I know the Netherlands isn’t the only country which is famous for its cheese, but legend states that we are known as ‘Cheeseheads’ ever since Napoleon Bonaparte lost his battle at Waterloo (Yes, from the ABBA song (sigh)).
Imagine my surprise when googling cheesehead gave nothing but ‘US Green Bay Packer NFL football’ results!?!? Hmm, kudos on marketing strategy.
Anyway, Dutch people and cheese are actually a happy marriage. So much even that we consume roughly 17 kilos per person per year. That’s about 37,5 pounds for those who are not familiar with our metric system. But don’t worry ladies, cheese doesn’t go straight to the hips…I think.
What kind of cheese is typically Dutch?
Over time the Netherlands has developed – and exported – its own type of cheese. You probably know Dutch cheese as ‘Gouda’. Gouda is categorised as (medium) hard cheese, meaning that it is sliceable. By way of comparison; examples of soft cheese are ‘Brie’ and ‘Camembert’.
Gouda is primarily made from cow’s milk and classified by age, where the aging process defines the flavour. Here’s the age overview of Gouda:
– 4 weeks: Jonge kaas (new cheese)
– 8 to 10 weeks: Jong belegen (semi matured)
– 16 to 18 weeks: Belegen (matured)
– 7 to 8 months: Extra belegen (extra matured)
– 10 to 12 months: Oude kaas (fully matured)
– 12 months and over: Overjarige kaas (very aged cheese)
To make things a little bit more complicated, the above mentioned list can be subdivided into two extra categories:
1. By manufacturer (Gouda, Edammer, Leerdammer, Kollumer etc).
2. By fat percentage (10% up to 60%).
Unusual cheese treasures
Since our ‘Gouda’ is pretty renowned, I would like to focus on some less well-known cheeses. Here’s a small list of (hopefully) soon to be famous ones:
- Smeerkaas. Smeerkaas (Cheese spread) is made from any Dutch cheese (age determines the flavour, remember?) which is melted down and treated with emulsifying salt to keep it soft. Adding extra ingredients like herbs or ham makes smeerkaas even more exotic.
- Rookkaas. Rookkaas (Smoked cheese or smoked Gouda) is any Dutch cheese treated with a process called smoke-curing. It creates a special aroma that smells and tastes smoky. Surprising huh?
- Komijnekaas. Komijnekaas (cumin-spiced cheese) is also known as ‘Leidse kaas’ and has a very distinct taste. It’s really surprising how well the cumin flavour works with cheese. You most definitely must try this, so please update your bucket list.
Some fact figures:
- The Netherlands is the fourth biggest cheese manufacturer in the world.
- One kilo of cheese requires 10 litres of (cow’s) milk.
- Lactic acid bacteria generates gas that not only produces the holes in Dutch cheese but is also responsible for its distinct taste.
- Dutch prefer their cheese on a sandwich.
There you have it, my little tribute to Dutch cheese. I hope I was able to make you curious enough to try out some of the (alternative) Dutch cheeses. If you did, please let me know if it was to your liking.
I know it’s cheesy, but I feel grate.