Cheese Of The Week: Marieke Gouda

The story of the Marieke Gouda  is a stunning example of the possibilities inherent to the American Dream. Handmade in Thorp, Wis. at the Holland Family Farm, it is a fantastic old-world-style cheese made in the heart of modern day cheese country. It has won more than 80 national and international awards since its inception – most notably being named the 2013 U.S. Cheese Champion Best of Show, a coveted honor.

Rolf and Marieke Penterman moved from the Netherlands in 2002 to central Wisconsin to establish a larger dairy than they could have in the small and densely populated country of Holland. They now have a 100-acre farm, with 51 additional acres of pastureland on which they graze their 300-cow herd. Starting and running a dairy farm is an all-consuming, labor intensive investment, but it is rewarding in that it can create a healthy and practical way of life for a family that includes five young children. In these times of declining numbers of family-owned dairies in the U.S., it is inspiring to see driven people take on this challenge and succeed.

The Holland Family Farm began specifically producing the handmade, raw milk Marieke Gouda in late 2006. It is a true Borenkasse-style (meaing "farmhouse") cheese, produced on the farm where the cows themselves are raised. The cows' diet of homegrown feed imparts a local flavor profile to the milk and, consequently, the cheese. All of the Penterman's cheeses are handmade within five hours of the milking; this is a rarity, as most farms store milk for at least a day or so before commencing the cheesemaking process.

After being hand-pressed into cheese molds, the Gouda is aged for a minimum of 60 days. While aging, it develops caramel and butterscotch flavors and a buttery, semi-soft texture. When purchasing this cheese, look for the forms that are more golden in color, as they have aged longer and will have a more complex flavor.

The Marieke Gouda is darn tasty with the New Glarus Brewing Company's Spotted Cow Ale, the pride of Wisconsin. It also pairs well with tree-ripened stone fruit, such as peaches or plums, and can add depth and caramel notes to a simple fondue.

This traditional Dutch cheese is a testament to immigrants' aspirations of bringing a bit of their ancestral home to America and elevating our food culture by providing the American consumer with a new, delectable cheese to enjoy.

Additional reporting by Madeleine James.