Top 7 Dutch Cheeses to Try in Amsterdam

Top 7 Dutch Cheeses to Try in Amsterdam

Don't mind things turning a bit "cheesy" when in Holland. After all, this small country is renowned for its cheese manufacturing and successfully competes, in terms of cheese exports, with such economic giants as the United States and Germany. Amsterdam alone and its vicinities are home to some major types of cheese, e.g. Gouda, Edam, to mention but a few; one can even improve one's knowledge of Holland's geography, going by the cheese names. Here are the top 7 Dutch cheeses not to be missed, under any circumstances, when visiting Amsterdam or elsewhere in the Netherlands!
Image Courtesy of: Wee Sen Goh

1. Gouda

Gouda
Image Courtesy of: Eelke
Gouda is the king of Dutch cheeses. For many years, cheese makers throughout the world have tried copying its recipe, not often successfully. Gouda accounts for nearly half of Holland's cheese manufacturing, and owes its name (not to be confused with Gaudi, Spanish-Catalan architect) to the place of origin, a small town near Amsterdam. Produced in distinct yellow (rather close to Dutch orange) wax-coated wheels (each weighing 9 to 24 pounds), this semi-soft cheese is made of 48% butterfat cow milk and aged roughly for about 3 months to 5+ years. Past the age of 18 months, it acquires strong and peculiar flavor. If handmade on a farm, they call it Boerenkaas. Gouda goes well with fruit and wine, and is ideal as both, table and dessert cheese.
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2. Edam

Edam
Image Courtesy of: Michell Zappa
Edam is a proud runner-up to Gouda in terms of export sales, and another semi-hard cow-milk-cheese landmark of Holland. It is recognized by spherical shape slightly flattened on the sides, although sometimes it also appears in the form of loaf. The name "Edam", despite some resemblance with Eden (The Garden of Eden, pronounced as “edem” in some cultures), is due to the namesake town of Edam in Holland, where it originated. The cheese has a distinct and rather inviting yellow interior, dressed up in red or yellow wax on the outside. To make it, they use partially skimmed 40% butterfat milk. The fattiness of milk is largely responsible for the difference in the end result between Edam and Gouda. Edam is rather mild and somewhat salty on the tongue, and generally liked by people of all ages. It survives well and can only harden with time, which, in turn, makes it a great travel companion. Edam fully reveals its taste if taken with dark beer.
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3. Leyden Cheese

Leyden Cheese
Image Courtesy of: Alexander van Loon
Leyden, or Leidse kaas in Dutch, is a yellow cheese "laden” with cumin. It is the most popular type of all the komijnekaas (cumin-containing cheeses) produced in Holland. Originally from the Leiden region, hence the name, it is also made of partially skimmed cow milk. These days, its commercial production is shared between industrial entities and private farmers. Leyden does resemble Gouda a bit, in terms of form, but is less round and has sharp edges on the sides. It is also lower on fat (30-40%) which is a lure to those weight-conscious.
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4. Maasdam

Maasdam
Image Courtesy of: Arz
Maasdam is a Dutch attempt to “muscle in” on Swiss cheese making tradition. Featuring large holes when matured, this cheese comes in 28-pound "baby" wheels. Whenever you come across brands like Leerdammer or Mondrian, rest assured – it's Maasdam. It has a pronounced sweet and nutty flavor, and is an irreplaceable ingredient for a Reuben sandwich, if melted, or Chef's Salad, if julienned.

5. Clove Cheese ( or Nagelkaas )

Clove Cheese ( or Nagelkaas )
Image Courtesy of: AlexanderVanLoon
Clove Cheese is a spicy cheese which contains cloves and, for that reason, is called Nagelkaas ("nail cheese" in Dutch) due to the resemblance of cloves with little nails. Although tasty and popular, this Dutch specialty isn't easy to find; it is made originally by the Friesian people residing in the northeastern part of the country. Because of the cloves' presence, Nagelkaas is quite spicy; a small slice of it will last you long. But then again, all the good things usually come in small quantities, don't they...
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6. Dutch Blue Cheese

Dutch Blue Cheese
Image Courtesy of: Norio NAKAYAMA
If you see a Gouda sticker on it, don't worry! It's not your blues or anything creating the illusion. It's just the Dutch making Blue Cheese out of their traditional Gouda! The blue-on-white exterior of this cheese is a tribute to the famous Dutch Delft pottery, in keeping with which the commercially sold brand is called Delfts Blauw (also known as Bleu de Graven). Making it blue is not very traditional for the Dutch, however, the end result is quite delicious. The cheese comes out fairly mild with sweet flavor, less salty than Roquefort, and is destined primarily as a table cheese, best paired with grapes or apple slices. Don't put it in a salad! For those organic-food fans, there's also an organic version, called Bastiaanse Blauw, retailed at organic stores and Marqt supermarkets throughout the country.

7. Goat Cheese

The standard Dutch-made goat cheese comes in a semi-hard Gouda-like form, creamy and easily melting on the tongue. It has a pale color and somewhat piquant taste. Unlike cheeses made from cow milk, goat cheeses require a considerably shorter maturing period. When in Holland, try and get yourself some aged Bettine Grand Cru. In 2006, it was declared Best Cheese of the World at the annual Nantwich International Cheese Show in Britain. Titles like this don't come for nothing...
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