When I think of gouda cheese, I think of wine. Here’s why: Just like wine, it seems that fresh gouda doesn’t get quite as much love as a gouda that’s been aged for a few years. With wine, people are willing to shell out thousands of dollars for a bottle of Bordeaux that been sitting in a cellar for decades, but they’ll only throw a few bucks at a bottle that was made a few years ago. (I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, it’s purely an observation.) While I’m well aware of the deliciousness that comes with an aged gouda, for this week’s tasting I decided to give some love to some younger goudas that have yet to come into their prime. In doing this taste test I hoped to give a new identity to gouda, taking it from being a cubed “reception” cheese to a cheese that is loved for what it is—not for the pretty colored toothpick sticking out of it. So with this mission in mind, let’s dive into the tasting, shall we?
Starting off this week’s tasting was Boar’s Head, a deli-counter juggernaut that’s been making premium meats and cheeses since 1905. Out of all of this week’s contestants, Boar’s Head was the heftiest of the bunch, looking more like one of Hagrid’s teeth than a wedge of cheese. Just like the other brands, BH’s gouda came wrapped in a thin layer of red wax that left a slight hint of pigmentation on the border of the cheese. Taste-wise, it was nothing to write home about. With a very mild, barely noticeable flavor, this gouda tasted like a piece of string cheese that had been left to sit in the sun by some toddler who needed both hands to pick his nose. The texture was softer than expected, more similar to a processed block cheddar than anything else. To sum up, if I had to summarize this cheese with one word, it’d be “meh.”
Next in the line-up was Van Kaas, an imported gouda from the Netherlands. When I found this cheese buried beneath the pile in the specialty cheese section, I felt like I won the lottery—not only was this gouda one of the only authentic Dutch goudas that I could find, but it was on sale! For $4! It’s for reasons like this thatm when it comes to value, you just can’t beat good ol’ Stop & Shop. The color of the Van Kaas gouda was a deep caramel yellow, much darker and more complex than any of the other contenders. The flavor was, yet again, subtle, but had definite nutty peaks that complemented the fudgy texture. Again, I wasn’t about to go out and get a tattoo of the Van Kaas label over my heart, but I was fairly impressed with the flavor of this cheese. So often fresh goudas have next to no flavor while aged goudas get all the love (which, good for aged goudas!). But Van Kaas tried to flip the script and make a name for itself in the bleak world of fresh goudas, screaming “Look! I have nuttiness, guys! Nuttiness!” We hear you Van Kaas, we hear you.
Up next was Goya, the definite underdog of the competition. Marketed as “the premier source for authentic Latino cuisine,” it was no secret that Goya seemed a bit out of place in a Dutch cheese competition. Nevertheless, I put aside all of my apprehension and decided to let Goya prove me wrong. First off, the packaging is freaking adorable. While the other three goudas came as wedges cut out of a larger wheel, Goya’s gouda (say that five times fast) was its very own tiny wheel of cheese, looking like the biggest Babybel snack cheese you’ve ever seen. Secondly, unwrapping this cheese was a delight. As I took off the red plastic and cut into the stiff wax that covered the wheel, I felt like a giddy schoolgirl on Christmas morning opening the biggest present under the tree. “I hope it’s a puppy! Oh please oh please be a puppy!” However, just as the little girl undoubtably had her dreams crushed when she realized you couldn’t keep a live puppy in a sealed box, my hopes of being blown away by Goya’s gouda were destroyed as soon as I put it into my mouth. This cheese tasted like a milk-coated paper clip, complete with metallic overtones and a weird pinching sensation on my tongue that has yet to go away as of writing this piece.
Rounding out the taste test was Arla’s Dofino brand. Having spent the previous fall semester in Copenhagen, it doesn’t need to be said that I was aggressively pulling for this Danish company to come out on top. During my time in Denmark, Arla was a beacon of light that would shine through the aisles of the grocery store like a lighthouse leading me home. From the milk in cartons to the yogurt in identical cartons, I could always count on buying a delicious product from Arla, even if I had no idea what the product was. Much to my dismay, Arla’s gouda was just as unremarkable as all the others. Bland milky overtones were coupled with a bland sharpness which perfectly complemented the bland texture, which reminded me of really bland blandness. If this cheese had one saving grace it was its presentation, looking the least processed of all the goudas.