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Gouda is a crowd-pleasing cheese that many people around the world enjoy. In fact, its taste is so delicious that it is a favorite cheese for many. If Gouda isn’t familiar to you, then you may be wondering exactly what it tastes like.
The answer to that question is a bit complicated. That’s because there are now so many variants of Gouda. Overall, this cheese is mild and sweet, perhaps even seeming a bit fudgy, especially when it has only been aged for a few weeks. Other Goudas are aged for months or even a year or two, which can affect the flavor and texture. Older Gouda cheese is more likely to be tangier, nuttier and have more caramel notes. Also keep in mind that an older Gouda cheese will develop a signature crunch. This comes from cheese crystals that form during the aging process, and these crystals are highly desirable as they are a sign of a very well-made cheese.
The Difference Between Young and Aged Gouda
A Gouda is considered young when it is aged for a period of between four weeks and nine months. Aged Gouda is anything that is stored longer than nine months before it is served. Two years typically is the longest aging period for Gouda.
Sweet and mild, a young Gouda has a higher moisture content and a pleasingly smooth texture. If you’re looking for an ideal, everyday eating cheese, a young Gouda is perfect.
Aged Gouda has a texture that is more akin to parmesan as it becomes more crumbly with time. Thanks to the extended aging process, this cheese will develop the crunchy cheese crystals as well as a caramel, nutty flavor.
Both of these options are delicious, but quite different from each other, making it imperative that you give them both a try.
What About Smoked Gouda Cheese?
Smoked Gouda cheese is prepared slightly differently than other varieties, thus giving it a slightly different taste. As you might imagine, this type of cheese has a smokier flavor profile.
Using brick ovens and hickory chip embers, this cheese is carefully prepared to bring out its signature flavor. A smoky brown rind that is fully edible makes smoked Gouda a delight for people around the world.
What Goes Well with Gouda?
Gouda is so delicious and easy to eat that you may find yourself tempted to finish the entire wheel by yourself. However, it is a great idea to pair your Gouda with some accompaniments that will enhance the experience.
One simple, tried-and-true way to enjoy Gouda is piled on a crispy cracker with just a small amount of orange or apricot jam. Between the savory and sweet tastes, this is one snack that is absolute heaven.
If your tastes lean more toward the savory, then try your Gouda with a dollop of mustard or even some mango chutney.
Many people like to create a cheese or charcuterie board for parties and other gatherings. Make Gouda your centerpiece on these boards along with fresh fruit like grapes, pears, peaches and apples. Dried fruits like cherries and apricots also will go well. Add a selection of cold cuts or other meats to round out the selections.
Did you know that Gouda cheese can be the perfect complement to dessert? Offer your guests some cheese with a chocolate dipping sauce or brownies as an ideal way to end the evening.
What beverages are best with Gouda? You have numerous choices. On an evening when beer is on the menu, opt for a lighter beer to go with a young Gouda. If you are anticipating an aged Gouda, chose a malty or stout beer instead.
Wine also pairs exceptionally well with Gouda. Choose an off-dry white vintage such as an unoaked chardonnay or a Riesling to go with a mild Gouda. Those who prefer red wine might opt for a lighter vintage such as Beaujolais or pinot Grenache.
Spirits also can pair remarkably well with Gouda. Just a finger of bourbon or Scotch is all you need to really bring out the flavors in both the cheese and the liquor. Other options include cognac or rum when you’re enjoying a caramelized, aged Gouda.
A History of Gouda Cheese
Gouda’s satisfying crunch and caramelized sweetness are no accidents. In fact, this is one of the oldest and most fascinating cheeses on the planet.
Research reveals that classic Gouda cheese has been produced since 1184. Accordingly, this type of cheese is one of the oldest that is still being regularly made and enjoyed today.
Traditionally, Gouda was made using cow’s milk. Other milk may be used in the cheese-making process today, such as goat, but some purists swear by cow’s milk as being the absolute pinnacle of Gouda recipes.
Gouda’s origins are in the lush, green pastures of the Dutch countryside where contented cows have resided for hundreds of years. Cows thrive here, and their abundance helps to account for the long-standing popularity of Gouda in Holland and elsewhere around the globe.
Gouda cheese actually takes its name from a town located in the southern portion of Holland. The town of Gouda is where the cheese initially was distributed rather than where people produced it. Back in the 12th century in Holland, certain towns had been given the exclusive rights to weigh and sell cheese in the marketplace. Gouda was one, and if you have ever head of Edam cheese, then you are familiar with another Dutch town that had the right to distribute cheese.
It took no time at all for Gouda to become a major hub for farmers and cheese makers since it was a convenient place to have cheese weighed and sold. You can even visit Gouda on a Thursday morning during the summer to see this grand tradition still being observed today.
How Is Gouda Made?
People who make Gouda are fanatical about their craft. With intense attention to detail, they ensure that the quality of the cheese they produce is above reproach.
Every Gouda begins with milk, either pasteurized or raw. The milk is poured into a vat along with rennet and natural bacteria. These substances cause the milk to coagulate into curd. Once the curd is firm, it is separated and placed in a cheese mold. Weights are used to compress the cheese, making it denser. Brining is the next step. Thanks to the salty nature of the brine, unwanted bacterial activity is reduced. At the same time, the brine helps the Gouda to develop its signature flavor. With the application of a natural cheese coating to guard the wheel against contamination, the Gouda is ready to age.
In most cheese factories, the aging cheese is kept at a steady and predictable lukewarm temperature that helps the flavors in the cheese to flourish. Simultaneously, the cheese releases moisture, ensuring that the finished product will have the appropriate texture and density. With aging periods ranging from four weeks to more than one year, it’s easy to see how Gouda can develop so many different, fascinating flavors.
If you are vegetarian, you might seek a Gouda that is made with vegetarian rennet to ensure that you can fully enjoy this delicious cheese.
The Types of Gouda Cheese
The deeper you delve into Gouda, the more complicated it becomes. Some people refer to either “young” or “old” Gouda, but it turns out that there are far more designations than that.
If you were to visit Holland, you might discover that the Dutch actually have six classifications for Gouda. These are:
- New or young Gouda that has been aged for four weeks;
- Young matured Gouda that has been aged for eight to ten weeks;
- Matured Gouda that has been aged for 16 to 18 weeks;
- Extra matured Gouda that has been aged for between seven and eight months;
- Fully matured or old Gouda that has been aged for ten to 12 months; and
- Very aged or very old Gouda that has been aged for more than one year.
If you prefer a cheese with a milder flavor, then you’ll want to opt for a younger Gouda. However, those who are ready to experiment with a bolder flavor may be interested in a very aged Gouda.
Comparing Cheddar to Gouda
Cheddar is an extremely familiar cheese to people around the world. In fact, you’ve probably enjoyed cheddar on a regular basis from the time you were a small child. After all, it frequently is the main component in childhood favorite dishes like grilled cheese and macaroni and cheese.
This means that it may make sense to compare cheddar to Gouda to give you a better idea of what Gouda tastes like. You’ll be interested to learn that cheddar generally has a stronger flavor than Gouda. While Gouda is nuttier and sweeter, cheddar is more savory and buttery. Nonetheless, you can use these two cheeses interchangeably in just about any recipe.
Cheddar is a harder cheese than Gouda, making it a better choice when cheese needs to be sliced or grated. Moreover, Gouda has a rind while cheddar does not. The natural rind on Gouda usually is orange, red or yellow thanks to the paraffin wax casing that is applied before the aging process.
If you’re watching your fat intake, then cheddar may be the better choice for you. Gouda has a fat content of 76 percent. By contrast, most cheddar has a fat content of between seven and 40 percent.
Gouda melts more easily thanks to this higher fat content, making it an excellent choice for fondues and grilled cheese sandwiches.
It’s also interesting to note that some Gouda cheeses have the benefit of origin protection. That is, the European Union has placed limits on which products that are made within its borders may carry an official Gouda label. If you want to experience an authentic Gouda that was made in Holland, look for labels that say “Gouda Holland” or “Noord-Hollandse Gouda.”
Crystals and “White Stuff”
One of the signature characteristics of an aged Gouda is the white, crunchy crystals that form within it. Some people mistake these crystals for salt, but this is an error. Salt crystals may cling to the outside of the cheese as a result of the brining process. However, those delicious crunchy morsels inside the cheese are bits of an amino acid known as tyrosine.
Tyrosine is a desirable element in a well-aged Gouda. In fact, you’ll know that you’re eating a good cheese when you encounter these crystals.
How to Store Gouda
Did you know that cheese is basically a breathing, living thing? As such, it’s not a good idea to suffocate a great Gouda cheese in a plastic wrapper. Choose parchment paper instead, and this may be loosely covered with plastic wrap. Next, figure out which area in your refrigerator is the warmest. This is the spot where you’ll want to keep your Gouda. A vegetable drawer near the bottom of the fridge is always a reliable choice.
Plan to keep your Gouda cheese for no more than two or three weeks. Freezing is not recommended as this tends to change the cheese’s texture.
If you notice that your Gouda has a bad odor, is discolored or has developed mold, it is definitely past its prime. Mold that grows on the outside of the cheese may be sliced away so that you can continue to enjoy the Gouda. However, mold that is growing on the inside of the cheese indicates a wheel that should be thrown away.
Begin a Taste Adventure with Gouda Cheese
Now that you know more about Gouda’s sweet, mild flavor and delicious crystals, you’re probably ready to start tasting. If you are accustomed to cheeses with a stronger flavor, like cheddar, then you may be more attracted to aged Gouda. However, many people prefer the mild taste profile of young Gouda.
Gouda can be used in a wide array of recipes, even those that call for other types of cheese. As one of the most popular cheeses in the world, you’ll probably discover in very little time that Gouda is a new favorite for you as well. Try incorporating this versatile and beloved cheese into your meals and snacks.