One of the first “foreign” cheeses I ever had when I was a kid was gouda. It was a lot smoother and milkier than American cheese or any of the more common supermarket cheeses we all had growing up.
Recently at Marion Street Cheese Market, cheese maven Lydia Burns brought out a gouda from Wilde Weide, a cheese maker in Holland that Burns had visited last year. She now is one of the few cheesemongers in the Midwest who has access to this cheese, which is produced in very limited quantities.
“Wilde Weide is a unique cheese, made on a polder [a type of little island in Holland], at a small farm. They make about seven wheels of cheese a day. Most of it never leaves the country. Eight wheels a month make it to the United States. Fortunately, because I visited there and know the cheesemakers, I have dibs on some of it.”
A lot of American goudas, Burns explains, “have that a butterscotch, toffee, burnt sugar, sort of caramel flavor with a salty component. Wilde Weide is totally different. It’s been aged 15 months, so you still get a lot of that good crystal development that people seek in goudas, but the flavor is so distinct. It all comes from the quality of the grasslands and pastures. Most goudas are mass-produced, and this one was made by hand.”
I had a nibble and what struck me was the fruit flavor in the cheese, nothing overbearing, just a light note of sweetness and acidity that Burns interpreted as grapefruit, “which cuts through the richness of the cheese.” Though I appreciate the barnyard flavors of some cheese, this gouda was funk-free, and that was fine; its flavor was very clean though complex.
“It’s a fifteen-month cheese,” Burns explained, eating some, “so it’s firm, but the texture is very distinctive. You have these crystals, which you look for in a fine aged cheese, but the paste melts in your mouth like a younger, creamier cheese. There’s a velvety, luxurious feel in the mouth but also crunchier bits that you get with an aged cheese. It’s so bright and sunny, with no cellar presence, just the taste of the meadows it came from.”
I asked Burns what she’d drink with this cheese, and beer was her first choice (of course!). She suggested “a Pilsner, something simple, because you have so many interesting layers of flavor with this cheese that you don’t want to cover up. But you could also drink something like a sherry or even a bourbon.”
The Wilde Weide gouda is 33.99/lb at Marion Street Cheese Market.