cheese
Every once in a while you meet someone who really, really knows their stuff about a particular food topic and a couple of weeks ago I meet this guy Jack at our local farmers market in the cheese area and we get to talking.
Jack is a colorful guy who tells it like it is and doesn't care if you like what he has to say or not. As soon as we started talking, I knew I could learn a boatload from him.
I sampled a taste of aged Gouda cheese at a charity event to benefit Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, an incredible group of people whose goal is to raise money to find a cure for childhood cancer "one cup at time." Many of you may have heard of Alex's foundation but if not, I highly recommend you visit their site and read more about them and make a contribution.
It is a wonderful cause and I will write about the event in a future blog.
Back to Aged Gouda Cheese
Most of us have enjoyed some form of Gouda cheese in our lives. It is a yellow cheese made from cow's milk and is often found with the red or yellow paraffin wax coating in the supermarket. It gets its name from the city of Gouda in the Netherlands where it originated.
Gouda as a young cheese is easy to slice and may be great to serve to the kids in their lunch packs but just doesn't have that much flavor. It's great if you enjoy a mild, mellow flavored cheese but if you want a much more distinct flavor, you'll want to try aged Gouda.
Aged Gouda has a wonderful distinctive flavor that can be both sharp and sweet - think of butterscotch. It is a hard cheese that doesn't come in the red wax covering, but a natural buff colored rind. The cheese itself has an amber color that Jack explained to me comes from a coloring agent called annatto that gives it the pale orange color.
I read in one of my favorite cheese books, Cheese Primer, that some cheeses "once had a natural orange hue caused by the vitamin D that cows ingested from grazing on green plants. But winter milk comes from cows that are fed silage, and the cheeses that result from this milk are white."
So the cheese makers started adding food coloring like annatto to the milk so they would look the same year round. Jack explained to me "all cheese are naturally cream colored and many use coloring for eye appeal."
The Short of It
- Country: Netherlands
- Milk Type: Cow
- Cheese Type: Hard
- Color: Pale Orange
- Taste: sharp and sweet
- Age: 4-8 years
When I asked Jack about aged Gouda, he pulled out several selections for me to try. Each sample was older than the next. There was 4-year-old cheese that he called Hollander, a 6 - 8 year old Gouda and a 4 - 5 year old "farmer's cheese" also called Boerenkaas made from whole, raw cows milk. They were all delicious but I chose the Hollander to buy.
All of these cheeses had a distinctive sweet and salty taste with a hint of butterscotch at the finish. Their colors were all deep amber to burnt orange and the textures were very similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano. In fact, Jack told me many of his customers use these aged Goudas as a substitute for Parmesan cheese for grating.
What to Drink with Aged Gouda
We all know the Dutch love their beer and make some of the best beers in the world. Jack said these aged Goudas are perfect to serve with strong Dutch beer as well as fruity red wines and tea.
I highly recommend you give this cheese a try if you can find it in your local cheese shop and then tell us about your experience with it in the comments section below.