As a major dairy-producing nation, it’s little surprise that the Dutch are big cheese lovers. They produce it, they export it, and of course, they love to eat it! When it comes to varieties of Dutch cheese, you’ve probably heard - maybe even tasted - at least 1 before. Gouda cheese is 1 of the most well-known kinds, but there are countless more variations of Dutch cheese. And they’re all waiting to be tasted when you next find yourself visiting Holland.
A taste of Dutch cheese history
For centuries, the Netherlands has been a world leader in dairy production. In fact, cheese production in the Netherlands dates back as far as 800BC, when Julius Caesar mentioned it in his book, Bellum Gallicum. Right up until the 19th century, most of the cheese in Holland was still produced on the dairy farm. These days, most cheese is factory produced, but you can get a glimpse of the traditional cheese-making methods by visiting the Dutch Cheese Museum in Alkmaar. After the museum, wander around the nearby Alkmaar cheese market, which has been trading on the Waagplein since 1593. The year-round rainfall and plentiful green grass in the Netherlands provides the perfect pasture for dairy cows. All that dairy needs to go somewhere, and much of it goes towards making Dutch cheese. The country produces 650 million kilos of cheese annually.
Get to know Gouda cheese… and much, much more
You’re probably already familiar with Gouda cheese, the most popular cheese in the Netherlands. A semi-hard cheese, Gouda intensifies in both taste and hardness as it ripens, and forms more than half of Dutch-cheese production. While the French are known for their soft and smelly cheeses, the Dutch favor mild, creamy varieties. Edam, the second-most produced Dutch cheese, is one such example. It’s recognized by its signature red paraffin wax casing and subtle, salty taste. A browse through the vast cheese wall at the supermarkets, or the many market stalls, will unearth entirely new varieties. There’s the interesting looking Leidsekaas; the cumin-spiced cheese, komijnkaas; as well as goat’s cheese, smoked cheese and the holey Leerdammer.
A cheese-y fact
Another fun fact is that most Dutch cheese is named after the region it comes from. Gouda is a city in the South Holland province, and Gouda cheese is named not because it was produced there, but because it was first traded in the city. Edam is a town in the North Holland province, while Beemster is a neighboring region (because yes, Beemster is a cheese as well!). There’s even a cheese called Old Amsterdam – an aged cheese with delicious pockets of salt crystals. If you’re on your way to the Netherlands, don’t leave without sampling some traditional Dutch food. It goes without saying that Dutch cheese is chief among them. Where to get your fill? In addition to Alkmaar, you’ll find cheese markets in Edam and Gouda, as well as plenty of cheese stores in Amsterdam. With a Holland Travel Ticket, you could visit any of these cities.