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Gouda

Pronunciation: [GOO-dah; Du. KHOW-dah]

Made since the 6th century and Holland's most famous cheese, Gouda represents 60 to 65 percent of the cheese production in that country. It can be made from raw or pasteurized cow's milk, though most of today's product is factory-made with pasteurized milk. Gouda comes in wheels that can range from less than 1 pound to 88 pounds. The rind may or may not be covered with wax of various colors. Gouda is ripened for 1 to 6 months but a black wax coating indicates an aged Gouda, which has been ripened for at least 12 months and some for up to 5 or 6 years. Depending on the age, a Gouda's interior can range from pale yellow to deep gold with a scattering of eyes. Young versions have a supple, smooth texture; ripened cheeses become hard and flaky and have crunchy white flecks of crystallized protein. The flavor of Gouda can range from delicate and mild for young cheeses to full, rich, fruity and nutty for aged versions. Long-aged cheeses are rich, intense and have notes of butterscotch and toffee. Because Gouda isn't a protected name, it's made in other countries including Ireland, Wales and the United States. The fat content for standard Gouda is approximately 48 percent; (or Roomkaas) has cream added, which hikes it up to 60 percent, and the partially skimmed-milk light Gouda has 30 to 40 percent fat. Some Goudas are flavored with cumin or herbs. See also cheese.