Dutch Cheese – An introduction to the most popular varieties

Want to learn more about Dutch Cheese? Here’s an introduction to the most popular varieties of cheese from the Netherlands.

While Edam and Gouda are some of the most famous cheeses worldwide, there are actually plenty of Dutch cheeses that are of excellent quality and with great flavors as well. 

Edam

Edam is a traditional and historic type of Dutch cheese that is named the Edam Town in North Holland. Edam used to be the world’s most popular cheese in the past and continues to enjoy widespread popularity.

The cheese has a mild flavor that is salty and nutty. As the cheese ages, the flavor grows sharper and noticeably firm. It does not spoil with aging but only hardens. Even then, Edam is much softer and has little to no smell when compared with other types of cheese.

Edam is traditionally packaged in a form of rounded cylinders with a pale-yellow interior coated with a red paraffin wax rind. Edam is traditionally consumed with cheese fruits (such as apples and pears) and several wines like the pinot gris, Riesling, sparkling wine, and chardonnay.

Edam
Photo: Picture Partners/Shutterstock

Leyden

Leiden Kaas, or Leyden in English is a semi-hard cheese that is prepared with cow’s milk and primarily flavored with cumin and caraway seeds. It gets its name from the Leyden area in South Holland. The cheese is round and flat with sharp edges on one side.

The Leyden cheese has a hard texture and with a fat content of around 30-40 percent. It is one of the best examples of spicy cheeses and also the most common type of komijnekaas, a common term for cheeses that contain cumin as an ingredient.

Leyden cheese has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) certification from the European Union (EU).

Leiden Cheese
Photo: MAR007/Shutterstock

Maasdam

Maasdam is a type of Dutch cheese that is semi-hard and made from cow’s milk and pasteurized. It is aged for a minimum of 4 weeks and notably ripens faster than various other Dutch cheeses.

Maasdam has very distinctive internal holes that result from the ripening and it usually has a smooth, yellow rind which may or may not be waxed. The cheese has a nutty and sweet flavor although it is soft due to its high moisture content.

The Maasdam cheese has a fat content of nearly 45 percent and usually has an aging time ranging from one to three months.

Maasdam cheese
Photo: Andrey Starostin/Shutterstock

Hollandse geitenkaas

Hollandse geitenkaas, or goat milk cheese, is a specialty Dutch cheese that comprises of semi-hard white cheese prepared using pasteurized cream or whole or skimmed milk exclusively from Dutch White Goats.

It has a fat content of around 50 to 60 percent and has a mild, soft taste. Hollandse geitenkaas can be left to ripen in the air or covered with foil to preserve the mild flavors. It is usually paired with white and rose wines.

Having won a large number of international awards, Hollandse geitenkaas is considered as one of the most celebrated culinary exports from the Netherlands. 

Hollandse Geitenkaas
Photo: barmalini/Shutterstock

Gouda

Gouda is a traditional Dutch cheese that is one of the most popular cheeses in the world. It is made from cow’s milk and has a light yellow color. Gouda is also said to refer to a style of cheese making that results in cheeses whose taste varies when it age.

This type of cheese has a mild flavor with a hint of fruit and a caramel sweet and crunchy finish. Gouda cheese’s aging and quality may be classified into six categories namely young (4 weeks), young matured (8-10 weeks), matured (16-18 weeks), extra matured (7-9 months), old (10-12 months), and very old (more than 12 months).

It has distinctive molds that result in its characteristic shape. The cheese is soaked in brine that imparts the unique taste to the cheese and its rind. Cubes of Gouda cheese are usually consumed with Dutch mustard and port wine, or strong beer, as an everyday snack.

Gouda
Photo: Carlo Vivi/Shutterstock

Prima Donna

Prima Donna is a type of Dutch cheese that is very similar to the Italian Parmesan cheese and contains the unique and immediately noticeable little white dots. Prima Donna notably combines a texture similar to that of Gouda cheese to a flavor matching that of the Parmesan cheese. 

The cheese is aged and may be classified into four categories namely fino, mature, forte, and leggero. Leggero contains less than 20 percent fat content making it a popular option for the diet-conscious populace. Prima Donna is only consumed when it reaches maturity and the desired flavor and has no strict aging period. Prima Donna is best paired with red wines such as pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, and Syrah.

Boerenkaas

Boerenkaas, or farmhouse cheese, is a type of mostly handmade Dutch cheese that is primarily made with raw milk from cattle, goats, or sheep. It has a semi-hard texture and weighs between one to two kilograms.

Boerenkaas may also contain other ingredients such as seeds, herbs, and spices. Cumin is most commonly added making it one of the komijnekaas, a common term for cheeses that contain cumin as an ingredient. Boerenkaas has a “traditional specialties guaranteed (TSG)” certification from the European Union (EU).

Old Amsterdam

Old Amsterdam is an award-winning Dutch cheese that is a type of granular, hard Gouda cheese which is well-matured for 18 months. The cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk.

The taste resembles that of the young Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese but with an aged Gouda preparation. It is a very popular type of cooking cheese and has a deep, rich, nutty, and lingering mellow flavor.

Old Amsterdam is widely shredded over pasta, soups, omelets, or sautéed vegetables. It also goes well with light, fruity wines such as the Chianti and California Merlot.

Old Amsterdam - a famous dutch cheese
Photo: GoncharukMaks/Shutterstock

Leerdammer

Leerdammer is a brand of Dutch Gouda-style cheese that originated from the Schoonrewoerd region in the Leerdam city, Utrecht province in the western Netherlands. It is a semi-hard, white cheese that is made primarily from pasteurized cow’s milk with an aging time ranging from 3 – 12 months.

The preparation is carried out in the traditional Gouda-style cheese-making process and used only 4 ingredients namely pasteurized cow’s milk, lactic ferments, vegetarian rennet, and salt.

Leerdammer cheese is lactose-free, and also gluten-free. The texture of Leerdam cheese can be described as creamy, open, smooth, and springy with a rounder taste having a mild, nutty, and sweet flavor that intensifies with age.

Leerdammer
Photo: Jultud/Shutterstock

Clove Cheese (Nagelkaas)

Nagelkaas, or nail cheese, is a type of Dutch cheese from the Frisian Islands in the western Netherlands. It is a hard, artisan cheese that has a firm and open texture. It is made from pasteurized cow’s milk in a traditional Gouda-style cheese.

The fat content may range from 20 to 44 percent and results in a mild flavor that is enhanced by the addition of cloves and cumin resulting in an intensified and pronounced spicy and tangy taste.

Clove Cheese has a natural rind, yellow color, and is notable for its pleasant aroma. Nagelkaas from the Frisian Islands enjoys a PDO certification from the EU.

Nagelkaas
Photo: Picture Partners/Shutterstock

Beemster Classic

Beemster is a semi-hard cheese that has been aged for at least eighteen months. It’s made in Gouda-style from cow’s milk and has a firm but smooth and creamy texture.

This type of Dutch cheese is known for its rich and strong aroma where hints of burnt caramel and salty flavors can be noticed. The Beemster Classic is well-paired with a bitter craft beer or a glass of Malbec wine.

Beemster Cheese
Photo: barmalini/Shutterstock

Rookkaas

Rookkaas is a type of smoke-cured Gouda-style Dutch Cheese that is very popular all over the Netherlands. Rookkaas is a processed cheese that usually has a brown rind and is prepared in Gouda-style with pasteurized cow’s milk.

Smoke-curing can be done using hot-smoking or cold-smoking. Hot-smoking usually involves treating the cheese at a temperature ranging from 40 to 90 °C while the cold-smoking process usually involves smoking at around 20° to 30° C.

Cold-smoking can be a lengthy process (up to a month or more) but results in a higher quality rookkaas with a more enhanced, established and refined flavor.

Rookkaas
Photo: M.Minderhoud / CC BY-SA

Which is your favorite cheese from the Netherlands? Leave a comment below!

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