Gouda (pronounced /ˈɡaʊdə/ or /ˈɡuːdə/;Dutch: [ˈɣʌuda] (listen), from Dutch: Goudse kaas [ˈɣʌudsə ˈkaːs] "Cheese from Gouda") is a yellow cheese made from cow's milk. The cheese is named after the city of Gouda in the Netherlands, but its name is not protected. Gouda cheese is made and sold all around the world.
The cheese is from 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. About ten percent of the mixture is curd which are pressed into circular moulds for several hours. These moulds are the essential reason behind its traditional, characteristic shape. The cheese is then soaked in a brine solution which gives the cheese and its rind a distinctive taste. The cheese is then dried for a couple of days before being coated to prevent it from drying out, then it is aged. Depending on age classification, it can be any time between a number of weeks to over 7 years before it is ready to be eaten. As it ages it develops a caramel sweetness and sometimes has a slight crunchiness from salt-like calcium lactate or tyrosine crystals that form in older cheeses.
The term "Gouda" is now a universal name, and not restricted to cheese of Dutch origin. The term "Noord-Hollandse Gouda" is registered in the EU as a Protected Geographical Status. 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. However, Noord Holland is the recognised premium pasture area of Holland, being land claimed from the sea by the use of dikes.
Within the Netherlands itself, a number of varietes exist, based on age. From young to old, these are: "Graskaas", "Jong", "Jong belegen", "Belegen", "Extra belegen", "Oud" and "Extra oud". The older the cheese, the harder and saltier it gets. The younger, the creamier.
Exported Gouda has two varieties, the young Gouda cheese aged between 1 and 6 months, rich yellow in color and with a red or yellow paraffin wax coating. This cheese is easily sliced with a cheese slicer.
Exported Gouda which has aged more has a pungent underlying bitterness, yet is still considerably creamier and sometimes discernible by a black paraffin wax coating. This strong tasting 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, a spiced cheese are also popular variations.