I love gouda. It's so good! Remember - it isn't actually pronounced "goo-da" but "how-da." Whatever. It tastes great! When its been aging for five years, it gets crystals in it that give it a crunch kind of like parmesean and it has this incredible sweet butterscotch, nutty-ness. I love it aged so much, that I have yet to really try some of the younger versions. While the older cheese has a crunchy crystalline texture, the younger cheeses have a nice creamy, buttery texture that I can't wait to get to know. I've got some guidance now. The latest issue of Culture (an amazing magazine for cheese heads), has a sexy gouda centerfold! Oh yes it does. Want some statistics?
1) All gouda has to be at least 48% fat. Yum!
2) Worried about little holes in your gouda? Perfectly normal. If fact, some cheese makers add enzymes to intentionally make the curd "burp."
3) Think flavored gouda is weird? Actually, since the Netherlands was an early spice trade hub, putting cumin seeds in the cheese has a great, old history.
4) Wondering where the incredible sweetness comes from? After the curd has been cut, and the whey is being released, some of it is drained off and the curd is rinsed with warm water to remove some of the lactose. Less lactose minimizes lactic acid development, and creates a sweeter cheese. Again yum! This sounds like a pretty complex process. In fact, if you change the temperature of the washing water by just one degree, you get a different flavor/texture profile.
5) Wax on, wax off? A real gouda isn't covered in red wax like the ones at the grocery store, but it is covered with a thin layer of plastic to keep the rind clean during the aging process.
As with all cheeses, the food the cows eat really impacts the flavor of the cheese. While cows make more milk when they're eating "silage" (dry feed), grass makes for tastier cheese. When you can close your eyes and feel like you're in the pasture with the beasties, that's a good cheese! Don't take it from me - check out these happy Dutch cows on the first day of spring! Just remember this as the sun sets earlier, and the skies fill with clouds and snow!