Give the cheese a go for a new twist
Gouda is a town in the Netherlands that makes one of the world’s most versatile cheeses. It has been produced since the sixth century. In the 13th century, it was imported to England. When young, this cheese has been said to be one of the most unexciting cheeses imaginable. But as Gouda ages, its slightly salty personality gives way to more complexity. At seven months, it becomes a Belegenkaas, meaning “young cheese,” with its smooth mouth-feel and gentle, nutty flavor. After two years, Gouda is transformed into a denser flavor miracle with hints of crunchy crystallization. Aged Gouda, or oude kass (meaning “old”) is like the Dutch themselves: formal on the outside with a rockin’ house party on the inside. When you chew on a dense piece of this amber-colored cheese, the nutty fruit flavor with butterscotch and toffee will rock your world. This hard cheese is perfect for grating and is just one of the many kinds of Gouda to offer your customers.
The Dutch have always been portrayed as composed and dignified. The paintings of Rembrandt show this well-fed populace as happy and straight-laced, but there has always been a wild flip-side to this country. The Dutch of Rembrandt’s time said prayers and read from the bible before each banquet, but afterwards enjoyed a long night of crazy drinking and dancing. These parties got so bad that in 1665 the Amsterdam police observed as much as fifty different dishes being served at such festivities with “shouting out toasts, arm in arm, smashing glasses…” They eventually clamped down on the number of courses served to quell disturbances. Luckily, one of these courses wasn’t a cheese course with Gouda.
Most Goudas come in the form of wheels that range between six to 50 pounds. Gouda represents 60 to
65 percent of cheese production in Holland. Most Gouda is now factory made and is coated in red wax, which extends its longevity. Orange wax signifies that the Gouda is flavored with cumin, and green wax indicates an addition of herbs. Black wax, meanwhile, indicates an aged Gouda of at least 12 months (and up to five or six years).
Aged Gouda may lead some cheese novices to recoil at the strength of its strong flavor. But as the milk proteins crystallize into a drier, harder texture, it becomes perfect for grating and sauces because it adds sweet butterscotch and toffee notes to dishes. Aged Gouda is not recommended with pasta, but is more in-tune with potato dishes.
I use locally made Gouda on my spinach and mushroom pies and schiacciatas.
For all of Gouda’s great taste, the melt produces a more hydrated and less structured liquid than mozzarella or provolone. This is the same problem I’ve had with French Brie, which melts like butter. The Gouda melt can be problematic with enclosed pizza products like calzones (and especially stromboli). This melting cheese finds any small cracks in under-crimped and mis-sealed pizza products. Stromboli made with Gouda don’t keep their original bulky roll shape because the liquid cheese flattens into the bottom, leaving a hollow air-gap between toppings and top dough. Smoked Gouda also presents problems, especially in conveyor ovens with forced heat. The cheese just sits there like a burnt hockey puck. The solution to all these Gouda issues is manipulating time and temperature. Putting Gouda on top of pizzas midway through the bake or bulking calzones and Stromboli with mozzarella are key. Shaving smoked Gouda and placing underneath a more heat-tolerant cheese produces a great melt and taste.
Here’s a wonderful calzone recipe that contains three types of oozing cheese, along with salami, spinach and mushrooms. The mozzarella keeps the structure of this calzone.
John Gutekanst owns Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio.