One of the world’s greatest cheeses Gouda [pronounced Gowda or Khow-dah] is a traditional, creamery, semi-soft cheese that accounts for more than 60% of the cheese produced in Holland. The cheese is characteristically round and smooth, with a pale yellow interior dotted with a few tiny holes.
Gouda ranges in flavour from mild to sharp depending on age. Young Gouda is mild, sweet, and fruity, but as time passes, the flavour becomes more complex. Mature Gouda, aged 18 months or more, develops a butterscotch colour, harder texture, and an intense flavour that can be described as almost Cheddar-like. Extra Aged Goudas, cured two years or more, are brittle in texture and amaze the palate with whiskey and pecan flavours. These are the rare Goudas prized by cheese connoisseurs.
Gouda cheese is named after the Dutch town of Gouda, just outside Rotterdam. Centuries ago, Gouda was a bustling centre for cheese trade where farmers from surrounding areas would convene for a weekly kaasmarkt (cheese market). Today a cheese weigh house dating back to 1668 (The Waag) still stands as a beautiful monument in town. In the summer months, tourists are still drawn to Gouda for ceremonial cheese weighings and a taste of truly authentic Gouda cheese.
To make Gouda, whole or part-skimmed cow’s milk is cultured and heated until the curd is separated from the whey. The curd mixture is then pressed into circular moulds to create the traditional round shape – large wheels ranging from ten to 25 pounds. Before being coated with paraffin wax, the cheese is soaked in a brine solution to create the rind and enhance the flavour. It’s allowed to dry for a few days, then coated and aged for a few days to over one year.
Traditional Dutch Gouda is complemented by a wide array of speciality varieties. These include:
- Baby Gouda: which comes in paraffin coated rounds weighing no more than one pound.
- Smoked Gouda: a cylindrical shaped cheese smoked over hickory chips in ancient brick ovens.
- Flavored Goudas: including Gouda mixed with cracked pepper, cumin, caraway, herbs, garlic, pesto, or walnut.
- Goat’s Milk Gouda: a rare Holland Gouda with a satiny texture and tangy flavor.
Exported Gouda is typically the young variety aged from one to six months. These have a yellow paraffin wax coating. Old Gouda, aged 12 to 18 months, is denoted by a black paraffin wax coating.
It’s also important to note that Gouda is a generic term not restricted to cheese of Dutch origin. Today variations of the famous cheese are made all over the world. You’ll find Gouda from the U.S., Australia, Israel, Brazil, and more. But for traditional farmer’s Dutch Gouda, look for Noord-Hollandse Gouda, the cheese registered in the EU as a Protected Designation of Origin.
Unopened Gouda in wax will remain stable in the refrigerator for up to one year. Once opened, wrap leftover Gouda in an airtight plastic bag or foil. Refrigerate and eat within one month.
Semi-soft Gouda is versatile enough to be served as a table cheese or dessert cheese. In Europe, Gouda is a popular breakfast treat along with fresh fruit. Later in the day, Gouda is wonderful paired with dark-grained breads and beer, or full-bodied wines such as Chardonnay or Syrah.
Gouda is also ideal for grating or melting. Shred it over baked potatoes or swap it for Cheddar in your usual macaroni and cheese. For an authentic Gouda dish, make a Dutch fondue (kaasdoop). Melt grated Gouda with milk and a touch of brandy and nutmeg, and serve with roasted potatoes and chunks of rye bread.