Go Dutch, Go Gouda
I’ve been calling the Netherlands home for a whole month now, so it’s time we get cooking again! And what better way to kick off life in the Netherlands than by celebrating with cheese! Gouda cheese, of course. So as always, we’re kicking off this Gouda cheese cooking spree with a rundown of the basics of Gouda.
Where does Gouda cheese come from?
Contrary to what you might think, Gouda cheese is not actually made in the city of Gouda, but rather, it is traditionally bought and sold in Gouda. Way back in the Middle Ages, towns could earn the rights to trade certain commodities. The town of Gouda had the rights to trade cheese, so that’s where people went to buy and sell cheese!
Nowadays, “Gouda” refers more to the style of cheesemaking than the actual cheese, as Gouda cheeses can vary widely depending on age. For this reason, the name “Gouda” isn’t protected or meant to define only the cheese coming from Gouda. If you want the real deal, look for “Noord-Hollandse Gouda”, as this title is protected and can only represent true Dutch Gouda made with Dutch milk.
So how is Gouda made? When cultured milk curdles, some of the liquid whey is removed and replaced with warm water, which is then drained. This is known as “washing the curds”, and it helps to remove extra lactose, therefore preventing some of the lactic acid formation. The curds are then pressed into round molds and are plopped into a brine (salt water) bath. The cheese is then set out to dry, coated in wax or plastic, and aged for anywhere from one month to over one year.
And if you’re trying to be a real cheese connoisseur, you’re going to have to pronounce it right. While in America we pronounce it “g-OOO-dah”, it’s actually pronounced “(g)h-OW-da”. We don’t have anything like the sound of the Dutch G in English, but it’s almost like you’re clearing the back of your throat or are gargling. Cute right?
Variations of Gouda Cheese
Perhaps I’d just never paid as much attention to cheese in America as I have since living in the Netherlands, but I’ve noticed that the common classification of cheese in the grocery is either “jong” (young) or “oud” (old). Digging a bit deeper, the Dutch actually classify their cheeses into six categories based on age:
- Young or New: aged 4 weeks
- Young Matured: 8 to 10 weeks
- Matured: 16 to 18 weeks
- Extra Matured: 7 to 8 months
- Old or Fully Matured: 10 to 12 months
- Very Old or Very Aged: over 12 months
The younger Gouda cheeses will have a more mild, soft, and almost sweet taste and texture. They’re best on sandwiches or crackers. The older Gouda cheeses become harder, stronger, and darker. The deep flavor of the older Gouda makes it great for cooking (like in some Gouda mac n’ cheese), with heavy bread, or with wine.
Interesting side note: In the older Goudas, you may find crunchy, white crystals throughout the cheese. This is often confused with salt crystals, which sometimes form on the outside of the cheese as result of the brine bath. The clusters inside the cheese, however, are actually bits of tyrosine, an amino acid and the sign of a well-aged cheese!
How to Store Gouda Cheese
Cheese is a living, breathing thing, so it’s best not to suffocate it in plastic. Wrap your Gouda in parchment paper, then loosely wrap that in plastic. Set in the warmest area of the fridge, like in a vegetable drawer near the bottom. Gouda should last 2 to 3 weeks. Freezing alters the texture of the cheese, so I would recommend against it unless you absolutely must.
Nutrition Information for Gouda Cheese
per 100 g (3.5 oz)
- Calories: 356
- Carbohydrates: 2 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Protein: 25 g
- Fat: 27 g
- 70% Daily Value (DV) of Calcium: 1% of the calcium in your body plays a vital role in vascular contraction/dilation and nerve transmission and signalling. The other 99% supports teeth and bone structure and function.
- 26% DV of Vitamin B12: A water-soluble vitamin important in brain and nervous system function as well as red blood cell formation. It is only found naturally in meat and animal products, but can be made industrially via bacterial fermentation.
- 26% DV of Zinc: A mineral important in strengthening your immune system, healing wounds, and maintaining your sense of taste and smell.
- 20% DV of Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): A water-soluble vitamin that acts as a component of FAD to help your body break down macronutrients in the electron transport chain, creating usable energy.
- 11% DV of Vitamin A: Provides the preformed version of the this fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it comes from an animal source. It is essential in many components of healthy vision, as well as immunity and cell growth/differentiation.
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