One of the most distinctive things I remember about my first visit to the Netherlands was the cheese shops. I remember walking into one that was just wall to wall wheels of edams and goudas and I had no idea what else. England didn’t have those shops, at least not where I was from. Along with chips with mayonnaise it was an introduction to international cuisine.
So I have a soft spot for Dutch cheeses. Beemster Vlaskaas caught my eye, with its deep orange colour and fancy purple wax coat. Now here was an earthy cheese to get stuck into.
Beemster Vlaskaas translates as Flax cheese although there is no flax in it. The story goes that the cheese was traditionally eaten during the flax harvest along with thick bread and porridge. Nice sounding story, but one that’s completely made up by the company that makes it. The recipe is actually an old one, but only resurrected after World War II.
That said this cheese is exceptional.
A semi firm cow’s milk cheese it is made in the Beemster Polder of Northern Holland in a style similar to a Gouda. Rich, sweet and creamy it is a rustic orange colour that is semi firm to the bite without being over crumbly. The flavour is one that is initially butterscotch and butter, which gives way to a long slightly salty and sharp finish. It is this change from one flavour profile to another that makes Vlaskaas such an interesting cheese and a step above your standard Dutch Gouda.
This is a cheese for eating on its own or with some crusty bread. You might want to have it with some fruitier wine, but this does seem like a beer drinking cheese. Something Dutch or Belgian would do nicely. Now I think about it, scotch — like a Dalwhinnie — would probably go well with it too.