The cheese making process is both art and science. In order to make our Frisian Farmstead Gouda in the Dutch tradition, we invited a Dutch cheesemaker to our farm to assist us in developing our techniques so that we would produce a cheese that reflects the perfection of a process that has developed over hundreds of years.
Our cheese begins with milk from our 80 cow Holstein herd. The raw milk is piped directly from the milking parlor to the cheese vat in the cheese house on the farm. After pasteurization, the milk is cooled to 85 degrees and the milk is cultured with the gouda culture. It is then mixed for 20 minutes and the rennet is added to coagulate the milk until the curd can be separated from the whey. A curd is made by curdling or coagulating the raw milk with rennet. Increased acidity causes the milk proteins to turn into solid masses, or "curds". The liquid portion or milk plasma is called whey. Some of the whey is then drained, and water is added which is called "washing the curd." This washing removes some of the lactic acid and creates a sweeter cheese. About ten percent of the mixture is curds.
The curds are pressed into moulds. We are currently using a variety of moulds that include one pound, two pound and 18-22 pound moulds. These moulds are round and create “wheels” of cheese, the traditional, characteristic shape. The cheese is then soaked in a brine or salt solution for 18–24 hours which gives the cheese its rind. The cheese is then dried for a couple of days before an edible coating is applied to prevent it from drying out. The burnished orange rind on our Frisian Farmstead Gouda is an easy way to distinguish the artisanal version of Gouda from the wax-encased supermarket variety.
Affinage (ripening and curing) of the cheese occurs in a climate controlled storage area where the cheese is stored and aged on cedar shelves at a temperature of 50 degrees with a humidity level of 86%. The timing depends on age classification. We age the cheese for a minimum of 6-8 weeks which gives it a fresh taste with hints of nuttiness and fruit. The flavors intensify as it ages for a number of weeks to over 2-5 years. As it ages it develops a caramel sweetness and sometimes has a slight crunchiness from protein crystals that form in the well-aged cheese.