The Cheeses of Italy

Almost every region of Italy has its own distinct cheese and the sheer number of different types is astounding. Cheese is a part of everyday life in Italy, consumed at almost every meal. Each region boasts its own speciality and depending on which you choose, the subtleties and nuances that make up the particular soils, plants and grasses of a particular region the cows & sheep graze on are recognized in that they lend distinctive qualities to the milk that make up each cheese. As always, it is my goal to educate you as well as entertain, so that you can become a gourmet in your own right.

Made in the region of Vicenza and Trento, this is a traditional, farmhouse cheese that is creamy, unpasteurized and hard. Originally made of ewe's milk, it is now made entirely of cow's milk. As we have covered in a previous feature of this cheese, there are two types of Asiago: A lightly pressed cheese made from whole milk, matured for 20-30 days and a second aged cheese made with skim milk. Long and slow maturation process creates fruity, slightly sharp cheese with a compact, granular interior full of small holes. Matured over 2 years, it becomes intensely flavored.

Bel Paese
From the Lombardy region of Italy, this is a modern, creamy, semi soft cheese and has a light, milky aroma. It is matured for 6-8 weeks. The pure Italian cheese is identified by its wrapping, which feature an image of a priest and the map of Italy. In the U.S. licensed versions show a map of the Americas. The name means "beautiful land" and was inspired by the title of a book by Stoppani. Bel Paese is very similar to French St. Paulin. It can also be used instead of mozzarella.

This is a fresh mozzarella that comes in various sizes, packed in either water or brine. Other fresh mozzarella, such as Fiore di Latte Trecce, etc. are Bocconcini in different shapes.

Traditional, unpasteurized, hard cheese which has a round shape. The cheese is named after the place where it was originally sold. There exist two types of Bra. The traditional, hard version that ripens for three to six months. The color darkens and the flavor intensifies. The other type is sold young, at 45 days, when the paste is still soft. This version is made from pasteurized milk. Bra is used as a table cheese, but also for grating and melting.

This cheese originates from southern Italy. It's a traditional, stretched curd cheese made from cow's milk. It's gourd-shaped and tied at the thin end with a cord to hang. After a period of three months this cheese can be eaten as a table cheese and after a period of two years, it is used for grating. There are also smoked versions of this cheese. Cavallo means "horse" in Italian and it is said that this cheese was originally made from mare's milk. In the Italian language the expression "to end up like Caciocavallo" means to be hanged.

From a region of Foggia, this is a traditional, farmhouse, unpasteurized, semi-hard cheese. Milk with paste rennet is curdled at 95 degrees F. Once the curd is firm, it is cut scalded by heating it to 110 degrees F, salted and then peppercorns are added. There is no set ripening period for this cheese, therefore its taste and consistency varies.

Casciotta di Urbino
It is a traditional, unpasteurized, semi-soft cheese. It has a shape of a round-edged cylinder with a thin, polished, yellow to orange natural rind. The name of the cheese is used to describe the many small cheeses made all over central Italy. It can be made with cow's, goat's or sheep's milk. The flavor is sweet and moist, with the aroma of warm milk. It is a delicate, subtle cheese with flavors of fresh green grass, nuts and wild flowers. This cheese is produced only between April and September. It ripens in 15 - 30 days and has a fat content of 45 per cent. Casciotta di Urbino is used as a table cheese, in salads and for cooking.

This cheese is made from partially skimmed cow's milk, with some goat's or sheep's milk added. The evening milk is left to ripen overnight. The next day, the morning milk is added, which contributes to its strong taste and unusual texture. The reddish-yellow, natural rind is crusty, with some gray molds and yeast. The cheeses are left to ripen in damp cellars and drying rooms, occasionally being turned and washed to encourage the development of the natural micro-flora that contribute to the pungent, yeasty aroma. Blue molds, present in the cellars, sometimes penetrate the rind to form fine, blue streaks that impart a more spicy flavor to the cheese. It is used as an after-dinner cheese and to make gnocchi.

White square or rectangular, this fresh cheese is made from cow's milk. This cheese belongs to Stracchino-style cheeses, but varies from the rest by its fat content. This cheese is sold after a few days wrapped in simple, white, greaseproof paper. Smooth and moist, it has a fresh, clean acidity. Other Crescenzas are more rubbery, jelly-like or mushy, with a sour taste. Low-fat varieties can be grainy. The cheese should be ripened for no longer than ten days and as such eaten as quickly as possible.

It is a wheel shaped, creamy, blue cheese made from cow's milk. The cheese has a sweet taste as the name suggests. Dolcelatte means "sweet milk." This cheese is very soft and melts in the mouth like ice-cream. It was created by the Galbani company, famous for cheese making. The method of production is very similar to Gorgonzola, except that Dolcelatte is made from the curd of only one milking. Similar cheeses include, for example, Dolceverde and Torta Gaudenzio.

Fiore Sardo
It is a cheese of cylindrical or wheel shaped. The rind is natural, golden-yellow to dark brown and has a sour, damp smell. The cheese is hard and grainy and has a wonderfully rich flavor, with caramel sweetness, salty tang and a hint of fruit. Rennet from lamb is used to coagulate milk. When drained, the curds are scalded in hot water to seal the rind. Then, they are stored on a woven reed shelf absorbing the sweet smoke as they dry. Ripening continues in another room, or the attic and the cheeses are periodically rubbed with olive oil and sheep fat to keep them moist. This cheese ripens in three to six months.

Originally started as the French version of Fontina, Fontal has developed into a distinct cheese of its own. It is generally made commercially on a large scale. It is tender and buttery with a bland taste and a yellow paste with tiny holes.

Genuine Fontina

This is the original cheese and it comes from the Val d'Aosta region of Italy in the Alps near the French and Swiss borders. Fontina is dense, smooth and slightly elastic. The straw-colored interior, with its small round holes, has a delicate nuttiness with a hint of mild honey. When melted, as it frequently is, the flavor is earthy with a taste of mushrooms and a fresh acidity. Fontina is the primary ingredient of Italian fonduta, which we covered in our feature about fondue, and is a pristine table or dessert cheese.

Fresh Mozzarella 
The cheese that is best known around the world as 'pizza cheese,' it is a must in every Italian's kitchen. It is a fresh cheese that is always mild, high in moisture and low in fat. For most traditional Italians, the best version of this cheese is made from buffalo milk, though most American mozzarella is made with cow's milk. It has a slightly acidic or lactic taste. It is mostly used for cooking, but if you can get it freshly made from your local Italian grocer, it is best served topped with basil leaves, drizzled with olive oil atop a slice of fresh tomato, dusted with paprika, charcoal or fresh herbs, such as oregano.

Fresh Ricotta
Light, delicate and moist, this is made from whey, so it's low in fats and calories and contains a lot of vitamins. It is believed that this is the cheese that Miss Muffet was consuming when she sat on her tuffet and had her infamous encounter with the spider. It is another of the most well known types of fresh Italian cheeses. You will find it combined with mozzarella when used as the filling for stuffed shells, manicotti, ravioli's. As a child growing up, when my mom made this fresh, it was all she could do to keep me out of the bowl, eating it just after it was combined with the fresh herbs and spices. This is actually my favorite way to eat ricotta. Another staple in Italian households, especially around Christmas and Easter is ricotta pie, and ricotta cheesecake, which is a bit lighter and fluffier than its cream cheese counterpart, and has become quite popular.

Fresh Truffles
There is a wide range of this kind of Italian cheese like Italian White Truffles, French Summer Truffles, French Winter Truffles, etc. These cheeses taste delicious with condiments, for example Truffle and Porto Sauce, Black Truffle Mustard, Black Truffle Sherry Vinegar and many others.

This is a traditional, creamy and co-operative, blue cheese. The greenish-blue penicillin mold imparts a sharp, spicy flavor and provides an excellent contrast to the rich, creamy cheese. Gorgonzola is made in the northern Italian village of Gorgonzola, from which it gets its name, either from unpasteurized or pasteurized milk to which the mold is added. At about four weeks, the cheeses are pierced with thick needles to encourage the spread of the mold. Gorgonzola ripens in three to six months. The cheese is usually wrapped in foil to keep it moist. Its color ranges from white to straw-yellow with an unmistakable marbled green or bluish-green mold. The taste ranges from mild to sharp, depending on age.

Grana Padano
Grana is a traditional, co-operative, unpasteurized, hard cheese. The smooth, natural rind is extremely hard and thick. This cheese is known to many of us as simply "Parmesan." The cheese should taste fresh, fruity and sweet, with a hint of pineapple. The pale yellow interior should be hard, grainy and crumbly. Grana Padano freezes very well. It ripens in 12 -48 months.

Il Boschetto al Tartufo
The Il Boschetto al Tartufo is a mild semi-soft cheese, a blend of sheep and cow's milk, loaded with white truffle bits. If you ever have a chance to purchase this cheese, while a bit on the pricey side, it is well worth every tender morsel and mouthful. If you are a lover of truffles as I am, this will become one of your favorite cheeses for any occasion. I absolutely love this cheese.

A soft, white, fresh, vegetarian, cream cheese from the Lombardy region of southern Italy. In fact, it is not cheese at all, but rather the result of a culture being added to the cream skimmed off the top of the milk used in the production of Parmesan. It is, however, described as a curd cheese, although it is made in much the same way as yogurt. To make mascarpone, cheese tartaric acid (natural vegetable acid derived from the seed of the tamarind tree) is needed. After the culture has been added, the cream is gently heated, then allowed to mature and thicken. This white to straw-yellow fresh cheese is creamy, mild and compact, while maintaining a buttery supple and spreadable texture and it is added to famous Italian desserts, sometimes accompanied by cognac. Frequently it is used for the preparation of certain dishes and sauces, and chefs are now using it in more and more creative ways.

This creamy, unpasteurized, hard cheese is made from cow's milk. The yellow-brown rind is smooth and springy at first, later it becomes darker and harder. This cheese was developed in the thirteenth century in the monastery of Maggio. Originally, it was made only from sheep's milk. The cheese has the same shape as Fontina, but in texture, it resembles a young Asiago. The body is firm with small holes. It is creamy, rich and fruity, with a hint of pineapple. As it matures, the rind becomes very hard and the interior becomes granular and even brittle.

Panera means "cream" in Italian and Pannerone is one of the creamiest cheeses available. Milk is curdled at 89 degrees F and gently stirred as the curd forms. The stirring releases whey and also helps the mass to grow firm. The curd drains for 12 hours in cheese cloths, and placed in a heated environment of upwards of 80 degrees F for one week. The temperature is dropped to 50 degrees F for another week and the cheese is immediately ready for market. Pannerone has a smooth taste with a hint of bitter bite. Sometimes mistaken for Gorgonzola, due to its shape, however, it does not have veins.

A traditional, unpasteurized, hard cheese made from cow's skim milk. It has a shape of a drum with sticky, hard, yellow to orange rind. Parmigiano Reggiano weighs 75 lbs. and must be cut by a saw. The aroma is sweet and fruity, the color, fresh yellow and the taste is fruity, like pineapple. Parmigiano Reggiano's flavor is unmistakably piquant. Primarily, a grating cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano is a great topping for soups, pasta dishes, veal chicken or salads. In Italy, this cheese is sold in large, grainy chunks, chiseled from the shiny drum that carries its name emblazoned on the rind.

Pecorino Romano
This is a sheep's milk cheese which is straw-white in color and has the sharpest flavor of all the other cheeses listed here. Although it is sometimes referred to as Locatelli, Locatelli is a brand name. Pecora in Italian means sheep and Pecorino Romano is one of Italy's oldest cheeses. Legend has it that a shepherd filled his flask with sheep's milk before a long trip and the motion during the trip caused the milk to naturally ferment. The idea for a new cheese was born. Today most Pecorino is made in Sardinia, Italy. With its fine flavor, Pecorino's popularity as a grating cheese has grown significantly in the U.S. Since sheep only give milk for 6-7 months a year, all production in that window of time must satisfy the public's demand for the entire year.

This is a very versatile cheese used for cooking, dessert purposes and even grating. It is traditional, creamy, stretched curd cheese. This cheese appears in various shapes. The thin, hard rind is golden-yellow, shiny and is sometimes waxed. Provolone cheese can be of various types. Dolce (mild Provolone) is aged for two to three months, and it is supple and smooth with a thin waxed rind. It is generally used as a table cheese. Aged for six months to two years, it is darker with small holes and a spicy flavor.

A very popular cheese produced in Sicily, the cheese usually has a shape of a brick and it is made from unpasteurized cow's milk. The curd is heated and stretched until it is rubbery. Then it is pressed into rectangular molds and the cheese is left to dry. Salted and rubbed, the cheese is ready for affinage that takes six months. During this period of time, it is regularly rubbed with a mixture of oil and vinegar. After this period of time the cheese hardens and the taste becomes stronger and more savory.

Raschera comes from Cuneo. Its name is derived from Lake Raschera, which lies at the foot of Mt. Mongioie. It is a semi-soft cheese made from sweet cow's milk. The flavor of Raschera changes from season to season. Spring and summer cheeses are sweet, fresh and slightly tart. Winter cheeses are more solid and vibrant. Raschera has a round or square shape with reddish-yellow crust.

Ricotta Salata
When fresh ricotta goes through its natural aging process, a hard, pungent cheese, suitable for eating or grating results. Like fresh ricotta, ricotta salata is almost white in color.

Sottocenere al Tartufo
The Sottocenere al Tartufo is a little firmer in texture, all cow's milk, but packs a truffle punch, with the added flavor of having been aged in an edible vegetable ash rind with nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, licorice, cloves and fennel rubbed in.

Buttery, delicate, semi-soft and subtlety sweet, this cheese is made from cow's milk. It usually has a square shape. The cheese has a special taste and aroma. The crust is pinkish-gray and the paste is white, supple and fruity. There is also a cooked-curd version which is firmer and bears a resemblance to mozzarella. Taleggio is also known as Stracchino (from the Italian word stracche, which means fatigued), which referred to the cows of the area after they traveled back to the valley from their grazing season in the high pastures. Taleggio is an excellent dessert cheese that goes very well with a robust wine.

Traditional, hard cheese made from cow's milk. The name of the cheese means "drunken" in Italian and it is because the young cheese is soaked in wine, covered with the crushed grape skins left after pressing and then allowed to mature for six to ten months. The cheese has a firm, crumbly but open texture that is fairly wet and the taste has a hint of pineapple.

While this list is extensive, believe it or not, it is not a complete list of all the cheeses that come from Italy. I hope that you have a greater understanding now of how very much the Italians love their fromage. Take it upon yourself to explore the varying tastes and textures of all that Italy's regions and the cheeses that they produce have to offer. You'll be glad you did.

 Buon Appetito, ciao!



The At Home Cook Series, #13: Cooking with Tagines

The Tagine 
A meal cooked in a very beautiful clay tagine and the memory of powerful aromas and flavors permeated my then young, culinary mind, but it was way more than just the food. It was the way it was prepared; the communal aspect of the meal; the experience itself. Reclining on the plush pillows, actual silks floating down from the ceiling. The fountain, keeping the dance of water constant, against the low thrum of the middle eastern music that played in the background. A pot of strong sweetened tea steeping on the low mesob-type table in front of me, while I noshed on Bistteeya, enjoying the play of the spices against the almonds, sugar icing and cinnamon. I was waiting for what was to become a memorable tagine meal. It was surreal. To make my way back to this small private and unique dining room, I had to navigate, politely, through a darkened hallways and alcoves, brushing past family members and past a kitchen, filled with the lilt of foreign dialects and the pungent smells and fragrances expected in North Africa. Since that day I've never been the same. This oasis was located on.....Second Ave, on the Upper East Side of NYC. And it was Tuesday night. I'd heard of authentic cuisine, but this was total immersion. The only thing missing was my Lawrence of Arabia headband and a place to tie up my camel. Had I inquired, I'm sure someone would have found me the required robes to loan me. This was the night I fell in love with the tagine.

Let's start with the very basics: What is a tagine? Well, to confuse you immediately, tagine refers to both a cooking vessel as well as the stew cooked in it. The tagine vessel consists of two parts: a round pot (traditionally clay or terra cotta), and a conical cover sometimes with a small hole which allows some steam to escape. The base is normally shallow with a rim and is commonly glazed on the inside. The conical shaped lid helps preserve moisture in the food as the steam condenses on the inside of the lid. The shape of the lid also creates circulation within the dish, infusing the food with spices and flavors. It gradually reduces the cooking juices so they become more concentrated and flavorful. The lid is commonly glazed on the outside.

Tagines, the meals, are typically found in North African countries including Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. Although each country uses ingredients more commonly found on their own soil, the preparations are very similar. Tagines in Moroccan cuisine are slow-cooked stews braised at low temperatures, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce, cooked in a tagine, the vessel. Stay with me....focus; Ideal cuts of lamb are the neck, shoulder or shank, cooked until it is falling off the bone tender. They are often combined with a medley of ingredients or seasonings: olives, quinces, apples, pears, apricots, raisins, prunes, dates, nuts, with fresh or preserved lemons. Traditional spices used include ground cinnamon, saffron, ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika, pepper, as well as the famous spice blend ras el hanout.

Ras el hanout is a spice blend that is commonly used all over North Africa, but is known to be Moroccan in origin. Shops, companies, or even individuals usually have their own secret combinations and recipes, containing over a dozen spices. Typically included are cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, peppercorn and turmeric. Some recipes include over one hundred ingredients, with some rarely found in Western food, such as; ash berries, chufa, Grains of Paradise, orris root, Monk's pepper, cubebs, or dried rosebud.

Other ingredients for a tagine may include any product that braises well: fish, quail, pigeon, beef, root vegetables, legumes, even amber and agar wood. Modern recipes in the West might include pot roasts, ossobuco, lamb shanks and short-ribs. Just because we're cooking in a Moroccan tagine, does not limit us to cooking Moroccan cuisine. Seasonings can be traditional Moroccan, French, Italian or spices can be suited to the dish.

Ingredients commonly used when preparing tagine include: 
Preserved lemons, onions, dried fruits, nuts, sesame seeds, eggs, tomatoes, peppers, olives and seasonings like paprika, cinnamon, cumin, cilantro and saffron are the other components. Smen is a traditional cooking oil most commonly in North African and Middle Eastern cuisines. It is produced using the butter made from the milk of sheep or goats. The butter is brought to boiling point for about 15 minutes, then skimmed, strained into a ceramic jar called a khabia, and salted before it curdles. The oil is then aged.

Glazed vs Unglazed: 
Ceramic glazes are thin coatings baked onto unfinished pottery to make their surfaces glassy, smooth and waterproof. Some glazes used for ceramic products may contain lead oxides. If they are not heated adequately during manufacture, this may result in the release of lead from the product into the food.

So which should you choose?
If you are going to use tagines to cook frequently, say weekly, then unglazed tagines are best because they provide that earthy flavor to your dishes. Otherwise, and this is what most people do, the glazed tagine is better for you because it is stored away and it does not develop that "closet" scent the way unglazed tagines would. Here are a few tips for seasoning your tagine for its first use: This should help remove any earthenware taste and strengthen your tagine;

1. The new tagine needs to be submerged in water for at least 1 hour. Remove and dry.
2. Rub the inside of the base and lid with olive oil.
3. Put in a cold oven and set temperature to 350 degrees and leave for 2 hours.
4. Remove from oven and cool.
5. When completely cool, wash in warm soapy water and dry with a clean cloth.
6. Your tagine is now ready to use.

* NOTE: When cooking in a tagine, never place a ceramic tagine directly on a flame. A heat diffuser should be used if you are using a traditional ceramic tagine. If you do not have a diffuser, place the tagine in a large skillet. If cooking on an electric stove use a medium heat. European manufacturers have created tagines with heavy cast-iron bottoms that can purportedly be heated on a cooking stove to a high temperature, but even these should be used with care, following specific manufacturer guidelines.

So now its time to cook! Gather your ingredients, cut your meat or protein into the appropriate size and shape. Browning in the tagine is an option, but normally a clay tagine is finished uncovered to gain that brown development of flavor towards the end. Seasonings should be added to the protein and vegetables to allow time to develop during the stewing process. In the base of a skillet or the tagine, add some oil, saute garlic and onion along with the protein, then add the vegetables. Cover and cook for the appropriate cooking time. Once the tagine is done cooking, it can be served in the cooking tagine bottom itself, or it can be transferred into a more decorative tagine or bowl to bring to the table. Tagines can be found at Moroccan markets, or on the internet. Be sure to purchase the size and shaped tagine that best suits your needs. Good Luck And Enjoy!

Bon Appetit,



Gouda; The Cheese, Gouda; The City & Gouda; The, that's a lot of Gouda...

"Why Gouda?" you may ask. Well, I recently had some 6 and 10 year old Gouda and it was, well, absolutely amazing. I had no idea it could be so good. I was confronted with a pungent cheese, rich in Umami, with the almost candy-like characteristics of butterscotch. So, as is my way, I thought I'd write about it.

Gouda, The Cheese
The cheese is made from cow's milk that is cultured and heated until the curd is separate from the whey. Some of the whey is then drained, and water is added. This is called "washing the curd", and creates a sweeter cheese, as the washing removes some of the lactic acid. About ten percent of the mixture is curds which are pressed into circular molds for several hours. These molds are the essential reason behind its traditional, characteristic shape. The cheese is then soaked in a brine solution which
gives the cheese its rind and distinctive taste. The cheese is then dried for a couple of days before being coated to prevent it from drying out, then it is aged, depending on age classification, for a number of weeks to over 7 years before it is ready to be eaten. As it ages it develops a caramel sweetness and sometimes has a slight crunchiness from protein crystals that form in older cheese.

Exported Gouda is usually the young variety (aged between 1 and 6 months, rich yellow in color and with a red or yellow paraffin wax coating). This cheese is easily sliced on bread with a cheese slicer. Exported Gouda has a pungent underlying bitterness, yet is still considerably creamier than other common cheeses, such as cheddar cheese or Edam cheese. Locally, old Gouda (aged between 12 and 18 months, orange-yellow in color and sometimes discernible by a black paraffin wax coating) can be obtained. This strong tasting cheese is hard and often too brittle to cut using a slicer, but it can be sliced by knife or served cut in cubes, with drinks. Smoked gouda which is a processed cheese and Leyden cheese are also popular variations. Gouda is simply unrivaled for that perfect balance of salty and sweet. Deep caramel in color, crunchy, flaky and meltingly smooth on the tongue, a true cow's milk, Dutch Gouda bursts with flavor. The hint of butterscotch at the finish is a signature of this Dutch treat. Gouda pairs well with Cabernet Sauvignon as well as several white wine varietals.

Gouda, The Cheese City
While most people are aware o this extremely popular cheese cheese, few realize that the cheese is named for a historical city and municipality in the western Netherlands, in the province of South Holland. Gouda, which was granted city rights in 1272, is famous for its Gouda cheese, smoking pipes and its 15th century city hall. The town takes its name from the Van der Goude family, who built a fortified castle alongside the banks of the Gouwe   River, from which the family took its name. The area, originally marshland, developed over the course of two centuries. By 1225, a canal was linked to the Gouwe and its estuary was transformed into a harbour. Gouda's fabulous array of historic churches and other buildings makes it a very popular day trip destination.

The History
Around the year 1000, the area where Gouda now is located was swampy and covered with a peat forest, crossed by small creeks such as the Gouwe. Along the shores of this stream near the current market and city hall, peat harvesting began in the 11th and 12th centuries. In 1139, the name Gouda is first mentioned in a statement from the Bishop of Utrecht.

In the 13th century, the Gouwe was connected to the Oude Rijn (Old Rhine) by means of a canal and its mouth at the Hollandse IJssel was developed into a harbor. Castle Gouda was built to protect this harbor. This shipping route was used for trade between Flanders and France with Holland and the Baltic Sea. In 1272, Floris V, Count of Holland, granted city rights to Gouda, which by then had become an important location.

Great fires in 1361 and 1438 destroyed the city. In 1572, the city was occupied by Les Gueux (Dutch rebels against the Spanish King) who also committed arson and destruction. In 1577 demolition of Castle Gouda began. In 1574, 1625, 1636, and 1673, Gouda suffered from deadly Plague epidemics, of which the last one was the most severe: 2995 persons died, constituting 20% of its population. For ages, Gouda cheese and cheese according to Gouda recipe, have been conquering the world. Gouda cheese, or in Dutch: 'Goudse Kaas' is found on all continents.

It all started right here and as soon as the early Middle Ages. It mainly concerned the authentic farm cheeses produced in the traditional manner on the surrounding district farms. As all these products had to find their ways to the customer, Gouda grew into the center of cheese trade because of its good location and ideal water connections with the surrounding places and the ocean port of Rotterdam. The venerable, ancient City Hall of Gouda became the core of the weekly 'Kaasmarkt' cheese market; a fine, bustling trading scene. In 1667 the Gouda city council acquired the right to levy duties on this profitable trade.

De Waag' weigh house
The year 1668 saw the construction of the 'De Waag' weigh house across from the city hall. This was the place where the cheeses supplied and sold were weighed and taxes were determined. 'Goudse Kaas' developed into an increasingly important trading product and various cooperatives and trading houses were soon to establish themselves in and around Gouda.

By now Goudse Kaas is being produced according to its famous recipe all the world over. Still, for real, traditional Gouda farm cheese... the place to be is the Gouda district; places like Stolwijk, Haastrecht and de Krimpenerwaard polder.

Gouda's Sights

Grote of St. Jans Kerk (Great or Saint John Church) - largest cross-shaped church in the Netherlands, famed for its stained glass which were made between 1530 and 1603, considered the most significant stained glass collection in theNetherlands. Even in the 17th century, it already was a tourist attraction.

Waaiersluis (Waaier Locks) a historic lock on the Hollandse IJssel, just east of Gouda.

Museumhaven Gouda (Harbor Museum Gouda)

Gouda Cheese and Crafts Market

Cheese has been traded for over 300 years in the Markt, which is also known for its world-famous City Hall. On Thursday mornings cheese farmers from all over the district used to come to Gouda in their cheese brakes. In the nearby Tiendeweg the horses were unharnessed, after which the brake was pushed by hand to the Markt, where the farmer was assigned a place by the market superintendent and bargaining could take off. When a cheese trader approached a brake, the farmer removed his tarpaulin and started bargaining. After the lot was sold the brake left forthe Kaaswaag for the cheese to be weighed. The trader paid the farmer according to the weighing slip he received. Most of the time payment was made in the beer-house at the end of the market day.

The traditional Gouda cheese market is still held on Thursday mornings (starting mid-June and lasting until early September). Farmers and traders can still be found doing what they have done for ages: haggling, bargaining. Lots that have been sold still go by cheese brake to the Waag to be weighed. Supplying and carrying-off, bargaining and weighing, all these still are as spectacular as they used to be and can be observed at a very close distance.

This also goes for the typical Dutch cheese boys and cheese girls, the latter regularly offering bits of Gouda cheese to visitors. Although preparations always start really early, the Kaasmarkt does not start until 10:am and closes about 12:.30 pm, when the last cheeses have been sold and carried off. The Kaasmarkt is accompanied by a crafts market, presenting traditional, mainly Gouda crafts and products like pottery, claypipes, clogs, farm produce, syrup waffles and, of course, cheeses.

Bon Appetit,