Jeffs' Select Gouda
Self-proclaimed “cheesemakers without borders” Jeff Jirik from Minnesota’s Caves of Faribault and Jeff Wideman of Maple Leaf Cheese in Wisconsin started collaborating on this aged gouda in 2009. Wideman’s team makes the 11-inch-wide wheels using forms brought over from Europe and sends them to Faribault’s famed sandstone caverns when they’re between 30 and 60 days old.
After an initial month stint curing alongside the Amablu and St. Pete’s Select blues, the cheeses develop surface yeast and molds. Then they move to a less-humid affinage cave, where they’re turned frequently and wiped down for the remainder of their stay (usually about a year).“It’s very much a labor of love—it’s very, very labor-intensive,” Jirik says. “They require a lot of care”
With a firm texture and a bright-orange rind created by a hand-rubbing of annatto, the resulting Gouda has a complex nut and caramel flavor with a nice amount of tang and a dash of salt on the finish.
Extra-aged versions sport ruddier rinds and still-creamy, crystal-laden pastes, with flavors that come on strong with caramel-butterscotch and berry notes. But never becomes cloying: “There’s a lingering lactic hint and a touch of salt that cleans up [the palate]—it’s almost refreshing,” Jirik says. Meaning that once you start eating this gouda, you just can’t stop.
Jeff Jirik still raves about a fabulous combo he tried five years ago—Jeffs’ Select Gouda with dry white wine and figs. The accompaniments “amplified the sweet notes in the cheese,” he remembers, “while the white wine clarified the sharpness and a little bit of the nuttiness and put an edge on it.”