The town of Gouda became a central cheese market in the seventeenth century, and the first weighing rights were granted in 1668. Farmers and traders were obliged to weigh their cheeses here and taxes were imposed. Records from that time show that at least a million kilos of farmstead cheese were traded that year.
In the northern parts of the Netherlands, dairy cooperatives took over cheese production from individual farmers in the late 1800s. Fortunately, the Gouda cheesemakers resisted this trend, and traditional farmstead cheesemaking has persisted till today. Some 75 cheese makers in The Netherlands still produce raw milk farmstead cheese (called boerenkaas). Their numbers are shrinking due to the expansion of urban areas, increased production costs, hygiene restrictions and the abundance of cheaper pasteurized Gouda cheese.
Boeren Goudse Oplegkaas, as Aged Artisan Gouda is called in Dutch, is made from raw milk only during the summer season, when cows are grazed on the open pastures of the peat meadows or polders of the Green Hart region, between the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Boeren Goudse Oplegkaas cheeses must age for at least 1,5 years but can age up to four years (opleg means “aged” in Dutch).
Like all Gouda, Boeren Goudse Oplegkaas is a washed-curd cheese. Washing the curd removes part of the lactose, which reduces the possibility that acidity and bitterness build up in the aged forms. The cheesemaking starts with the warm milk of the morning’s milking, which is mixed with a starter culture.
Authentic Boeren Goudse Oplegkaas is peerless in taste, with a sweet mild flavor that blooms in the mouth, a well-structured aftertaste with a light acidity and the warm caramel taste that characterizes most Gouda. Its dense curd remains creamy and full even after it has been stored two or three years on wooden shelves.
Gouda is often seen as a banal cheese, its familiar thick wax-coated forms available on supermarket shelves around the world. This is the impetus behind the Presidium’s work, to save the finest quality version of the cheese: Boeren Goudse Oplegkaas. Three farmers who graze their Fresian-Holstein cattle on the low polder fields surrounding the city of Gouda still make this artisanal version.
The cheesemakers (traditionally farmers’ wives) make the cheeses, each weighing over 20 kilograms, in traditional wooden molds lined with natural linen. The crust of this yellow cheese forms naturally with a minimal use of plastic. The producers are currently seeking to phase out the use of substances on the rind that control molds. For centuries, farmstead cheesemakers in the Netherlands have depended on wholesalers who age the cheeses and resell them without citing the name of the producer. Slow Food is working to offer an alternative by organizing a fairer way of commercialization. Together with Slow Food, the producers are able to promote the aged Boeren Goudse Oplegkaas directly to consumers.
Green Hart region, between the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht
Magdalène and Nico Captein, Weipoortse weg 29b, 2381 NC, Zoeterwoude, Tel. + 31 715803245, kaasboerderijCaptein@hotmail.com
Marije & Hugo van der Poel, Rijpwetering, Buurtpolder 2, 2375 NJ, Rijpwetering, Tel.+ 31 715018808 / +31 06 14044545, email@example.com