Gouda, Goat Truffle, Pesto Pine, Klaver Chili, and The Special One. 

Smoked, creamy, mature, aged and salted.

Something is cheesy here.

I had 7 hours in Amsterdam to spare en route from Dubai to NYC, and where else would I go to besides The Amsterdam Cheese Museum?! 

The last time I was in Amsterdam dodging bikes on the street I was 19 years old. All my college mates flew to Cancun for Spring break, and I flew to Europe for $379 round trip from Boston. Going back onto the streets gave me flashbacks of Stroopwafels, Heineken, The Red Light District and Van Gogh. When I found out there was a museum dedicated to cheese, that I actually did not go to 15 years ago, there was no question in the matter-I was having free cheese samples for breakfast.

 

 

 

 

Traditional Dutch Cheese is made from cows milk. Here are some tidbits about milk & cheese history and making:

  • 5000 years ago nomads kept milk in sacs made from the dried stomachs of calves.
  • The traveling nomads sacs of milk were shaken around during travels and curd started to form.
  • The thickened curd was then placed into a basket with stones to speed up the drying process….and cheese was born.
  • In the 19th century Dutch cows were known for their high milk yield (more yield, more cheese making, and thus today, Dutch cheese is well-known around the world).

 

  • Cheese is made from either pasteurized (heat treated) or unpasteurized milk.
  • The bacteria from raw milk (not pasteurized) gives the cheese a rich, creamy flavor.
  • Milk is warmed to 20 degrees C/84 degrees F and rennet (enzymes) are added to thicken and curdle the milk*
    • *Rennet traditionally comes from cows but now there are vegetarian options.
  • The thickened milk is cut and separated into the thick part (curds) and liquid (whey).
  • The curds are then pressed and more whey is released; the result is that the cheese becomes firmer.
  • The firm, pressed cheese curds are then immersed in salt water, which helps make the cheese firmer and last longer.

 

What about Nutrition facts?

  • Cheese contains calcium, protein, fat, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A and B12 (Gouda and Swiss cheeses tend to have a higher amount of calcium).
  • It could protect teeth. One study in Finland showed the bacteria from Lactobacillus rhamnosus in cheese can lower cavity causing yeast in the mouth (maybe this is why in some cultures, such as France, cheese is eaten at the end of a meal).
  • With the higher fat and protein content it is more filling as a snack vs. a sugary snack. The fat and protein take longer to digest.
  • Due to the higher fat content its is always a good idea to keep portions in mind. A little bit goes a long way (plus you really don’t want to end up constipated).

 

Here’s the thing. Cheese is awesome. Generally, people with lactose intolerance can enjoy small amounts of hard cheeses without discomfort. Cabot Cheese also has lactose free cheese. Lucky for us all, if you and dairy do not mesh well there are many awesome vegan cheeses made using nutritional yeast. Instead of a sweet treat for dessert try a small amount of cheese. However, pairing cheese with jam or honey (Otto on 8th Ave does such a good job at this) is also a great dessert or holiday hors d’oeuvre).   The sweet and savory balance each other out and offer a GRATE contrast of flavors, pun and misspelling intended.

If you do go to the Amsterdam Cheese Museum be sure to tell the nice lads in the store you heard about them from Kelly, the New Yorker, by way of Dubai, who spent her layover on a mission to visit the museum.

 

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