The Netherlands is known for their cheese production, and chances are that you have already tried a few different Dutch cheeses. While the Netherlands may be one of the top cheese exporters in the world, the best way to experience fresh and authentic ‘kaas’ is by visiting different parts of the country, tasting regional cheeses and visiting local kaas shops.
A mild, semi-hard cow’s milk cheese, Gouda is considered to be the king of Dutch cheeses. However, what many people do not realize until they actually visit the Netherlands is that there are actually six different types of Gouda, with each type being categorized by its age. Generally speaking, the younger the cheese is, the milder and softer it will be, and, as it ages, it takes on a sharper and nuttier flavor.
Edam makes up around a third of the cheese production in the Netherlands, and is the second most popular cheese after Gouda. Edam is also a semi-hard cheese, but has a lower fat content than most other traditional Dutch cheeses, boasting a mild, salty taste that appeals to just about everyone.
Nagelkaas, otherwise known as clove cheese, originated in the northeast of the country thanks to the Friesian people that used to live there. While it may be tasty and relatively popular, it can be quite difficult to find, so keep an eye out for it when visiting any kaas shops.
Situated in Amsterdam, De Kaaskamer is one of the most popular and well-known cheese shops in the country. With a strong focus on tradition and craftsmanship, De Kaaskamer stocks over 400 different kinds of cheese from around the world, but specializes in local Dutch cheeses. If you are not able to take a full block of cheese away with you, the store also sells salads and sandwiches that can be made with the cheese of your choice, and they even shrink wrap cheeses if you are wanting to take them overseas.
Henri Willig Cheese & More
Another fantastic cheese shop with outlets all over the country, Cheese & More is a store that produces award-winning local cheeses, earning them a widespread international reputation. Some of their standout cheeses that have won awards include the goat cheese with fenugreek, the organic cow’s milk cheese with green pesto, and their unique baby Gouda.
If you would like to shop for cheese in a more traditional way, there are five authentic cheese markets in the Netherlands that still function as trading centers for cheese. The markets in Gouda and Woerden attract local cheesemakers who sell their products to wholesalers, while the markets in Alkmaar, Hoorn and Edam are known for their impressive demonstrations and traditional cheese stalls. Due to the seasonality of many of the cheeses, most of the markets are only open from late spring to early autumn, so be sure to plan your visit accordingly.
Cheese is firmly rooted in the history of the Netherlands, and has become as strong a part of Dutch identity and culture as the windmills and wooden clogs. With a dairy industry that is valued at almost 8 billion Euros, it would seem as though the cheesemaking traditions of the Netherlands are going to stand strong for years to come.