A Harte Appetite: Gouda - Holland's Most Famous Cheese
I’m sure you are familiar with Gouda cheese, arguably Holland’s most famous, accounting for over fifty percent of the total production of cheese in that country and these days as ubiquitous, even in this country, as Kraft singles.
I too am familiar with the cheese and have been enjoying it all my life. But recently I discovered, upon visiting the Dutch city from which the cheese gets its designation, that for all these years I have been mispronouncing its name. The locals call it “how-da”, not “goo-da.”
Since my visit I’ve been trying to remember to pronounce the name of the cheese, and the city, correctly. However you say it, Gouda deserves to be taken more seriously than it often is. For example, the internationally acclaimed cheesemonger Steven Jenkins, who hails originally from Columbia, Missouri, says Gouda, at least the grocery store kind, is among the most unexciting cheeses imaginable. He admits, though, that when properly aged it becomes a “miracle of flavor.”
You might expect as much from a cheese made in a country with a long tradition of cheese making. In the Netherlands, but the practice can be traced back at least as far as 800 B.C. Moreover, Gouda itself can be traced back to the year 1184, making it perhaps the oldest cheese on record still being made today following, more or less, the original recipe. To this day Dutch farmers trek to Gouda every week during the summer to have their cheeses ceremoniously inspected in sight of the historic weigh house built in 1667.
Hence Dutch cheeses, and in particular Gouda, have a noble tradition and. if you look for them, you can find noble specimens of Gouda. Just steer clear of Gouda sheathed in red paraffin and covered in cellophane unless all you want to do is make a toasted cheese sandwich or a vat of mac and cheese, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Pear and Smoked Gouda Dutch Baby
What better way to enjoy the principal Dutch cheese than with a Dutch Baby, even if the dish was actually invented by a café in Seattle and the term refers to the Pennsylvania Dutch rather than residents of the Netherlands? This recipe for what is essentially a big, puffy pancake is adapted from Emily Vikre’s fiveandspice blog.
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 medium leek thinly sliced (white part only)
2 medium pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 and ¼ cups whole milk
1 and ¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¾ cup grated smoked gouda cheese
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat for about 3 minutes until starting to brown. Add leek and sauté for 2-3 minutes until starting to soften. Add pears and cook for 3 minutes more or until browned and softened. Remove from heat. In a blender combine eggs, milk, flour, salt, and pepper and process until smooth. Put 4 tablespoons butter in a cast iron skillet or baking pan and place in a 425 degree oven until butter is completely melted and sizzling. Swirl butter around pan and spread pears on the bottom. Pour in egg mixture and scatter cheese over all. Bake 20-25 minutes until puffed and browned. Sprinkle with chives and serve warm.