Another wonderful sampling of cheeses, courtesy of our Whole Foods cheesemonger, this time from the Netherlands!
Starting from left to right...
Dutch Washed Rind: According to the website, one of the only washed rind cheeses to be made in Holland. Described as a smear cheese, which describes the action of washing the cheese with red cultures during the ripening processes, this cheese has a distinct full-bodied hops flavor blended with malt, grass, and earth. Supposedly pairs well with beer. It tasted like a less "Brie-like" Brie, more firm, and quite delicious. The "Washed Rind" refers to bathing the cheese in salt water, and occasionally with other ingredients such as wine, brandy, local spirits, etc. and helps to break down the curd from the outside. They tend to have brightly colored rinds and pungent odors but a mellow well balanced flavor.
Parrano: A cow milk cheese produced in the Netherlands, with a mild nutty flavor, combining sweet and salty. Semi-firm texture and a smooth, golden coloured paste. Made from pasteurized milk in 20lb wheels then aged for 5 months. Marketed as an Italian style cheese, but technically a Gouda cheese. Very versatile cheese.
Chimay Biere Chimay: This semi-hard mild cow's milk cheese is produced from regional cows, some fed leavings from the Chimay beer brewery, and the rind is bathed with Chimay beer in order to impart the flavor and aroma to the cheese. We did not like the hoppy flavor combined with the cheese, so we actually didn't even bother to save this one after our sampling. But now we know to steer clear of beer-washed cheeses.
Vintage Gouda Aged 5 years: This gouda is aged 5 years and is hard but can be crumbled - salt crystals throughout, very strong salty nutty flavor with hints of caramel.
Gouda is named after the Dutch city, and the cheese dates back to as early as 1184. Gouda is more about the process than the flavor because it varies greatly depending on how long it has been aged. The cheese is made from cultured milk that is heated until the curd separates from the whey. Some of the whey is drained and then water is added, which "washes the curd" and removes some lactic acid, leaving the cheese more sweet. About 10% of the mixture is curds, which are pressed into circular molds for several hours. Then soaked in a brine solution, giving the characteristic taste. Aged from semi-hard to hard, categorized by aging: 4 weeks, 8-10 weeks, 16-18 weeks, 7-8 months, 10-12 months, and 18+ months. Young goudas are typically used for sandwiches, or a snack with mustard and sugar or apple syrup. Older goudas are eaten alongside strong pale beers.