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Gouda is Gouda is Gouda – or isn’t it? No, of course it isn’t. And of course as a subscriber of this monthly series of cheese highlights you’re aware of that. You know that the cheese sold under that name isn’t necessarily produced in the eponymous town (that over in the Netherlands sounds more like “chow-dah” with a very hard “ch”), but traditionally was only brought to market there. That young Gouda cheese should probably rather be called solid milk (which can be a nice thing too). That working with unheated, raw milk is anything than the norm in Gouda land – etc etc. Here is more if you feel like diving in a bit deeper (in German, sorry). And then, for refreshing your senses’ memory about the real thing, treat yourself to a mature, slowly ripened piece, like this gorgeously crumbly, complex 25 months old Buurenkaas (farmers’ cheese) from Kaasboerderij Booij.
I met Marijke Booij a few days ago at the Salon du Fromage in Paris (and many more like her – what a wonderful event – more on Instagram). She joined her father Martien in the cheese room in 2012, and she really radiates with enthusiasm. The family’s farm is situated in Streefkerk in South Holland, half an hour’s drive west from Rotterdam, on the banks of the river Lek, and they work with their immediate neighbours’ (unheated, raw) milk. Normally the “old” version of their Buurenkaas matures for 18 months, but for Paris she had brought a 25 months old wheel. She first made me taste her (equally well made) goats milk Gouda – which combined the mild and creamy, almost sweet note that is characteristic for this type of cheese with a discreet, anything than “goaty” goat tang – and then went on to drill a sample from the dark yellow round…
Wow. A real umami concentrate, now fully developed, it reminded me of fresh tobacco leaves and the scent of cumin seeds, with acidity and salt dancing closely like for the wedding party of balsamic and fishsauce. Marijke herself was very judicial, mentioning the dark rim around the edge, due to her maturing room not being temperature controlled (but that is very traditional). To me the texture seemed beautiful, crumbly, yet the very opposite of dry, the crystals a fine and discreet presence.
As you can probably tell: coup de coeur, as the French call those spontaneous reactions of affection! For all of you who are in Berlin, Alte Milch at Markthalle Neun secured a few wheels of that very special Buurenkaas – go buy. For all the others, it’s perhaps reason enough for a trip to Berlin, or to Streefkerk to visit the Booij family, or to Rotterdam, where their cheeses are on sale at the Fenix Food Factory in Katendrecht. Wherever you get hold of it – eet smakelijk!
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