Imagine – a country famous for chocolate and cheese! Despite its small size Belgium makes more than 300 distinct varieties of cheese, the same number as France. The reason they’re lesser known than the legendary cheeses from neighbouring European countries? Belgian cheeses are made in very small quantities and rarely exported out of the country.
If you are lucky enough to visit Belgium or find a few samplings at a specialty cheese shop, these are some of the best and most impressive cheeses to taste:
Though traditional in style, this creamery cheese is a newer addition to Belgium’s lineup. It was first created in the early 1990s by Arthur Djes, an innkeeper from Beauvoorde Village. Made from cow’s milk, the semi-hard cheese has a hexagonal shape and a natural grey rind. Its mild flavour and spicy aroma make it a great table cheese and a favourite for snacks and sandwiches.
Also known as Fromage de Bruxelles, this soft cow’s milk cheese is repeatedly washed and dried over a maturation period of at least three months. The result is a smooth-textured cheese with a sharp, citric, salty bite. Often shaped into rounds or tubs, Brusselae Kaas is a wonderful table cheese for spreading on breads and snacks.
Haling from a town of the same name, Herve is one of the most favourite cheeses in Belgium. The cow’s milk cheese comes in a brick shape with a glossy, reddish brown coating that’s created by bacteria during the aging period. Often described as Limburger-like, Herve has a soft, pale yellow interior and a strong-smelling aroma. When young, the cheese is a bit sweet. As the flavours deepen during ripening, the flavour becomes spicier. Herve pairs wonderfully with dark breads and beers.
Though most Limburger is now made in Germany and the United States, this legendary “stinky” cheese actually originated in Belgium. Made from cow’s milk, the pungent cheese has a soft yellow interior that hints of sweetness, but it’s actually quite spicy, aromatic and meaty. Outside, the smooth, sticky rind ranges from yellow to reddish-brown and is characterised by corrugated ridges. Limburger is definitely an acquired taste, but it may win you over when served with full-flavoured foods like onions and dark breads and beers.
Traditionally made by monks, this soft cow’s milk cheese gets its name from the Maredsous Abbey in Belgium. Lightly pressed and washed in brine, the loaf-shaped cheese has a firm orange crust and a pervasive aroma. Maredsous is most often served as a table cheese, but it’s also great for grilling.
Taking its name from the Flemish village of Passchendaele, this semi-soft cow’s milk cheese is Belgium’s best known. Resembling a loaf of bread, it has a round shape and a hard, but edible brown rind that’s lightly sprinkled with white mould. Inside, the flesh is golden, dotted with small holes and very, very creamy. With a slightly sweet bouquet and mild flavour, Passendale is a favourite of connoisseurs and those with more basic tastes too.
Made in modern creameries, this fresh cow’s milk cheese is wonderfully rich and velvety with a triple cream status. The rounds have a slightly pungent aroma and a whitish, mould surface. A softer type of Prince-Jean is also made with peppercorns.
What better way to honour a beloved artist than to name a cheese after him? This semi-soft cow’s milk variety is named after Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens, the most popular and prolific painter in 17th century Europe. Made in the Lo region, the cheese is formed into small rounds and has a firm, reddish-brown washed rind.