One of the biggest issues for me in becoming educated about cheese, is that my family is getting educated about cheese too. In the past, I could simple buy a big block of cheap orange crap and throw it in their general direction-and they were happy. But oh, how things have changed. Last week, my teenager begged me for some gouda. Some very pricey gouda. A rare, raw milk, gouda. “Oh mommy, it looks so yummy, oh please!” She said. And I relented, even though I wasn’t in the mood for expensive, raw milk gouda. Teenagers can be so demanding!
Thus, today I bring you-literally out of the mouths of babes (because that’s where it’s going once I complete this post) a fabulous looking (and pricey) gouda: Oplegkaas, from Holland. Boeren Goudse Oplegkaas is a traditionally made gouda. It is typically aged 3-4 years before sale (opleg means ‘aged’ in Dutch.) Alas, I don’t know how old my sample is, but let’s assume three years minimum. It is made from raw milk, and only from milk sourced during the summer season, when cows are grazed in the pastures of the peat meadows of the “Green Hart” region of Holland-between the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht.
Gouda has a kind of great origin story. The actual town of Gouda became a central cheese market in the seventeenth century. The first “weighing rights” were granted in 1668 in the town of Gouda. Farmers and traders were obliged to weigh their cheeses here and taxes were imposed. It was a cheese based economy of sorts. Over the next 200 years or so dairy cooperatives took over most cheese production in Holland from individual farmers. Fortunately, the Gouda cheese makers resisted, and traditional farmstead cheesemaking has persisted in this region. Approximately 250 farmers in the Gouda region, still produce raw milk farmstead cheese (called boerenkaas). Their numbers are shrinking, so go out and get some, if you have a hankering for the real thing.
Like all Gouda, Boeren Goudse Oplegkaas is a washed-curd cheese. Washing the curd helps to removes part of the lactose, which reduces the acidity and bitterness in the aged cheese leaving it sweet and caramel-like in affinage.This Oplegkaas-Boeren Goudse is a true raw milk product. This means the milk and curd are not heated above 40 degrees celcius during the production, resulting in this cheese being labelled with the EU label for guaranteed Traditional Speciality (GTS). And for the record, gentle readers, that means I am back on raw milk cheese-who could stay away?
Only a handful of cheese makers still produce Gouda in this traditional way, making the cheese in wooden molds lined with natural linen. The rind of the cheese forms naturally with a minimal use of plastic. No, this is not that red plastic covered crap you see in every market claiming to be “Gouda.” This, my friends, is the real thing.
My tiny sample of This Oplegkaas-Boeren Goudse-wrestled away from a teenager, is a handsome, tall chunk of cheese. I couldn’t get a shot of the larger round-sadly, but it’s clear that this came from a large cheese. It’s very firm and aged, and was challenging to cut-hence the crumble in the second shot. It smells just divine when I remove the wrapper. It’s been waiting for me, for years! It’s a creamy yellow cheese, darker near the wax rind, there are some large eyes and it’s crusted with tyrosine crystals (mmm).
Dry. Sweet. Crunchy. Caramel. Salivary glands working over time. Intense! Aged. Complex.Melting butterscotch. Hint of mould Crazy! WOW! OPLEGKAAS BOEREN GOUDSE!!!!!!
Go out there and support a Dutch tradition, with this ” Dutch Treat.” I’m keeping the rest of this one for myself.