Cheese making and cheese markets have been a part of the Netherlands from way back in the Middle Ages. Cheese is so much a part of Dutch life – almost as much as the windmills – and there are a great many varieties that are sold here.
The most famous of all Dutch cheeses is Gouda Cheese and it accounts for almost half the cheese sales in the Netherlands. This semi-hard cheese comes in a 12-kg wheel while the smaller ones called Baby Goudas are available from ¼ kg to one kg. Made from cow’s milk, it is named after a Dutch city and is one of the sweeter tasting cheeses, enjoyed the world over. Today, Gouda has grown to become a certain type of cheese and not just a cheese made in Gouda – so there is a lot of it made all over the world.
Young Gouda cheese from the Netherlands is usually coated in yellow or red paraffin while the aged ones are coated with black paraffin. Variations of the Dutch Gouda cheese are the Smoked Gouda and the Leyden Gouda.
The next in line of importance when it comes to Dutch cheeses is Edam cheese. This what many people all over the world call ‘ball cheese’ and these pale yellow orbs are usually coated in red or orange, with the older ones being coated in black wax. In the Netherlands, these cheeses are hardly ever coated. Edam is a mellow, sweet tasting cheese with a nutty, slightly salty flavour and the usual size is a 1.7 kg sphere, with the Baby Edams being ½ kg. When the cheese is aged, the flavour gets even better and this is one cheese that does not spoil very easily. A Dutch Mimolette or Commissiekaas is a Dutch Edam cheese that has been aged and coloured with carrot juice. This cheese is harder and more brittle and has a hint of an orange flavour.
Other Dutch cheeses include Boerenkaas – which means ‘farmer’s cheese’ which is made from unpasteurised milk, Maasdammer cheese which has a dome shape and a nutty flavour, with large holes, Dutch Goat’s Cheese which is available in the soft and fresh as well as the semi-hard variants, Smoked Cheese which is cheese that is melted, smoked and made into sausage-like shapes and Leidse Cheese which is a tart, dry cumin cheese.