Gouda is a mild-flavored, cow’s milk cheese.
Originating in the Netherlands, Gouda was named after the town of Gouda in the country’s South Holland region.
The cheese is named after the town of Gouda, not because it was produced in or around that city, but because it was traded there.
The first mention of Gouda cheese dates from 1184, making it one of the oldest recorded cheeses in the world still made today.
Cheesemaking traditionally was a woman’s task in Dutch culture, with farmers’ wives passing their cheesemaking skills on to their daughters.
Gouda is traditionally made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and coated in a yellow wax that prevents it from drying out during its maturation.
In the Middle Ages, Dutch cities could obtain certain feudal rights which gave them primacy or a total monopoly on certain goods.
Within the County of Holland, Gouda acquired market rights on cheese, the sole right to have a market in which the county’s farmers could sell their cheese.
All the cheeses would be taken to the market square in Gouda to be sold. Teams consisting of the guild of cheese-porters, identified by distinct differently colored straw hats, carried the farmers’ cheeses on barrows, which typically weighed about 16 kg. Buyers then sampled the cheeses and negotiated a price using a ritual system called handjeklap in which buyers and sellers clap each other’s hands and shout out prices. Once a price was agreed upon, the porters would carry the cheese to the weighing house and complete the sale.
To this day, farmers from the surrounding region gather in Gouda, every Thursday morning between 10:00 am and 12:30 pm from June until August to have their cheeses weighed, tasted, and priced.
Most Dutch Gouda is now produced industrially. However, some 300 Dutch farmers still produce boerenkaas (“farmers cheese”) which is a protected form of Gouda made in the traditional manner, using unpasteurized milk.
Today, Gouda is made in large wheels with each weighing between 4.5 to 11.5 kilograms (10 and 25 pounds). So-called baby Goudas are produced in smaller wheels of 310 to 620 grams
(10 to 20 ounces).
The cheese color is from pale yellow to golden-yellow to brownish (for older Gouda).
It has a smooth-textured interior and flavours are creamy, nutty, sweet and very mild.
As is typical with more aged cheeses, aged Gouda tends to be harder in texture – in fact, it has a texture more similar to parmesan.
Low-fat Goudas are also produced.
The name “Gouda” is used today as a general term for numerous similar cheeses produced in the traditional Dutch manner.
The name is not protected, so Gouda is made all over the world.
It is one of the most popular cheeses worldwide.
More than 50% of the total cheese production in the Netherlands is Gouda.
In the Netherlands, cubes of Gouda are often eaten as a snack served with Dutch mustard. Older varieties are sometimes topped with sugar or apple syrup. Cubes of old and very old Gouda are eaten alongside strong beers or with port wine.