Today on the Gentleman’s Gazette, we’d like to introduce you to our first article in our food section. Like our readers, we have many interests, and many of the characteristics that we value in clothing, such as quality, heritage, and handcrafting, translate well to the world of food. Beginning today with a profile of three aged Goudas, and in the course of future articles, we will search out unique culinary delights that honor traditional methods, capture interesting flavors and celebrate our human connection with food.
Gouda Basics – How Cheese is Made
Cheese, in my humble opinion, is one of life’s foremost culinary pleasures. So few foods in their unaltered form are so intensely satisfying. Like chocolate or wine, cheese is an amalgamation of simple, natural ingredients and processes. The basis of most cheese is acidified milk containing fats from cows, goats, buffalo, or sheep that is coagulated through the introduction of rennet. This complex of enzymes is extracted from the lining of the fourth stomach of young, unweaned offspring of the same origin as the milk to be used in the cheese. The solids produced from the coagulation of the rennet are then shaped and pressed into the final form of the cheese. As you can imagine from your own cheese shopping experiences, there are an infinite number of variations in the making of cheese, and hence, it is an area that is an ever-evolving field of interest.
Origins of Gouda
Gouda is, in fact, a city in the western Netherlands. The founders of the city, the Van der Goudes, as well as the cheese, derive their name from the nearby river of Gouwe. The city was granted rights of establishment in 1272, and unfortunately for the residents, the town suffered from catastrophe after catastrophe over the next 600 years. Plagues, fires, and economic collapses led to the name “Goudaner” becoming synonymous with beggar. Despite so many disasters, the city rose from the ashes and is a popular tourist destination today. Gouda cheese (pronounced [ˈɣʌu̯daˑ] in Dutch) is still actively produced in the area,
and can be found for trade at the traditional Thursday market. Surprisingly, the Gouda name is not protected, and it is produced under a wide variety of conditions around the world. Now, don’t let the cheap and mostly mild supermarket Goudas fool you – when produced traditionally, this can be one of the most satisfying cheeses out there.
How Gouda is Made
The Gouda production process begins by heating cultured milk until the curds separate from the whey. Some of the whey is drained and water is added, a process known as “washing the curd.” The mixture is then pressed into the traditional, rounded shape of a Gouda wheel and pressed. A brine bath follows which flavors the rind, and finally the cheese is dried and coated with wax to prevent drying. The newly formed cheese is then aged for the desired length of time, usually between 6 months and 7 years. The youngest cheeses are very mild and are often found packaged and sliced. Today, we have selected three aged Holland Goudas from a specialty cheese monger with the intent to savor them individually.
Prima Donna – a Young Aged Gouda
Our first Gouda is Prima Donna, aged 14 months. After the first taste, this cheese immediately distinguishes itself from its younger cousins. Though it retains a smooth, creamy texture, the cheese is pocketed with small holes and crumbles slightly on the tongue. The pleasant yellow shade reflects the lower moisture content and a lingering nuttiness similar to Gruyère. This cheese is an excellent choice for those new to putting together a cheese plate, or for a better grilled cheese. It costs $16.99 per pound.
Old Amsterdam Gouda – a Widely Available Staple
Our second Gouda develops upon the flavor and texture of the Prima Donna. Old Amsterdam Gouda is aged for 18 months, and the extra four months clearly intensified the flavor and texture. The creamy yellow color has given way to a peachy orange, and the cheese is noticeably harder and more crumbly. Though it still gives away neatly to the knife, Prima Donna breaks apart easily and resists thin slicing. Crystallized granules are much more pronounced throughout the cheese, which gives it a subtle crunch. Though the Prima Donna demonstrated a distinct sweetness, the Old Amsterdam has evolved into a mild butterscotch flavor. Great for cheese plates featuring other hard aged cheeses. It can be purchased for about $16 per pound at cheese mongers and grocery stores.
Saenkanter Gouda – the Ultimate Indulgence
Our third Gouda is about as complex and intense as they come – Saenkanter Gouda from Holland. Aged from 4 to 6 years, this Gouda is the master of hard-cheese flavor with unrivaled notes of complex butterscotch. The cheese has so little moisture that it crumbles immediately, and yet it melts gloriously on the tongue. Even the smallest sliver of Saenkanter will send a cheese enthusiast swooning at the depth of flavor. Comparing it to any other hard cheese would be simply unfair! This cheese exhibits a perfect balance of salty, sweet, crunchy and creamy in one perfect wheel. Perfect and effortless for the gourmet dinner guest. It costs about $19 per pound, and is only available at cheese mongers.
Interestingly, Saenkanter is known in the Netherlands mostly as a fashion chain, and not for the cheese produced by Schipperkaas. Obviously, the name is a brand for the export. Apparently, the cheese is not handmade, but rather produced in a factory. Considering the price of $19 per pound, we cannot expect anything else. However, Saenkanter Gouda is, after all, a fantastic cheese.
Making the Most of your Gouda
We highly recommend all three cheeses, though we will always save a special place on our cheese plate for Saenkanter Gouda. If you enjoy Gouda over pasta, Prima Donna grates and melts nicely; Old Amsterdam is excellent for snacking or adding extra vibrancy to salads. When eaten as a stand-alone course, make sure to allow the cheese to come to room temperature. Fresh baguette is a cheese plate standard; try adding walnuts, tart dried cherries, and crisp Bartlett pears for contrast and depth. For a wine pairing, Gouda is a delightful partner for a complex red such as Zinfandel or Cabernet, or the crisp acidity of Riesling. Enjoy!