Good Gracious Gouda!
Exploring the history, production and flavor of the goodness of Gouda.
Pour yourself a glass of wine, relax and let’s explore the deliciousness of Gouda. This cheese has graced us with its presence for a REALLY long time; since the 12th century to be exact. The production of Gouda is firmly rooted in the Netherlands and is one of the oldest surviving types of cheese in the world! The name Gouda originated when cheese makers south of Holland would gather in the city of Gouda where they would trade goods to the rest of Holland. The city of Gouda was not only regarded as a great trading location, but the rulers of the city granted monopoly trading rights on all cheese sales in the area. The law drove creation of families and cheese guilds who all attempted to distinguish themselves on the Gouda market by producing the best cheese they could. The spectacular cheese was almost exclusively made by women, no wonder it tastes so good! However, in the last 100 years production has moved to industrial facilities. Even though the cheese is sold far beyond the original Gouda market, the tradition of the town market continues. Between April and August each year, farmers will gather and stack their cheese wheels in Gouda’s city hall, where they bargain until a deal is reached.
Varities of Gouda
Now, let’s talk variety. Gouda is made primarily from unpasteurized cow’s milk. The milk used to make Gouda Holland is obtained from dairy farms all across the Netherlands, while Noord-Hollandse Gouda is produced only with milk from the province of Noord-Holland. There are some varieties that use sheep’s or goat’s milk. There are 7 different types of Gouda, ranging from Graskaas, a young cheese, soft and sweet that is to be consumed within weeks of production to Overjarig, that is aged 1-2 years. As the cheese ages the cheese yields a firmer texture that is full-flavored with a golden interior.
Taste, that’s what we came here for, right? Gouda has several varieties of flavors depending on the age of the cheese. Young Gouda is a softer texture, fudge like, that is mild and subtly sweet. In contrast, as Gouda ages it becomes harder and denser with a flavor that is nutty, reminiscent of butterscotch or toffee. So, what do we pair with delicious cheese? First, let’s talk honey. Since immature Gouda is mild and delicately sweet a honey pairing that is bold will take it to the next level, for example Bourbon Infused Honey by Stubees. It is a bold yet sweet blend that will compliment any young Gouda. If you enjoy a little spice in your life I recommend pairing with Mango Habanero Honey, to really kick it up a notch. Aged Gouda requires a different flavor pairing to complement its nutty flavor. For this well renowned type I reach for Blackberry Bourbon Infused Honey to balance out the nutty flavor with an edgy blackberry tang. Trust me, you won’t be sorry. But if want to pull the big guns out, Wendell Estates Honey is where its at. This is a Canadian soft set honey that has won the World Beekeepers’ Awards Gold medal. It has silky texture with a delicate smooth flavor that pairs so graciously with an aged Gouda.
Where’s all my carnivores at? An easy to find, crowd pleaser is Salami. The word is derived from the singular Italian word “salume”, which refers to all types of salted meat. There are many types of Salami on the market but the best, in my opinion, is Genoa. Originating from the Geona region of Italy, this hard, dry cured meat with has a peppery aroma with notes of garlic, a perfect pairing to a nutty, aged Gouda. Next, another easy to find meat that compliments Gouda is country ham. It is dry-cured and slowly smoked with hardwood and aged for 4 to 36 months. Depending on what region of the US you are in, country ham can differ. Missouri country ham incorporates brown sugar in the curing mix and is known to be milder and less salty as compared to those in Kentucky and Virginia. Nevertheless, they are all just as delicious.
Last but certainly not least are beverages. Gouda pairs well with wines, beers and even whiskeys. First, let’s start with my favorite, wine. Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most recognized varieties. Due to its high tannin content with holds up well to an aged, smoky Gouda. On the lighter side we have Pinot Grigio. This white wine pairs well with a young Gouda, given its mild sweet flavor while not overwhelming it. An aged Gouda promotes butterscotch and toffee flavors which pair well with a dry Riesling. It provides a vibrant freshness the compliments the saltiness of the Gouda. For my beer drinkers out there, Imperial Stout is where its at. It promotes flavors of dark chocolate and strong coffee with moderate hops with an intense sweet malt profile. It bodes an alcohol content of 8%. The caramel flavors of an aged Gouda pair perfect with the intense, complex and dry finish of a stout beer.
From its illustrious history to its delicious flavor, Gouda is always a crowd pleaser. Pairing it with a bold honey, smoky meat, and delicious wine or even a bold stout will take your charcuterie boards to the next level. Your guests will leave in awe of your mastery. Or it can be enjoyed in the quietness of your home and be the comfort food you were looking for after a long, hard day. Either way it will be so satisfying.
And that’s it, all things Gouda!
Comment below and let me know what your favorite Gouda pairings are!