The Cheese Insider

Gouda is a cheese most people in the United States have tried. It is most often mis-pronounced as goo-da, when the real pronunciation is how-dah. You will know when you meet a real cheese aficionado when they pronounce it that way.

Gouda is named after a small city located between Utrecht and Rotterdam in the western part of The Netherlands/Holland. It was produced as far back as the sixth century and in the thirteenth century was exported to England, where it is still very popular.

Today, Gouda is one of the best-known cheeses in the world and represents 60 – 65 percent of the cheese production in Holland. This Dutch hallmark is now primarily factory produced with pasteurized milk.

Most factory-produced Gouda comes coated in red wax, which extends its longevity. Other wax colors signify additions: green wax indicates the addition of herbs, while an orange wax tells you the cheese is flavored with cumin.

Most Gouda is ripened for one to six months, but a black wax coating indicates aged Gouda that has ripened for at least 12 months, and some for up to five or six years. Gouda aged for 18 months or more will have a deep golden color, a drier, harder texture with bits of crystallized protein that add a sweet characteristic, and a flavor similar to rich toffee with butterscotch notes. Some of the most widely recognized Dutch Goudas are Beemster, Rembrandt, and Saenkanter.

There are many countries that now have their own version of Gouda, including Ireland, Wales, and of course, here in the United States. Each area of the world this special cheese is made has its own unique characteristics based on the techniques used by the cheesemakers, the distinct differences in milk flavor, a result of the water the cows drink, and the food that they eat.

Wisconsin is blessed to have one of the best Gouda’s produced in the world today, right here in Thorp, a small town 30 miles east of Eau Claire in the northwest part of our state. The cheesemaker is Marieke Penterman, who immigrated to the U.S. nine years ago with her husband Rolf. They wanted to become dairy farmers here in America, mainly because the cost of buying land large enough to accommodate a herd of cows is cost prohibitive in Holland. Rolf’s brother had visited this part of Wisconsin and suggested they come check it out.

They purchased a farm, a herd of cows, and were off and running. It wasn’t long after starting their farm that Marieke really began to miss the cheeses she grew up eating in Holland. She decide that she would learn how to make cheese, then returned to Holland to work along side some of the master cheesemakers in her native country. When she returned to the U.S. she began the process of obtaining her cheesemakers license. Wisconsin is the only state in the U.S. that requires such a license. Four years later, her cheeses began to win national cheese competitions, in both plain as well as flavored Goudas. Her farmstead, raw milk Gouda, is sold as early as two months, but best when aged over six months.

In March of this year Marieke won the U.S. Championship for her six – nine month aged Gouda. This beauty beat out over 1,900 other cheeses to grab the top prize, not bad for a cheesemaker that has only been making cheese for six years.

Source: Cheese Lovers Companion, 2007