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Gouda (Use Your Glottis)

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By Rachael Lucas

It is no secret that Gouda (correctly pronounced howduh—use your glottis) is a widely popular category of cheese. 

When I randomly ask someone if she or he likes cheese, the response I anticipate is with an affinity for this type.  Besides cheddar, gouda is a sought-after selection for up-and-coming cheese lovers.  It is approachable, palatable, and it never gets funky with age.  New cheesemongers tend to recommend it to customers until they become excited about other cheeses that have riskier flavor profiles.  Gouda is, after all, vestibular in palate development.

The Dutch have it figured out with their cheese.  Gouda is a fromage (or kaas in Dutch!) that is lactic, buttery, melty, and innocuous when it is young.  As it matures, it develops texture, sweetness, nuttiness, and ultimately, it boasts notes of caramel and butterscotch.  It is far better than candy, however.

Along with being an original from Holland, Gouda is unique from other cheeses due to its make procedure.  It is known as a washed curd cheese.  This process occurs while the curds are pressed and whey (whey is the liquid that gets separated from cheese as the curds coagulate—it is mostly water with lactose, protein, and trace minerals) is drained.  The cheese gets pressed (in order to expel whey) under its existing whey.  About half of that whey, and subsequently, much of the lactose, is drained out and replaced with water.  More whey is expelled, and then the curds get put into forms to become wheels.  This technique of washing the curds alters the pH of the cheese, making it less acidic, and ultimately creating the sweet result for which cheese novices, as well as aficionados, pine.

Beemster is a major player in Gouda production and exportation for Holland.  You can find Beemster Gouda in its variety of milk-types and ages in grocery stores all over the United States.  We cannot assume that, though Beemster is at an industrial level, the quality is compromised.  What many people do not know is that, regardless of how high the production of Gouda, Beemster prides itself in the integrity of their cheese.  This means they are concerned with everything from animal husbandry to the milking environment to its make procedure and affinage to shipping and handling. Not every country adheres to the U.S. industrial standards (or lack thereof).  We can learn a lesson from companies like this.

While there are numerous brands of Dutch Gouda available in the U.S., it is not so easy to find the artisan stuff.  Exportation can be costly, and for artisan production, it is difficult to come up with the volume to make it worthwhile to ship across the pond.  Therefore, if we want to taste a variety of artisan Gouda, it may be best to make Holland the next travel destination.

A colleague of mine did just that this year.  Janee Muha is a respected cheese professional in the Seattle area (she is known as The Mobile Monger in cheese circles as well as on Instagram), and when I asked her about her perception on Dutch Gouda, she said, “My trip to Holland earlier this year with Cheese Journeys completely changed my ideas of what Dutch cheese is and could be. The Dutch are innovative, resourceful, and have a long history of quality dairy products. Most of what we see imported into the States is not this, though. There are many small cheesemakers in Holland taking exceptional care of their animals and making excellent cheese.

My love for L'amuse Gouda runs strong and not only because it is delicious. The owner, Betty Koster, is working hard in Holland to change the perceptions of what Dutch cheese is about across the world. It's a hurdle, but she is passionate and strongly believes in Dutch tradition and innovation.”

Like Janee, I, too, am in love with L’Amuse Gouda.  It is, in my opinion, the best Gouda available to us in the States.  This two-year-aged cow’s milk cheese has the sweet, butterscotchy flavors that we all revere in aged Goudas, but it has an umami complexity that cannot be replicated.  It is special.  L’Amuse also makes a goat’s milk Gouda, known as Brabander.  It is crystalline in texture with a fudgy, coating mouthfeel, a little tanginess from the goat’s milk, a brothiness, and the rest is the dulcet, aged fromage that we have come to expect from Holland.  Brabander is one of my favorite cheeses to pair with Scotch.

Another noteworthy artisan Gouda is De Groene Oorsprong, a one-year aged cow’s milk cheese that screams comfort food (it’s like the best Kraft Single you’ve ever eaten), and it has an unmistakable verdant taste of place.    While most Goudas are encased in wax, which preserves the wheel and enables it to age for years and years, Oorsprong has a natural rind.  Moreover, it hails from a biodynamic creamery that has been in existence for over 350 years. 

Sustainable agriculture and dairy are critical at such a time when we are causing so much damage to our planet.  As a cheese buyer, I take pride in supporting artisan, sustainable creameries.  While the Goudas in my cheese case are, in fact, artisan and therefore, a little pricier, customers tend to accept and embrace it when I explain to them how special these cheeses truly are. 

The next time you are shopping for cheese, take a gander at the Gouda section.  Is it all Beemster?  If so, that’s just fine.  If you happen upon something a little extraordinary, look up where it comes from.  Is it a small, family-owned Dutch creamery?  Is it made in a highly mechanized facility?  I urge you to do your research.  Taste the differences in subtle nuances among high-production Gouda and smaller-production, artisan Gouda.  Which delivers the best representation of terroir?  Which has a more consistent flavor profile each time you eat it?  Some people trust the industrial stuff because it tends to be basically the same every time.  But for myself, and for my clientele, we will continue supporting the artisans who painstakingly produce Gouda of the utmost quality and care for the land, animals, and the consumers.  After all, if we cease to support these cheesemakers, eventually we will not even have the option of eating artisan Gouda.  If this occurs, then the industrial machine wins.

Rachael Lucas with cheese wheels MUG

Rachael Lucas is an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional (CCP).  She also has the distinction of being one of forty-six people in the country with the ACS C.C.S.E. (Certified Cheese Sensory Evaluator) accreditation.  You can most often find her cheesemongering in the Seattle area.  When she's not working with cheese, she's eating it, talking about it, reading about it, writing about it, and dreaming about it.  She can be reached with inquiries about fromage and food excitement in the Seattle area at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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