Cheese: Hooilander Graskaas
Producer: De Hooilanden
Where: Bennekom, Gelderland, the Netherlands
Lodewijk and Fleur Pool are the farmers at the Hooilanden (the Hay Lands), a farm that sits at the end of a long, somewhat twisted country road in the Gelderse Vallei. I visited their farm, saw the cows and bought a piece of cheese, all the while not meeting anyone. There were signs that told me where to go and what to do, and that, the Pools must have decided, should suffice. I picked up a piece of Hooilander Graskaas. Grass-cheese is made using milk from cows who feed on fresh grass rather than hay, it is creamy and quite mild, and the piece I got was still quite young; it had not ripened more than 8 weeks. Often young cheeses (the Dutch tend to select their cheese, most of which is the same ‘Gouda-style’ kind of cheese, based on its age and use 5 or 6 age labels to differentiate) in the Netherlands do not have a lot of flavor yet, but this one does, surprisingly so. It is a creamy, flavor-packed delight, not too salty but not as bland as many young cheeses taste. It has a very clean finish, the flavors do not linger all that much: a perfect cheese to cut up in cubes and eat as a snack with a glass of cold beer.
An added bonus was certainly to meet the friendly cows that provide the milk and to have such a sense of place associated with what’s on the plate. In my next post, there is more about the area and about the other cheese Lodewijk and Fleur make: Blaarkop (“Blisterhead”), named after the cow breed they keep here. The blaarkop has been around in the Netherlands since the late Middle Ages and they are easily recognized by the oval colored spots (the blisters around their eyes. They have always been dual-purpose, and this is how it is at Hooilanden: you can buy cheese and steak here…