In most of the pubs in both Holland and Belgium, when ordering a beer you might be offered traditional snacks which most often include Gouda cheese cubes with mustard. It’s a fine combination which goes extremely well especially with dark Belgian beers along with dried sausages or nuts.
The term “Gouda” is now a generic name, and not restricted to cheese of Dutch origin.
The term “Noord-Hollandse Gouda” is registered in the EU as a Protected Designation of Origin. Strangely, the cheese itself was originally developed in Gouda which is in the Dutch province South Holland, hence the registered name referring to North Holland seems incorrect. Noord Hollandse is the recognized premium pasture area of Holland, being land claimed from the sea by the use of dikes. The reason that the cheese is not named after a town in this region is that for much of the history of Holland this land was under water.
The Gouda cheese is made from cow’s milk that is cultured and heated until the curd is separate from the whey. Some of the whey is then drained, and water is added. This is called “washing the curd”, and creates a sweeter cheese, as the washing removes some of the lactic acid….
Exported Gouda is usually the young variety (aged between 1 and 6 months, rich yellow in color and with a red or yellow paraffin wax coating). This cheese is easily sliced on bread with a cheese slicer. Exported Gouda has a pungent underlying bitterness, yet is still considerably creamier than other common cheeses, such as cheddar cheese or Edam cheese.
Locally, old Gouda (aged between 12 and 18 months, orange-yellow in color and sometimes discernible by a black paraffin wax coating) can be obtained. This strong tasting Gouda cheese is hard and often too brittle to cut using a slicer, but it can be sliced by knife or served cut in cubes, with drinks. Smoked Gouda which is a processed cheese and Leyden cheese are also popular variations.