Local Heart, Global Soul

July 4, 2012

A Ray of …. Sunshine Organics.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Sometimes you stumble on a brilliant small business in an unexpected place.  We are now in the small Northland town of Maungaturoto situated on Provincial State Highway 12 and in front of us is a wonderful small business called Sunshine Organics.

If you’d asked me as a teenager what I thought of organics I’d have shrugged and said “nothing much”, but as I’ve gotten older and especially after having children I’ve become increasingly concerned about what’s in what we eat.

It’s a shocking fact that girls these days are routinely entering  puberty at far younger ages than earlier generations;  the fact that some nine and ten year old  girls are menstruating already is accepted at school as “not the rule, but certainly no longer an extreme exception”,  seriously makes me wonder at the cumulative effect on our bodies and those of our kids of the hormones, antibiotics, additives and preservatives  in our food.

I’m shocked that when I try and roast a supermarket chicken that if I didn’t use a rack to elevate the bird off the bottom off the roasting pan, that so much water leaks out during cooking that it would be swimming rather than roasting.  They are pumped full of hormones and water and goodness what else. I’ve stopped buying supermarket chickens for this very reason.

I look at the fact that when I was at school there were maybe one or two asthmatic kids in the whole school, a few kids had food allergies and the biggest group of kids with a “health problem” that needed surveillance were the kids like me who were allergic to the bee and wasp stings they got from the playing field grass.

Nowdays some kids have life threatening  food allergies, peanuts are a massive problem, eczema and asthma cases in kids have exploded not only in number but in severity too.

I started reading food labels more carefully and to my horror I’m finding added sugar in almost everything these days, it’s in canned tomatoes, sauces and too many other products to mention. Even the bran flake cereal that looked healthy at first glance contains as much sugar in the packet as some of the products from the biscuit (cookie) isle.  It seems there are “E” numbers everywhere too, with some products sporting more “E’s” than a pocket dictionary…

Escaping this barrage of processed food is hard when you live in a city and have no garden of your own.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I’d love to grow veggies of my own but our balconies are mostly in deep shade catching only late afternoon sun and we’ve had extremely limited gardening success using pots. A few years ago the Dutch government put out a health warning for broccoli, saying that due to chemicals present in the plants it was no longer considered safe to eat broccoli too often. Our family discontinued eating it for almost a year before we gave in and now have it occasionally.

I’ve become more interested in finding out where my food comes from and what’s in it.We’ve made the financial decision to try and increase the amount of organic fruit and veggies we eat but are finding it’s not always possible to get around mainstream mass produced veggies especially at certain times of the year.

We had good friends for dinner once and combined our cooking efforts, they had most of the ingredients for a salad and Himself was on a pine-nut kick at the time so added some extra veggies and topped it off with a good helping of pine-nuts from a new large packet he’d been delighted to score at the supermarket earlier that day.

The pine-nuts came from China and we thought nothing of it, until Himself and one of our friends contained after the meal that they didn’t feel so good, their skin was turning read and they started to scratch because it was so itchy. Himself know’s he’s allergic to hazelnuts but is ok with other stuff and since the symptoms didn’t get worse they just decided to put up with it, but it lasted a good few days before they were both properly better again.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We never suspected the pine-nuts until a week later Himself made another salad and wanted to put pine-nuts in it, I declined as I didn’t fancy them so he added them just to his. He was so sick that evening we had words about him needing to see a Doctor.  (Agggh, men are stubborn!) He refused to go and rode out some horrific itching and rash which lasted more than three days and it was clear he was really feeling lousy even though he played it down as much as possible.

The mostly full large packet of pine-nuts got swiftly deported to the rubbish bin,  but interestingly we later discovered that pine-nuts originating elsewhere than China don’t pose any problem for him at all.

I’m fast coming to the conclusion that our food is being tampered with to a degree that should be causing us far more concern than it does.

A good friend once said that the price of organic veggies would drop considerably if only every single shopper would buy just one organic product in their weekly shop… I think there’s a deep element of truth to this.  I’m therefore delighted to find an organic shop that appears to be making a mark in a small community outside of the perceived traditional  organic market of the big city.

There’s a beautiful shop here with even a veranda  at the back where you can take a chair at a table and relax looking the the hill view behind the shop. If this isn’t the epitome of  “green” shopping I don’t know what is!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

May 10, 2012

Making Amazing Soap from Dried Fruit… Are You Nuts?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

When I first saw these little round hard nuts in a basket I had no clue what I was looking at.

Reading the information card next to them was an eye opener because although they might be called “soap nuts” they are actually the dried  fruit of the Sapindus Mukorossi tree which is found in the Himalayas.

Apparently these fruits/soap nuts are an excellent cleaning product, since they are natural, organic, biodegradable (in that they can be composted after use) and have the added bonus of having antibacterial properties.

Wow, talk about nature’s basket of tricks and wonders!

A little further research tells me that using these nuts in your washing machine will get your clothes clean, using them in your dishwasher will get your dishes clean and there are even on-line recommendations for use as shampoo and as a general household cleaning  product.

The one thing to get used to is that this stuff doesn’t produce all the bubbles and lather that we are all familiar with our modern cleansing products, but that’s more of an advertising tactic in synthetic compound formulations  to convince consumers that the product is “working”. Therefore a little patience to get used to seeing less bubbles and change of mind-set is needed on the part of new Soap Nut users.

I also read that the nuts can be used as is, a few at a time out of the bag and then composted, or a bulk amount can be boiled down to make a concentrated liquid that you could then use as you would other washing liquids.

Your soap nut liquid can then be diluted for use as shampoo or left concentrated if you want to use it as a household cleaner and then  perfumed as/if you wish with the addition of essential oils.

Another thing that really interests me are soap nuts anti-insecticidal properties: apparently the soap from Soap Nuts repels mosquitoes and other insects. (I love this if it works, because both Kiwi Daughter and myself are allergic to mosquitoes).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Since both Himself and my families were unwillingly genetically well-endowed with a long list of allergies, I’m also delighted to see that Soap nuts appear to be excellent for people with allergies,  sensitive skin issues or skin diseases such as dermatitis or eczema,

I’ve long since given up trying  beautifully perfumed soaps and entire commercial ranges of cosmetics because after trying a tester (or a product if it happened to be a gift) I’ve often been left with bright red, blotchy, irritated and painfully itchy skin.

Whilst commercial ranges of cosmetics available for those of us with allergies and eczema have grown amazingly in recent decades I still especially struggle with laundry powders, especially when we are away from home and the product used is beyond my control.

I know that it’s not realistic for us to try and bring Soap Nuts back to the Netherlands in our already bulging suitcases, but I will add them to my list of things to find back in The Netherlands and give them a go for myself.  We are however on our way to visit a friend who I know is really into organic products and trying to live a healthier, greener lifestyle so we pick up a bag of Soap Nuts as a gift for her, along with some other natural soaps here in the holistic shop.

Isn’t it amazing the wonders that Mother Nature serves up? … not only in the big and powerful as in the geothermal area we are staying in but also packing an organic clean punch  in little round, soapy packages, that quite literally grow on trees.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

March 6, 2012

Transformed From Cinders in a Shopping Bag to the Belle of the Ball…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Some people have more natural talent for a particular thing in one little finger, than most of us could hope to ever to have or learn in a lifetime.

My Uncle and cake decoration definitely fall into this category. … and I mean the talent bit, not the hope to learn bit.

I am a detail fanatic and I could very happily spend hours perfecting a drawing or an embroidery piece but this talent doesn’t appear to be in any way shape or form transferable, at least not to any of my home-made cake decoration efforts so far.

My Uncle on the other hand. has the hand, the eye and the vision of the finished product down to a level that even some professionals can only dream of.

He does these for a hobby and lucky indeed is anyone who gets a Birthday cake from him as he’s a genius with piped icings, flowers and basically all things fondant and icing bag.

Himself and I had been visiting before Christmas to drop off the fresh peas we had shelled and since we were also invited for dinner we took around a shop-bought pavlova towards dessert too. It ended up not being used that night because they had made other delights especially for us, so I told them to put it in the cupboard for another day.

When we left that plain Pavlova on their kitchen bench in it’s protective plastic supermarket box I had no clue that when we would see it next that it would have undergone a transformation akin to the proverbial Cinders in rags one moment and the stunning Belle of the ball the next.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Photogenic doesn’t even start to do it justice does it?

This is what I’m going to call “Artiste Culinaire” … Pure stunning, amazing,  stop-you-in-your-tracks Artistry. This is New Zealand’s national dessert at it’s most stunning.

I won’t embarrass myself by telling you how many photographs I took of this.

(sigh) Even now, posting the photos, long after dinner, I starting to think of how many eggs we might have in the fridge and how we may need a Pav on our menu very soon.

Worse still, I’m even having that thought having made a Pavlova only last Saturday for guests.

Actually the second-hand Kitchen Aid that I scored for a song after a chance remark to a lady who’s family was transferring back to the USA last year, did most of the work for me and I was delighted to not have to stand for ages on one leg in the kitchen with my little hand-held electric beater…

…but I had tried a new recipe last Saturday and whilst it wasn’t a flop at all, it was a perfectly smooth fluffy Pav.

Yes I know Pavlova is supposed  to be fluffy, but I like the fuffy ones that have the addition of the chewy caramel bits just around the inside edges and last Saturday’s recipe didn’t give me that at all.

Any Pavlova aficionados amongst you will know exactly  what I mean.

So.. I’m on the hunt for the perfect Pavlova recipe… and since my bargain of the year Kitchen Aid machine makes it so easy I may even give a new recipe a go this week. Kiwi Daughter has expressed an interest at having a go at making one of these on her own too… so maybe I’ll just hand her a recipe, take step-by-step photos of the process and critique the result.

We have plenty of friends who will be only too glad to help taste-test and to take part in the review process too… in the meantime we can all enjoy the amazing talent of my Uncle and dream that we could produce anything remotely like this.

Well, maybe YOU might be able to, but me? ….Ha!  I’ll be seriously realistic…  Dream On Kiwidutch!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

October 10, 2011

Fabulous Wheels of Yellow Gold…and the Rest…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Sigh, sometimes it’s hard to have such nice things on your doorstep… but someone’s gotta do it, right?

Here is the Kiwidutch guide to one of The Netherlands best Specialist Cheese Shops:

Ed Boele’s in the Fahrenheitstraat in The Hague.

This is my final post in this virtual tour… lets just take a quick look around the rest of the shop as it was before the big 2011 renovation.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I haven’t been mobile enough to see the new shop yet, so that just means that as soon as I am,  I will be forced to go there so that you may have an updated version of this treasure trove of cheese.

(A blogger’s work is tough some days, I might have to buy a serious quantity of cheese there to sustain me in this task).

Here is a last look around the rest of the shop before we leave… after all no cheeseboard would be complete without a few olives,  some other yummies from the deli section and a nice bottle of port (or other delectable) to wash it down with. Yes, Ed has those on hand too.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

October 9, 2011

Cheese Journey’s though Our Back Yard that is Europe…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Yes, yet another cheesy post, taken from my archive photos as I take you on a virtual tour of one of The Netherlands best Specialist Cheese Shops: Ed Boele’s in the Fahrenheitstraat in The Hague.

We’ve been looking at the Dutch cheeses on offer, and the Bleu’s from around Europe, but there are so many more to explore in the world of European Cheese. Of course, no shop could even start to hope to stock them all, there are literally tens of thousands of European cheeses, so Ed does the next best thing: he goes looking for the best of the best.

Ed Boele makes regular trips around Europe, sampling cheeses and bringing back some of the more exquisite examples to share with his customers.

Not for nothing does he have Best Foreign Cheese Selection Awards to his name. One of the best things about both him and his shop is that not only are the contents divine but that he and his staff take the time to know all there is to know about everything they sell.

The awards they have earned over the years are based not only on a visiting  senior industry specialist jury but also by multiple random visits by mystery shopper specialists so the staff  have a good incentive to keep their knowledge up to date.

There are the artisan “Producteurs de fromages de chèvre” from the around the area of the Pyrenées, some are mild goat cheeses, other have a real kick to them.

Made in the mountains of north east France,  Munster or Munster Géromé, are the two names for one cheese.  Monks here started making it  in the 17th Century as a way of preserving the milk and to help feed the local people.

Milk comes from cows that graze the Vosgesmountains and is made into cheese by local farmers but bought to the  natural cellars at Rochesson in the Upper Vosges to mature. In the cellars it is washed and rubbed for two to four weeks during which time the rind turns a soft orange colour and the cheese becomes soft and creamy.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The cheese is still made the same way today and the recipe has little changed over the centuries. Ed Boele’s stocks “Munster Ermitage” , an award winning cheese from a company that’s been going strong now for  some 70 years.

Trappe Échourgnac is a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese produced by nuns at the “Abbaye Notre-Dame de Bonne Espérance” (Abbey of Our Lady of Good Hope) in the Dordogne area of France.

The Abbey was formerly called “Abbaye d’Echourgnac” and was inhabited by monks who made cheese here, but in 1910 when war broke out the monks left the abbey. Cistercian nuns came to the Abbey, bought with them the new name and picked up the cheese-making production where the monks had left off.

The original cheese production started in 1868, when some monks from the Abbey of ‘Port du Salut en Mayenne’ came to Échourgnac and bought with them the recipe for Port Salut cheese.

Over time the recipe was amended for local taste and has always been popular but in 1999 the nuns decided that it would also be a good idea to combine two local specialities: their cheese and a local walnut liquor, and so they did, with very successful results.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The freshly made cheese is washed in the walnut liquor during it’s two month ripening time in the Abbey’s cellars, and this in turn produces a soft, smooth, creamy mellow cheese that has a wonderful walnut after-taste.

(I like this cheese a LOT).

From Cressier near Morat in the mountains of Switzerland comes Mont Vully cheese, it’s a “different” sort of cheese made in an area that’s the heart of Emmental style cheese country, so is not of the same style at all.

This semi-hard Mont Vully cheese quickly caught the attention of cheese connoisseurs when it won a gold medal at the Käsiade in Tirol in 1998.

Adding the Swiss Cheese Champion Award for the Mont Vully Bio at the Swiss Cheese Championships in 2006 means that Mont Vully is clearly going from strength to strength.

“Le Moulis Vache ” cheese comes from the  Department of Ariège  nestled next to Andorra in the Pyrenées and is pale, semi-soft mild-but-tasty tasting cheese with a flavour all it’s own.

It’s charactorised by it’s distinctive small holes (I always think it looks like bread!) and is matured from between 10 and 12 months, an excellent addition to any cheeseboard!

“Sbronzo Caciocavallo di Bufala”‘ is the strange looking cheese in the temperature controlled cabinet…  it’s a cheese from Eboli, Italy, that’s  made from unpasteurised water-buffalo milk  and then aged slowly at precise temperatures.

As is usual with hand made cheeses, the wheels are hand turned daily but this one differs from other cheeses because it’s  also “dressed” with aromatic herbs, olive oil or vinegar or in the case of this one, grapes.

Because the  10 month ripening process for this cheese needs to happen under exact temperatures,  it’s one of the few cheeses in the shop to require a temperature controlled environment but apparently  the end result will be a crusty looking, sweet aromatic  cheese and I have no doubt that if the rest of Ed’s stock is anything to go by, that it will taste rather good too.

Of course these are not the only non-Dutch cheeses in the shop, these are just a small sample of what’s on offer to show you the benefits of having a shop that’s dedicated solely to something as delectable as cheese and a staff who know their stuff. Like any society, The Netherlands has things that annoy you and things you adore. In the case of the traditional Dutch cheese shop, I  think it’s an idea par excellence…  after all there’s sure to be something in here to suit everyone’s taste, so what’s not to love?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

October 8, 2011

Cheese to Cure the Blues…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I’m taking you on a virtual tour of one of the Netherlands best Specialist Cheese Shops: Ed Boele’s in the Fahrenheitstraat in The Hague.

This post is about a type of cheese that people either love or loathe, the Blue cheeses. For me since I’m allergic to mould, it’s simple, these cheeses are full of the stuff and not for me, but Himself is a lover of the  Bleu’s and indulges whenever he gets the chance.

Like many food variants around the world,  the first blue cheeses are said to have been derived from a serendipitous sequence of events, but the origonal  “where” it all took place remains ambiguous.

Caves have long been the natural cellars and ally of the cheese maker, temperatures remain more constant and the cool dark of the caves meant that cheeses could mature well.  Various fungi such as  Penicillium Glaucum or Penicillium Roqueforti are commonly found in caves that sport the right conditions and cheese makers found that cheeses stored in the caves to mature took on the spores of these fungi and slowly inherited the blue or green veined texture that is so prized by blue cheese lovers today.

Be they the famous (Italian) Gorgonzola,  (English) Stilton, (French) Roquefort , (Spanish) Cabrales , or (Danish) Danablu, these cheeses are soft and creamy with streaks of blue or green mould running though the cheese. These cheeses are  made from cows, goat, sheep milk or a combination of them all  and are generally strong,  both in smell and taste: often spicy, tangy with an edge that sets them apart from other cheeses.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Hand made bleu’s (blue cheeses)  are still “needled”  which means they have the air injected into the cheeses by hand, the air feeds the mold that is naturally occurring in the cave and so the process begins, but factory made bleu’s  these days probably have the mold mixed directly in with the curds, to ensure an even distribution.

In most cases these famous cheeses are returned to the caves where the mold occuers to be matured and like all cheese, the longer the ageing process the better the texture and the more intense the flavour.

Today, most cheesemakers use commercially manufactured Penicillium Roqueforti cultures that are freeze-dried.

The best advice that Himself gives is that while most bleu cheese lovers instinctivly go for the “big names”  of Gorgonzola,  Stilton,  Roquefort , Cabrales , or Danablu, that if you ever have access to this kind of cheese shop that you should try a few of the  other lesser known names because there are some gems of blue cheeses to be had that are not on the ‘big name”  lists.

Since these speciality cheeses are not easily opened for tasting, asking for  a piece to try from each packet is usually not done, besides, the cheeses are soft, expensive and sold in small increments of 100 grams rather than by the kilo of their  Boerenkaas counterparts.

However, in a place like Ed Boele’s it’s usual for a few of the Bleu’s to have their own promotional tasting plate at any given time, so if you like your cheese Bleu, Himself recommends a taste test  each time you visit so that you might discover some of the ‘other’ magnificent  bleu’s on offer.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

October 7, 2011

Groves of Cloves, Seeds and Nettles… in my Cheese!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Yet another cheesy post, taken from my archive photos as we take a virtual tour through one of The Netherlands best Specialist Cheese Shops: Ed Boele’s in the Fahrenheitstraat in The Hague.

Plain cows’ milk cheeses are of course what the Dutch are famous for.

The Dutch have both in the past and present, exported not only vast volumes of cheese, but also the world-famous back and white super-milker, the Friesian Cow too.

But of course not just cows produce milk… there are also goat and sheep cheeses available  in every cheese shop.  Usually quickly identifiable by their very white colour, these cheeses are often accompanied by a distinct sharpness, even in the young cheeses, and this can be an acquired taste.

When I first came to live in The Netherlands I found these far too strong for my taste, but this is where the little slip of cheese tasted in the cheese shop comes very much in handy. Over the years I have tried many a little slice of goat and sheep cheese and yes, to be honest  most have been beyond me, but over time, I have found several exceptionally tasty but also mild sheep and goat cheeses that I can now enjoy.

It’s always worth a try and who knows, maybe you’ll  find one that suits you too.

Then there are the “cheeses with bits and flavours”. Cheese makers are Foodies after all and what true Foodie doesn’t like a little culinary experiment?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Brandnetelkaas”  (stinging nettle cheese) contains, you guessed it…. stinging nettles. …and No, they don’t sting at all once they are in the cheese.  There is a distinctive taste to it and it comes with small green pieces of stinging nettle mixed throughout the cheese.

Personally, I’m still working on liking stinging nettle cheese,  not because I actively dislike it but rather because I have  a long list of other cheeses-with-bits-and extras that I like even better.

Amongst others there is ‘knoflook kaas’ (garlic) cheeses, “gerookte kaas‘ (smoked) cheese, capsicum cheese (slightly spicy)…

westfriese-kruidenkaaas *’ (West Friesian herb cheese)  with garlic, celery, chives and paprika,  ‘noten‘ (nuts), ‘fenegriek‘ (Fengeek) ” mosterdzaden‘ (mustard seed)…

peperkorrels‘ (peppercorns) but  there are several others probably top the list of perennial Dutch favourites:  

komijnenkaas‘  (cummin seed cheese) This is another of the  ‘acquired taste’ cheeses and personally, I like it in small quantities.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I have stood in the shop in times past and watched in wonder as I waited my turn as customer after customer before me buys  a slab of  cummin seed cheese with their regular order of cheese  and I’ve been facinated at the apparent national appitite for this particular cheese.  It’s so popular you can get it country wide in any cheese shop.

kruidnagelkaas‘ (clove cheese) This cheese is a must for any true lover of cloves… and one of my personal favourites.

(*) a small note about the westfriese-kruidenkaaas  I mentioned earlier, it’s fabulously delicious  “as is” on crackers or bread, but I wouldn’t recommend cooking with it because I tried twice. First to make a herb-y cheese sauce and second to mix with  hot pasta.

Both times it the result was excessively salty, even though I added no other salt to the recipes. You win some, you loose some, cooking with this one was a definite fail.

These are just a small selection of the Dutch cheeses on offer… now you see why a shop that specialises in just cheese is such an excellent idea here in The Netherlands… but I’m not finished yet!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

October 6, 2011

Cheese can be Young, Middle Aged or Old? … Yes!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I’m still getting over my bronchitis,  so here are some posts I prepared earlier to keep you entertained whilst I take my coughing self back to bed.

Taken from my archive photos, here is a continuation of  a small tour through one of The Netherlands best Specialist Cheese Shops: Ed Boele’s in the Fahrenheitstraat in The Hague.

“Old” cheese is what I think is more often called “sharp’  cheese in North America. To be honest,  although people say it’s the same thing, we have tried ‘sharp’ cheese in the USA and it tasted nothing like any ‘old’ Dutch cheeses we have here.

Of course we only tried a few in the USA and Canada, so our taste test was far from in depth or comprehensive, but  now I’d like to give you the basic Kiwidutch guide to the differences between ‘young’  and ‘old’  cheeses here in the Netherlands.

First let’s talk about  ‘Graskaas‘ (literally means: grass cheese). This is the first cheese produced each spring after the cows have been  put back out to pasture for the first week of outdoor grass grazing after the long cold winter in the barns eating hay.

The change in diet affects the milk and produces the most creamy cheese of the year which is highly prized and best eaten  whilst it is fresh and young.  There’s even a Spring Cheese festival where the first wheels of  Graskaas are presented for sale, one month ripening time after making. It’s a traditional favourite but naturally due to the very nature of this cheese  it’s not around long and you have to be quick to find it.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Jong” (young) cheese is usually 4 weeks old and  is a soft yellow cheese that is mild in flavour. It has a high moisture content and melts easily but gets tough and stringy if overheated. It’s the cheapest of the cheeses and is popular with children.

Jong belegen” (young mature) is cheese that has matured for eight weeks, it’s still a relatively soft yellow cheese but it’s firmer than the younger Jong and the flavour has intensified somewhat too. Still a cheap cheese since the moisture content is reasonably high.

Belegen” (mature) in the cheese world, these are the ‘middle aged” cheeses which fall into the slot between Jong and Oud  and have usually matured for 4 months. There will be starting to be some real depth in the flavour, the cheese is getting drier and less soft and the colour of the cheese is less yellow.

Extra belegen“, (extra ripe or extra mature ) These cheeses are usually around 7 months old and are the older of the middle aged cheeses. The texture is now noticeably different (drier) to the soft creamy yellows of the Jong and the flavours are stating to intensify.

Oud” (old) cheese in The Netherlands is required to be at least 10 months old and now  you will start seeing really marked differences in the appearances of the cheese. It cracks and chips into bits when sliced because there is now a lot less moisture and is now noticeably more salty. The flavours start gathering serious strength from now on, and the cheese has a definite bite.

Overjarig” (literally means “too old”) These cheeses are for the serious cheese lover, they are all over 1 year old and pack a taste punch, are saltier and are no wallflowers when it comes to  intensity of flavour. This isn’t a cheese for wimps, this flavour is knock-your-socks-off intense.  This is what I call a seriously sharp cheese.  It crumbles easily due to it’s low moisture content and an Overjarigcheese of 2-4 years can even have quite a grainy, crystalised texture. It’s the most expensive of all the cheese types because the moisture lost during the ripening process means that it’s the lightest of all the cheeses, and naturally you are paying for the extra flavour.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Invariably you will also see numbers on Dutch cheeses, and not just the price numbers.

If you see “‘ 48 ” then it refers to the percentage of fat of the cheese when the cheese is made using full fat whole milk. Factory cheeses made with half fat milk are typically 30% fat and the really low fat milk will be labelled as  slank 20+ (trim) but personally, I think the latter has the taste  and texture equivalent of an elastic band.

In my humble opinion, if I’m trying to stay trim then it’s my view that even a tiny amount of a seriously good full fat cheese will satisfy my cheese cravings better than a far larger amount of  rubbery low fat substitute.

Also, one few small pointers if you are ever in a Dutch Cheese Shop… they have commercial grating machines, so if  you want a lot of really good grated cheese for cooking,  just taste and buy as usual and then ask them to grate it for you. they will cut the hard outside edge of the cheese off and it takes about a minute to grate it in their machine, an excellent  and easy time saver.

Any good Cheese shop will wrap or offer you cheese bags for your cheeses… these cheese bags look like plastic, they feel like plastic, but there is something different to them (I keep forgetting to ask what) and yes, your cheeses will stay at their best longer in a cheese bag.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Ed Boele’s cheese shop also has a vacuum machine where cheeses can be vacuum packed in plastic. Stored this way they can be kept for up to six weeks without the need for refrigeration  and even posted.  (The vacuum process, per cheese is a little time consuming, so if this is an option available in your local cheese shop, going to have it done when the shop is less busy will be appreciated).

We have in the past made a very practical gift for our overseas guests who were passing by The Netherlands on their European tour, by getting a selection of small wedges of cheese vacuum packed  so that our friends can continue to enjoy them as they travel.

Our recipients have enjoyed their Dutch cheeses on trains and picnics around Europe, all they needed to do was to buy some local crusty bread and break open one of the wedges for a cheap, delicious and easy meal.

One important note though: Oud and  Overjarig  cheeses will both suffer quality loss  if vacuum packed for long… I still do it, but leave instructions that these need to be eaten first and taken out of the vacuum packing as soon as they can manage. We ask for extra cheese bags to be packed loose with these so that the cheeses can be packed into a cheese bag as soon as they come out of the vacuum plastic.

Happily  no-one has ever encountered any quality loss yet, because our cheese loving friends haven’t been at all shy to break these open first!

October 4, 2011

The Dutch Kaaswinkel …Smile and Say “Cheese!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Himself and I have grand ideas and dreams of living back in New Zealand when we retire. We like the idea of a more relaxed lifestyle in a smaller city or town and a lot more space. Who knows what life will bring and if we will ever get there, but if we do, then there is is a list of typically Dutch things I will certainly painfully  miss.

Near the top of this list will be some of the fabulous speciality cheese shops.  You’ll find a kaaswinkel  (cheese shop) in most  neighbourhoods and they are well used because  Dutch families have grow up with ready access and a plentiful supply of cheese… … and not content with a large cheese section of the supermarkets, the Dutch therefore expect not just average cheeses, but brilliant cheeses.

Cheeses to choose from come from approximately 200 dairy farms in the Netherlands who keep cows and make their own farmhouse cheeses on site,  plus the added bonus of having  the  “back yard called Europe”  with each members countries amazing specialist cheeses too.

Even the boring common garden supermarket can give me a selection of  seven or eight feta cheeses, all Greek, all different, all good (and cheap!)

Not all Specialist cheese shops are created equal…  good ones there are aplenty, but great ones have customers who come from further afield just to stock up on wares that are not just good, but divine. This is why I’m taking you on a photo tour of  one of the Hague’s best Specialist cheese shops.

Located at Fahrenheitstraat 625,  owner Ed Boele has built up an amazing range of cheeses.  I talked to him and his staff last year and took photos in the shop… and if you think it looks fabulous in these photos I have to warn you that he had recently had the entire shop refitted and everyone who’s been says that it’s now even better.

Sadly my lack of mobility has prevented me from seeing the new shop yet for myself,  but I will get there eventually. In the meantime let’s take a look around at various parts of  the old version of Ed’s shop and smile as we say “cheese!””.

Fahrenheitstraat 625    /   2561 DC DEN HAAG   /   Tel.: 070 – 3631819     /    http://www.kaasspeciaalzaak.nl/

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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