Here are some more of my archive photos from one of the Netherlands best Specialist Cheese Shops: Ed Boele’s in the Fahrenheitstraat in The Hague.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, there are about 600 dairy farms in The Netherlands where the milk is made into cheese on the farm itself. This cheese is called “Boerenkaas‘ (farm cheese) and the place it is made is called ‘de kaasboerderij” (a dairy, but translates literally as ‘cheese farm’)
I have inquired about the possibilitiy of being able to visit one of these farms so that I could document the process but it’s harder than it sounds due strict health and hygiene regulations that require that the general public be separated from the manufacturing process of food by glass or perspex screens and other regulations to protect the public from themselves or others around various heavy machinery.
I will endeavour to keep looking to see if it’s possible to find a Dutch dairy that will give me a tour and let me take photos, you never know I may hit the jackpot one day.
Surprisingly even though the Netherlands is not a large county and the farms are small, the cheeses made in the farmhouses vary considerably in taste. texture and quality.
Each farm has their own way of making the cheese, the recipes differ, the type of rennet used, the amount of salt, as do the methods of ageing, the fat percentages in the milk, the strength of the taste is often to the regional preference and even what the cows ate for breakfast yesterday makes a difference.
In general farmhouse cheeses are made with full whole fat, non-pasteurized milk that in turn produces a young, a medium aged, old or very old cheese, and so if you only wanted to compare the most basic of the 200 farmhouse cheeses you would be looking at at least 5. 000 cheeses without even beginning to consider the goat milk, sheep milk and other varieties.
Ed told me that he visits farmhouses all over the Netherlands and tastes the cheeses for himself. Slowly over the years he has built up a selection of some 20-30 favourites, and there are usually at least 20 of these in the selection of ”farmhouse cheeses” in his shop at any one time.
We can attest we, like his other customers agree with his selection: there is always a queue for these cheeses and little plates with cut cubes for tasting are popular. Not that it would matter if there was no little plate… it’s standard practice in The Netherlands to ask to taste these cheeses before buying, they will expertly slice off a sliver of cheese with a cheese-knife and you may compare several before making choice.
A word of warning to the newbie cheese taster: It’s entirely possible to taste so many fantastic cheeses that you end up exiting the shop with three or four of the five cheeses you tasted instead of just the one you intended to buy.
More than once in the past after a cheese shop dalliance have Himself and I ditched the evenings planned meat and salad menu and instead bought some crusty bread, pâté, crackers, cherry tomatoes on the vine and settled down on the sofa that evening with our decadent cheeseboard dinner.
At the farmhouse the cheeses are put into round wooden forms that are called ”wheels” and are made into these flat rounds because this shape ensures that the ageing process is nice and even throughout the cheese. All hand made cheeses are turned regularly so that the moisture inside evaporates evenly as possible as the cheese matures.
The shop also sells a few of the 15 Dutch factory made cheeses, which are generally made from pasteurized, skimmed milk instead of the unpasteurized full milk of the Boerenkaas and often has a higher salt content.
Factory cheeses have the bonus of being cheaper and melting at more consistent temperatures, useful in the food industry and in cooking. There’s a factory cheese called Cantenaaer that Himself and I think rivals the handmade cheeses for taste, so it’s not necessarily about first or second rate quality, they are just different and there is plenty of room for both.