Cheese 144 A real “Dutch Treat” Opulent Oplegkaas-Boeren Goudse

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!

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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).

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Here goes…

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.

Cheese 133 Blarney Castle Cheese

Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to look for a really sexy cheese. I start to worry about what the people at the cheese shop think of me if I’m there too much (and I am.) Do they think I’m sort of cheese junky?  Do they think I’m obsessed?  It worries me.  That’s why, from time to time, I like to buy my cheese at the supermarket. It’s just so delightfully anonymous. No one is monitoring my shopping, no one judges my cheese choices. And sometimes, you can find interesting cheese at the market.

I stumbled across todays’ cheese on such a cheese shopping trip. It’s Blarney Castle by Kerrygold-the ubiquitous Irish cheese maker. I thought it charming, with its old-timey wrapper (I’m such a sucker for an old-timey wrapper) and it’s adorable name. I reviewed Kerrygold Dubliner cheese a while back, and you can read my review here. It was a sweet, slightly odd cheese-also in an old-timey wrapper (nice consistent branding. ) Kerrygold uses all “natural” and grass fed milk for its cheeses.  Although it’s a big company, they do try to source locally, and what’s not to like about that?

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But back to Blarney. The real Blarney Castle or Caisleán na Blarnan is a partially ruined medieval  stronghold in Blarney near Cork Ireland. My Irish Nash relatives are also from Cork Ireland, so I truly do feel a connection to this cheese. This castle  dates from before 1200 in some form or another. The famous Blarney Stone is found in this castle, also known as  “the Stone of Eloquence.”  It’s a magical stone! People  hang upside-down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which gives the gift of bullshit. As I mentioned, my people come from this area, and I suspect this gift has also been passed down generation to generation. Perhaps even finding its way into this very blog! Full circle.

What does this all of this have to do with cheese? Probably very little. It’s a catchy name and an Irish cheese, and you have to call it something, right? The cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk from Irish cows who hypothetically graze in the area, but really, who knows, it’s a bit of a mystery. The wrapper with a charming picture of a milk bucket (old-timey!) claims that it is a “smooth and mild gouda cheese”, which is-of course, a Dutch cheese (not Irish) -so again, mysterious.

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My little block of Blarney Castle is a calm, unassuming cheese. It’s soft and a nice golden yellow colour. There are tiny eyes in the paste. The smell is sweet and mild. There’s nothing to see here folks!  Actually, this is a pretty little cheese, it wouldn’t scare anyone, and that’s important to me. So many of the cheeses I sample are frightening to behold. It looks like cheddar, not real cheddar, but supermarket cheddar, uniform and without blemish.

Here goes:

Sweet, benign, toothsome, yummy. It tastes just like it looks, it’s a simple and unthreatening cheese. I could give this to anyone and they would like it, it’s a perfect starter cheese. It’s actually really yummy, it has a great balance of sweet and salt and the texture is very springy and milky. I don’t know where the “young gouda” thing comes in, it’s not like any gouda I know, it reminds me more of a German farmer’s cheese (which reminds me, I need to review German Farmer’s cheese.) I have just snarfed down my wedge and I’m heading back for more. Who knows the real story here, not me, but if you are looking for a grass fed cow’s cheese at the market and you want to stray from the usual without getting too freaky, give this one a try, and that’s no Blarney!

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Day 90-Lamb Chopper

I have many regrets with this blog.  One of them has been the fact that I have reviewed only a small handful of sheep cheeses, and virtually only pecorino at that.  Sheep’s milk cheese is actually very popular across the world, but we don’t seem to have much of an appetite for it here in Canada.  Part of the issue with making a sheep’s milk cheese is that there’s just not enough good sheep’s milk in Canada to resource a cheese.  Sheep are little, their little udders are little, we just aren’t focussed on getting that milk out and into cheese.  It’s a shame.

 
Thus, imagine my joy when I learned about today’s cheese, a sheep’s milk cheese from the USA.  I mean, that’s practically Canada, right?  Oh wait, wrong again.  Today’s cheese, Lamb Chopper is actually a Dutch cheese, made for and sold by Americans.  Will I ever get this straight? Lamb Chopper is made in Europe exclusively for the American Cypress Grove Chevre. Cypress Grove chevre is traditionally a goat’s milk cheese maker who decided they wanted to get into sheep’s milk, and who can blame them?

 
The California-based Cypress Grove Creamery is a well established cutting edge American artisanal cheese maker with a line up of several successful goat cheeses. I specifically went out of my way to buy this cheese, assuming that it would be made on site.   However, cheesemaker Mary Keehn  has this made in Holland by a gouda maker who works with sheep milk.  Lamb Chopper is thus a Dutch Gouda made to American specifications.  Lamb Chopper is made from 100% organic and pasteurized sheep’s milk. There was no way this much organic sheep’s milk could be resourced in the USA, so this was a workable compromise.   The adorable label has a drawing of a tough looking lamb biker on a Harley, get it…lamb chopper, hardy, har.  This is also my first cheese with its own slogan,  “Born to be mild.” punny!

 
Thus, our little traveller, Lamb Chopper is made in Holland from Dutch sheep’s milk and aged in The Netherlands for three months. It’s then coated in wax for the voyage back to the USA for finishing school. Apparently the cheese maker was also concerned that the bloomy-rind molds from her other cheeses could infect Lamb Chopper if she tried to make it in the same facility, so it’s actually worked out well this way.  Interestingly, no other cheese makers seem to share this concern, and I do see blue cheeses in affinage side by side with non-blues all the time-so that’s a little curious. Lamb Chopper is sold at 4 to 6 months old, and can last up to 8 additional months if uncut. Cypress Grove isn’t just cute and the only cheese with  dual citizenship, it’s also kind of famous.  This cheese received a Silver Award in the 2010 World Cheese Awards.

 
My little wedge of Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper is mildly sitting beside me.  It’s too early and we were both up late at my mother’s retirement party, but still, the cheese calls. It’s a firm white cheese, it really does look like a pecorino more than a gouda to me.  I’m not clear on why this cheese is called “gouda.”  There is a wax rind around the outside which has kept it safe on its journey from Holland to California, and now to me. This cheese smells great, it smells, well, like pecorino, sheepy and mild and savoury, it’s not offensive in the least, but it’s clearly sheep-based, and that appeals to a person like me.

 
here goes…

 
Mmmm, but it is a gouda-and do you know how I know?  It’s sweet!  Part of the gouda making process brings out the natural sweetness in the milk.  Thank God for Gouda!  Lamb Chopper has that same caramelly sweetness. Lamb Chopper is actually a little lier, it’s not born to be mild, it’s actually extremely flavourful.  There are lamb hoof tastes as well as butterscotch, salt, yumminess and a tyrosine crunch in this cheese, which is a surprise.  It’s not overly aged, it’s quite creamy and yielding, so that tyrosine shocked me.  My mouth just doesn’t know where to go with this cheese.  There’s almost too much going on.

 

OK, here’s the thing.  I like sheep’s cheese, and I really like Gouda, and I love that this  is an organic cheese, but I’m not sure if I am totally on fire about this combination.  There’s something a little distracting to me about all these tastes happening simultaneously.  I appreciate the effort, but I  tink I will take my gouda in cow, thank you very much.

Day 44-Old Amsterdam Gouda

At last, the tyranny of Brie is over! I’m going rogue with my cheese tasting, and feeling feisty.  Well, as feisty as one can feel at 4:22 in the morning.I realize that this is possibly the world’s first cheese and insomnia blog, all rolled into one.

Speaking of honour, my cheese today is just covered in medals and awards, including what appears to be a bronze medal in the “World Champion Cheese contest.”  Did you hear that, the WORLD champion.  Wow.  Old Amsterdam is a Gouda from Holland. t’s made from pasteurized cow milk, and is my first cheese to contain annatto, which needs a little explanation.

Annatto, sometimes called achiote, is a substance used to colour cheese.  It’s a derivative of the achiote tree found in South America, and it  produces a yellow to orange hue in food-you know, that “cheese colour.” Many cheeses are coloured, Goudas, Cheddars and others.  This has been occurring since at least 1860.  Presumably, cheese eaters felt that summer cheese was superior to winter cheese.  Summer cheese having a higher fat and carotene content from the grass often is naturally darker.  Hence annatto was used to dye foods as basically one of the earliest food additives  to give cheese that “summer cheese look,” kind of like spray on tanner for cheese. The problem with annatto is that lots of people are actually allergic to it.  However, since it’s a natural product, food containing annatto may be labeled as “all natural” when actually, they aren’t.  Now didn’t you always wondered why cheddar came in “white” or “orange?”  There’s your answer.  Of course, “marbled” takes on a whole new meaning.  It’s essentially annatto dyed cheese mixed with non-annatto dyed cheese.  Weird. Anyway, if you ever feel sick or wrong after eating an orange coloured cheese, try to find it in natural or white and see if there’s a difference, it might be the annatto that’s disagreeing with you.

Now, back to Gouda. This gouda cheese is made with a unique culture owned by the Westland family in Holland.  It’s an industrially produced cheese, but controlled by a family and made in small batches, so it’s got the best of both worlds.  This cheese is made using only week day milk, as apparently weekend milk is not as fresh as cheese production doesn’t happen over the weekend (makes you wonder what they do with all that weekend milk).  It s made from Frisian Holstein cows only.  OMG, this cheese is on facebook, check out https://www.facebook.com/OldAmsterdamCheese.  It’s the first of my 43 cheeses to have its own facebook page. Bravo, Old Amsterdam, you aren’t so “old” after all. This cheese has its own website too, http://oldamsterdam.com/ and includes the amazing news that THIS CHEESE is going into space with NASA.  Dutch astronaut André Kuipers is taking Old Amsterdam on board a space mission in December 2011. Holy Hannah, I feel like I can’t read any more about this cheese. It’s a freaking rock star.

I’m going to talk about Gouda in general more in another post, as I realize I have started my Gouda journey with potentially the most written about and beloved-and well travelled-gouda of them all.  Suffice it to say that there are many types of gouda, and they are matured for differing lengths of time.  Old Amsterdam  has been matured for 18 months and comes coated in black wax. The paste is a deep yellow colour (annatto) and looks dry and crumbly, especially after all that sticky brie.  It’s a pressed cheese and has the odd tiny hole in it. My slice smells just fabulously cheeesey, like a cheddar, to my untrained brain.  It has that sharp, savoury smell, but no ammonia or rot at all, this cheese is months beyond that.  Ok, can’t wait.

Here goes…

Ohhhh, shudder….God, yes…..shudder.  Now, this is cheese!  This is the kind of cheese I have been looking for.  It’s so freaking piquant and outrageously flavourful, it’s sharp, yet sweet, salty, yet tangy.  It tastes like discovery, and joy and life.  I love this cheese.  Mmmm.  Wait, is that tyrosine?  Yes, it is! There are little crunchy protein crunchies in this cheese, which makes sense, it being aged for 18 months.  I have only tasted one other cheese with this texture, and that is cave aged Gruyère  only other cheese in the running with this one in terms of flavour.  The texture is fantastic, it’s like a good cheddar, firm, yet crumbly, and melts nicely in your mouth.  I really love this cheese.  Have I been clear about that?  I would also take this cheese-and cave aged Gruyère, on a space ship with me.  Good call, Dutch astronaut dude.

Old Amsterdam, you get a 5 out of 5.  That’s just for taste, and doesn’t even count the bonus marks for your new media presence.