Cooking & eatingCheese is popular in the Netherlands. We put it on our sandwiches or nibble on it with a glass of wine or after dinner. Farmer’s cheese deserves a place among them, says cheese expert Marike van der Werff. “Search and taste.”
Most people buy farm cheese at the supermarket. Although the turnover of domestic cheese in supermarkets rose by 2 percent in the period from August 2020 to August 2021, the turnover of farmhouse cheese fell by 4 percent. It is a different story at specialty stores: sales of farmhouse cheese rose by 29 percent, according to research agency GfK.
The amount spent per purchase of domestic cheese has risen, which has mainly benefited the specialty store. We see that farmhouse cheese is doing particularly well in specialty stores, says Norman Buysse of GfK. “What is also striking is that the average price per kilo of farmer’s cheese has fallen in specialty stores and has risen considerably in supermarkets. Yet the difference per kilo is still about 3 euros.” This may be because prices in the supermarket are lower than in the specialist store, but also, for example, because consumers in the specialist store opt for more luxurious variants.
Cheesemaker may only process raw milk on its own property
Cheese expert Marike van der Werff is a passionate advocate of farmhouse cheese. She owns three Kef cheese shops and a tasting room in Amsterdam and loves them very much. Her heart skips a beat when she tastes the deep flavors. ,,The taste of farmhouse cheese, it makes me so happy! When I taste farmer’s cheese, I remember exactly what I’m doing it for. It gives depth to my work as a cheese farmer.”
“Boerenkaas can only be called that if it is made from raw milk,” she explains. “As a cheese maker, you can only use raw milk if you make the cheese on your own property. You are not allowed to transport raw milk,” she explains. “You have to process it right away.” As soon as the milk leaves the yard, its cheese may no longer be called farmer’s cheese. In France, pre-eminently the country of raw milk cheese, this is allowed.
Regular cheese, which can also be incredibly tasty, is made from pasteurized milk, which is heated at 72 degrees for 15 seconds.
The listeria bacteria has made some consumers wary of cheese made from raw, unpasteurized milk. Unnecessary, says Van der Werff. Cheese producers work very cleanly because they strive for the highest quality. Moreover, they are under the control of the COKZ, which monitors the quality of eggs, dairy and poultry. ,, Farmer’s cheese that has matured for three months, you can eat anyway, even if you are pregnant, because the bacteria does not survive that long. When I was pregnant myself, I told my doctor that it would be difficult not to eat raw milk cheeses. Luckily she was very relaxed about it. I ate everything. I do notice that customers can really crave good cheese. Do I get slightly heated fresh fathers in the store. ‘My wife has given birth, she can eat everything again!’”
The production of raw milk cheeses is only possible on a small scale. The working method of large dairies excludes the production of raw milk cheeses. “Regular cheese, which can also be incredibly tasty, is made from pasteurized milk, which is heated at 72 degrees for 15 seconds.” Very briefly, and yet this intervention results in a different composition of the milk and a different taste after maturation. ,,By heating, you get a new ‘zero point’, as it were”, explains Van der Werff. “Then you will add flavor again.”
During heating you kill all bacteria, including the valuable ones that give the cheese a deep taste. “And a long aftertaste”, says Van der Werff. The advantage of pasteurization is that the consumer knows what to expect. Pasteurization also ensures consistency in the making process. “A piece of cheese from the Beemster always has more or less the same taste.”
How different it is with raw milk cheeses. “You can taste the season back in the cheese,” says the Amsterdam cheese buyer. ,,The character and the craft of the cheesemaker. ” There is always something new to taste and Van der Werff does that regularly. “I always look for the best.” This means that every now and then you can find something from London in her three shops and in her tasting room, and here and there the pinnacle of Italian cheeses, but especially a lot of French and Dutch cheese. Rather an assortment or 100 very well-ripened cheeses than 400 varieties. I have a discerning clientele, including restaurant chefs, who I enjoy listening to.”
More and more soft varieties
Boerenkaas only makes up 1 percent of all cheese produced in the Netherlands. About 230 farmers still work with raw milk. “Gouda farmer’s cheese is the cream of the crop”, says Van der Werff. She advises cheese fans to look for and taste real farm cheese. ,,Is the cheese as you expect it? Or is there more depth and do you taste the character of the maker? Is the cheese made with summer milk? Are there more acids? Does it taste grassy? Does it have a short or long aftertaste? The best known are the hard cheeses, but you see more and more soft cheeses; there is such variety.”
Consumers can tap fresh, raw milk on more and more farms. Also with Raymond Tolboom. In this video he explains why he placed a tap:
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