Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Gouda - One aged 6 months, one aged 1 year

The last time I was at the Earth Fare market, I was completely stymied. I had had plans to try out at least one of the local cheeses that I'd seen there the last time I was in. However, all the local efforts were sold out at the time I showed up. Isn't that just like my luck? So... I decided that I would try something that I was at least a little bit familiar with: Gouda. I always liked Gouda when I was growing up. It was one of my favorites. Of course we never got the "real' kind. Only the American made stuff. It was good, though.

So... I went looking for Gouda. And I found plenty of it! There were 4 different varieties of just Gouda and a few "flavored" Goudas(the gouda with sun-dried tomato and basil was to die for, but I wanted to stick to plain Gouda). And there were 4 different age categories. Who knew??? When you do most of your shopping at a big grocery store such as Kroger or Albertson's or whatever, you don't learn these things. Well, I'm learning now, let me tell you!

Since I had promised myself (and my hubby) when I started this project that I would only buy 2-3 types a week I had a problem. I really, really, really wanted to try all 4 age varieties. Hubby frowned and looked forbidding as I dithered. I stalked up and down the long row of cheese cases, picking up wedges, reading wheels, lifting the types to my nose, holding them up to the light. Finally, just about the time he started to cross his arms and tap his foot, the cheese lady came over and asked if I would like some help; could she get me a taste of anything? So we started talking and tasting (that's when we tried the tomato-basil Gouda). Hubby finally talked me into just buying the 6 month and the 1 year kinds.

I took my two measley little wedges home and pouted for a few days. And then I quit casting mournful gazes at hubby dear and got down to tasting the cheese.


The picture below shows both the Rejpenaer brand Gouda - aged 1 year, on the top and the Wijngaard brand Gouda - aged 6 months, on the bottom.


And now for the tasting...

The first one I tasted was the Wijngaard, aged 6 months. Which is shown pictured just above. The scent is sharp, slightly nutty, with an underlying hint of a sweet fermented odor. The cheese is slightly firm, smooth, not crumbly.

The appearance is as follows: a colorful, wax coating on the outside, in the center the cheese is a pale yellow color darkening to an orange-y/yellow at the rind. Inside are found a very few holes like you would find in greater number inside a Swiss cheese.

From the label: milk, salt, starter culture, natural color

I purchased .31 pounds of this cheese at $19.99 per pound for a total cost of $6.20

This 6 months aged Gouda is smooth and creamy feeling in the mouth. WOW! I love this cheese! What a shocker. American, found in any grocery store in America, American made Gouda isn't even really the same cheese. (Tho why would I expect it to be, come to that? Real Parmesan cheese bears no resemblance to the stuff you get in the green box, does it? Why would real Gouda bear any resemblance to what I have been buying?) This cheese has a little bite to it. Sharp, pungent, the flavor explodes in your mouth. There is a distinct difference in flavor as the cheese encounters each taste level on the tongue. Super-duper! I really like this one! No after taste. The mouth washes clean with just a sip of tea. I'm eating this plain, at nearly room temp with a slice of pumpernickel and a slice of rye, along with some black grapes and some fresh pineapple. It stands up nicely to those foods. I think it would be good with some nice crackers or a rustic bread. I can imagine generations of farmers making and selling and eating this cheese down through the centuries. You can almost see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, while eating this cheese.

This cheese may be too strong for some people, but those who like cheese should love this one. Despite the cost I will be purchasing it again.


The picture above shows the Rejpenaer brand Gouda, aged 1 year. This one is pale orange-y/yellow in color, darkening near the wax outer coating. Slightly crumbly, semi-hard. Almost the texture of Parmesan cheese. Not quite as hard as Parmesan, but close. It even has those tiny little crystalline particles that real Parmigiana Reggiano cheese has.

The label reads the same as the 6 month Gouda. Makes sense, eh?

purchased .27 pounds at $19.99 per pound for a total cost of $5.40

The odor is sharp, somewhat musty. There's a strong smell of animal with this cheese. I'm definitely smelling the farmyard here. I'm not enjoying this 1 year Gouda nearly as much as I did the 6 month Gouda. The taste is quite strong. I'm tasting the fermentation quite strongly. The "ripening" if you want to call it that. "Ripe" is what it is. An acquired taste, I think. And I could probably "acquire" it, if it didn't cost so darned much and there weren't so many other cheeses out there that I know I like better. (The Parmigiana Reggiano for one.)

I imagine this cheese would be great grated over a salad or topping a potato dish. I could even use it to flavor any number of soups. What I won't be doing is just slicing it and eating it "as is".

I don't know if I would offer this one on a cheese tray or to the "casual" cheese fan. A real cheese-head will appreciate it, a good cook will appreciate it. Not many others will, I'm afraid.


I've now come to the end of my cheese tasting for this week. The experience was interesting, informative, and surprising for me. I learned some things this week, some good, some bad. But that's what this cheese log project is all about. Good, bad, or indifferent, knowing a thing is always better than not knowing.

Even though I wasn't particularly enamored of the 1 year aged Gouda, I will be purchasing the 2 and 3 year aged Gouda; just so my tasting report can be complete. It probably won't be next week. I think I want to try something different before I take a crack at those two. Perhaps something mild, innocuous, inoffensive... then again... they did have several varieties of goats milk cheeses there; and I have always liked Feta cheese. hum...