Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cheese…from the very beginning…and I do mean the beginning!

Gouda Ready to Consume

As part of a river cruise taking us through The Netherlands, we got to see how the Dutch make their famous Gouda Cheese.  That was interesting, but not the best part.  We got to see the source of the milk from which this artisan cheese was made…but not just a bunch of milk cows - although we did see quite a few (the farm had about 280).

One-day-old calf
What was really exciting was the sight of three one-day-old calves – yes really only a day old.  We also saw another cow mother that was about to birth as well.  They were all cute, but what was neat was to pet them and, in one case, have one suck on my wife’s fingers as if the baby thought she were feeding. Talk about the very beginning of the cheese making process ;-) !

The owner of the farm walked us through the life cycle of a milking cow. We went from birth, through milking (and output) to death. He even talked through reproductive timing. We saw the proud bull in a pen with his bevy of beauties - about 20 or so 2 year olds. It was late in the day and the bull obviously had a productive time as he was fast asleep amongst his bevy!

The farmer then told us of a contest between his farm and a Wisconsin based cousin's farm.  Who produced the most milk?  Well, he had to admit that it was the American farmer.  But his proud caveat was that what they produced was “milk-water” while the Dutch farmers output, although lower in volume, was much higher in calcium and fat!

Ready to Begin Aging
Well, moving on, we then went to see the actual making of the Gouda Cheese.  Went through the separation of the curd and whey.  (Incidentally, the whey is sold off as food to local pig farmers...they are into sustainability and use everything!) Next came the machinery for pressing the moisture from the curd and forming it into the familiar round wheel shapes.  After that it is just a matter of time for the cheese to properly age.

Aging Gouda
We brought home two small rounds of this fantastic artisan cheese. One includes black truffle...yum! The other is a combination of jalapeño and herbs...nice combination of hot and cool cheese.

Headed back to the boat having had a very different, educational and (hate to say it), smelly afternoon.  The best part - other than the baby calves - was meeting the locals who take so much pride in what the produce!

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