Gouda, pride of the Dutch, is popular for a reason.
Did you know that Gouda is not pronounced Gooda in the Netherlands? The Dutch say Chowda, the ‘ch’ articulated as the final sound in the Scottish word loch, or the German ich.
No matter how you say it, traditional Gouda is the most popular variety of Dutch cheese. Why? A stunning range of flavors and culinary flexibility. Unfortunately, most American consumers know only the young, generic types. Gouda merits exploration.
Gouda takes its name from the market town where boerenkaas, or farmer’s cheese, was first sold in the 12th Century. Until the industrial age, women were the main producers. As passed down to their daughters, the recipe for boerenkaas called for raw, whole, cow’s milk and continues to be for some 300 artisan cheesemakers. While Gouda can be made from goat or sheep milk, it’s presumed to be made from cow unless otherwise specified. Gouda is not a designated-origin protected by law, so international producers freely use the name.
Gouda is a washed-curd, not to be confused with washed-rind, cheese. Washing occurs when hot water is added to the curd to release the whey that is then drained off. Curds are placed into round molds to form wheels, then placed in brine to promote rind formation. After removed and dried, the wheels are coated to prevent mold. Those destined to be young Gouda are coated in red or yellow wax. For longer maturities, black or other color waxes are used. The cheese paste, which may contain fine holes from air bubbles, ranges from semi-soft to hard. The color varies from cream to deeper apricot shades. Annato is often added to give an impression of maturity. It’s an accepted practice, and doesn’t affect the flavor. Price tends to increase with age of maturity. So, don’t let your eyes deceive you. Taste it! The best way to differentiate a young from a mature Gouda is by its characteristics rather than a number on the label, since conditions, such as temperature, can accelerate the rate of maturation.
Younger cheeses are radically different than those exceeding 12 months. When selecting Gouda, it’s important to keep the intended use in mind. In general, for melting on a sandwich, in mac and cheese or omelets, a Gouda younger than six months works perfectly well. Choose among four- to eight-month olds for a standard cheese plate. Add maturity to stand up to strong flavors. To grate or shave, try one that is 12 to 18 months old. Younger cheese tends to grate thicker. As you slice one older than 24 months, expect splintering and shards. Goudas over 36 months are an acquired taste, as sweetness incrementally decreases and salinity and umami (savory) increases.
General Tasting Notes and Pairing Suggestions
Younger Goudas may contain buttery, grassy, caramelized-vegetable and hazelnut notes. Expect moderate salinity and higher acids expressed as sharpness and astringency. Fruit notes may be mellow, nonspecific or pop like pineapple. Mouthfeel runs from smooth or crumbly to fudgy. Crunchy crystals are rare.
Pair with tree fruit; grapes; avocado; pilsners; pale ales; beers; white wines; cider; fruity bourbon; or rye cocktails, and with dark milk and milk chocolate bars with almonds.
Older Goudas tame the acidity but boost salinity. Crunchy crystals kick in at approximately 12 months. Nut notes lean to toasted almond or pine nut. Caramel gives way to butterscotch, sometimes ale or whiskey notes. At about 36 months, umami notes become more assertive. Mouthfeel becomes drier or crumbly. Oldsters lend drama as a dish-topper. Melt partially to heighten texture or make a culinary statement.
Pair with cherries; peaches; mangos; avocado; dark beers; ales; full-bodied red wines; port; whiskeys finished in sherry or port casks; and 60-70% cacao dark chocolates bars with red fruit notes.
Now Let’s Taste Some Gouda!
ARTIKAAS is a sixth-generation, family-run farmstead cheesemaker in Holland. Dutch Cheese Makers is its official importer. Artikaas makes both pasteurized and raw milk cheese.
Artikaas-Youngster, First Milk. Aged four to six weeks:
Aroma is deep butter. The taste is rich with controlled acidity and mild sharpness. It’s semi-soft, pliant and smooth on the tongue.
The finish contains a suggestion of butterscotch in the caramelization.
Artikaas-Vintage Lot 18. Aged 18 months. Aroma is deep, sharp and hints of butterscotch. Richness is immediately apparent as it melts on the tongue with a counterpoint of crunchy saline crystals, followed by notes of ale, whiskey and butterscotch. Balanced acidity. A lingering finish.
Artikaas-Vintage Lot 36. Aged 36 months. Best bang for the maturity buck! Aroma is ale-infused caramel with butterscotch on the back burner. Bite into crunchy crystals, salt and nut flavors, with whispers of whiskey and a huge umami component. Despite crystals, the body melts to a smooth peanut butter consistency. A fascinating cheese to serve for adventurous palates!
Artikaas-Vintage Lot 60:
Aged 60 months. This five-year is an acquired taste. There’s lots of salty crunch, then a huge umami wave and ale-infused butterscotch. Mildly bitter.
A DUTCH MASTERPIECE brand features four award-winning pasteurized cheeses named for Dutch painters: Rembrandt van Rijn, Vincent van Gogh, Johannes Vermeer and Frans Hals. Vincent is the collection’s Gouda and Parmigiano Reggiano hybrid. Frans Hals is Goat.
Aged 12 months. Almost a perfumed aroma. Deep caramel flavor with a hint of ale and toasted Spanish Marcona almonds. Crunchy crystals, a mild astringency, finishes on almond, then goes sweeter with a whisper of ale.
OLD AMSTERDAM products, made in the Netherlands, are widely distributed in the United States.
Old Amsterdam Classic Gouda:
Aged eight months. Semi-hard, color enhanced with annato. Presents a well-balanced profile, subdued sharpness. Butterscotch on the nose, caramel and salt on the tongue. Melts into a light fudge. Finishes mild. No crystals found, despite the label.
EMMIROTH is the result of a 2010 buy out by Emmi Group, a Swiss company, of Roth Kase USA, a Wisconsin importer and cheesemaker.
Kaltback Gouda- (Emmi) Aged six months:
Kaltback has an aroma of fruit, wood and grass. A burst of sweet fruit flavor, whisper of pineapple, salt and raw almond. Nice! Melt is a bit dry. Finish is a tad waxy. Overall, well-balanced.
Roth Gouda- No age specified:
Aroma is fresh, grassy, more like buttermilk than butter. A soft bite into sharpness, well-controlled acids, mild sweetness, understated salinity. Texture is pliant, melts to light fudge, finish dissolves quickly.
Roth Aged Gouda:
Aged six months. This is semi-hard, suitable for grating, tends to break upon shaving. Caramel in the nose, and a distant hint of grass. Surprising bite into crystals. Flavors of salt, caramel, understated acids, whisper of nut, fruit, subtle finish, quick fade.
Fromagerie L’ Amuse of Amsterdam was founded by Betty and Martin Koster in 1989. Retailers, exporters as well as curators and affineurs (or opleggers in Dutch), specialize in sourcing from small-production cheesemakers. Essex Street Cheese is their exclusive American importer. Essex Street Cheese (essexcheese.com) are consultants and educators as well as importers of the highest quality cheese.
L’Amuse Signature Gouda-Aged two years:
Butterscotch aroma turns umami on the tongue with a burst of fruity acids. Crunchy crystals give way to a fudgy consistency. Finishes saline, hazelnut to pine nut and umami.
Wide Weide Cheese (L’Amuse) Aged 15 months:
Organic, raw milk from islands in Southern Holland. Masterfully hits the sweet spot of optimal maturation. Bright fruit, gentle acids, melts like a smooth fudge. In addition to published tasting notes “sweet, hints of grass and pineapple,” add raw hazelnut top notes. Long mild, buttery finish. An exceptional cheese!
Holland’s Family Farm produces award-winning Marieke Gouda The farmstead, located in Thorp, WI, was founded by Dutch immigrants, Marieke and Rolf Penterman.
Its traditional boerenkaas recipes use raw milk. After Rolf emigrated to Wisconsin to begin dairy farming in 2002, Marieke followed. She worked in cheesemaking in Wisconsin and studied authentic Gouda-making in the Netherlands.
Aged four to six months. The aroma is bold butter, grass and a surprise—a bacony umami. Flavor echos umami along with salt and fruity notes. Finishes caramel with a whisper of almond.
Aged six to nine months. Aroma says mature but still buttery with a youthful hint of grass. First bite is semi-firm. Flavor is umami, saline and raw hazelnut. Caramel shows up at the finish.
Marieke makes superb mature Goudas, including expressions aged nine through 24 months. Difficult to find maturities can be ordered online at mariekegouda.com.
Since Parrano’s introduction in the 1970s, Gouda/Parmigiano Reggiano hyb-rids have become must-haves for many Gouda producers. Goat “Goudas” are also increasing in popularity. Flavored Gouda is an expanding market segment worthy of separate coverage.
Parrano (Original): Aged five months. Award-winning Parrano is technically a pasteurized Gouda. Presents fruity aroma and flavor as well as caramel, bursts of salinity and a nutty finish. Pliant texture, grates and shaves adequately, but is more moist than Parmigiano. Melts easily like Gouda.
Dutch Masterpiece, Vincent- Aged six months: Comparing Vincent to Parrano, Vincent seems closer to Parmigiano in terms of texture. Flavor is nutty like Parmigiano yet sweeter and fruitier like Gouda.
Marieke Gouda Golden: Aged over 60 days. Golden is suitable for lacto-vegetarians. Sweet butter, grass and caramel aromatics. Flavor is bold and sharp, but balanced. Finishes buttermilk with a hint of nuts. Semi-soft texture, creamy with a well-paced melt.
Use these hybrids as you would a Parmigiano. Pair with dark or dark milk chocolate, Pinot Grigio-like white wines or Italian reds.
Goat “Gouda” or Goata?
After sampling several of these goats, they seem too distinct to be called Gouda. Why not Goata? More crumbly at six months than the bovine counterparts, these share sweetness and caramel characteristics. Fine, crunchy crystals found in younger expressions than in cow variety. Perhaps the most approachable of goat cheeses anywhere! Pair with fruit, white wine, lager, milk chocolate or a dark chocolate with red fruit notes.
L’Amuse’s Brabander Goat Gouda, aged six months: Think dessert! Sweet but not cloyingly so, with a fine crunch.
Another worthy “Goata” is Dutch Masterpiece’s Frans Hals, also six months but quite different. Darker (no annato). Subdued goaty aroma and sweetness. Sharper, with a stronger finish.
Artikaas, Youngsters Goat (doesn’t call itself Gouda), no age specified: Lovely counterplay of sweet and salty. Despite its youth, there are tiny, crunchy crystals. The aroma is delicately lactic and citrusy. The finish is nutty. Delicious! Let this one melt on your tongue.