We love the way Willem van den Hoek writes about the Gouda he and his wife Maja have been making for 40 years on their farm overlooking the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia:
When our cheese reaches the ripe old age of a year or so, its textures have become rather short (the cheese crumbles or breaks when cut) and developed a pleasant, crunchy feel (from crystals that start to form) in the mouth.
The flavours have greatly intensified and words like intense, piquant or sharp, come to mind, but also fresh and clean. That’s when we start to refer to our cheese as Growlers (old, very old, really very old)
They are real dynamite when served sliced, on crackers, fresh bread (white or whole wheat) or steamed breads, like black pumpernickel, or grated on dishes like pastas and pizza.
And as they continue to age they eventually compare to a Parmesan—hard, brittle, intense, great for grating.
By that time, in two to five years, we call it Hammer and Chisel cheese.
The Old Growler Gouda that we purchased last August while visiting That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm has definitely matured into Hammer and Chisel Cheese! Our wheel was made on March 22, 2018, two years and one month ago. It is indeed hard as a well-aged Parmigiano, with its pale gold paste dotted with crunchy, white lactate crystals.
When it comes to flavour, think complex and delicious, imagine nutty browned butter layered with caramel. The finish lingers ever so nicely . . .
The distinctive shape comes from the traditional Dutch gouda mould, or form, known as Kadova. Milk from neighbouring farms is heat-treated rather than pasteurized, thereby keeping some of the original flavours of the milk.
The rind is a classic, buttery yellow and coated in Plasticoat that protects the cheese while aging, but allows it to breathe, a vital aspect for maturing a natural-rind cheese.
Over four decades of cheesemaking, Willem and Maja have won many awards, including Best Canadian Gouda in 2016 for Old Growler and Best Canadian Gouda in 2014 for Mild Gouda. Then there is Willem’s extraordinary blue cheese, Dragon’s Breath, but that’s another story.
These days, daughter Margaretha and her husband play a greater role at That Duchman’s Cheese Farm but Willem is rarely absent from the make room when cheese is being made.
We mentioned Bay of Fundy earlier as a way of locating the farm but it actually overlooks Cobequid Bay west of Truro, Nova Scotia, east of Bay of Fundy itself.
It’s a must-stop for anyone visiting Nova Scotia. If you live outside the province, it’s the only way to purchase van den Hoek cheeses. Blame archaic Canadian laws governing inter-provincial trade. That Dutchman is too small to afford the cost of federal licensing and distribution.
The cheese shop on the farm is huge, displaying all the cheese made by the van den Hoek family, other artisan cheesemakers around the region, and many other tasty items. One wall is a viewing window into the make room.
If you visit That Dutchman, be sure to allow a couple of hours to stroll around the animal and nature park complete with Scottish Highland cattle, emus, donkeys, pigs, and lovely gardens.