Similar in character to another Dutch cheese, Edam, Gouda is a firm cows’ milk cheese with a mild, slightly salty flavour and an elastic texture. It is sometimes flavoured with cumin, or dried in the oven to concentrate its flavour. Gouda can be kept for several years, although aged examples are not widely available outside the Netherlands. Gouda from south Holland is protected, but imitations are produced all over the world. Farmhouse Goudas, made on a small scale, have a fruitier flavour, but are not often exported.
Goudas from the traditional region of production will be labelled ‘Noord-Hollandse Gouda’. Young Goudas will have a clear, or pale-yellow rind. Partly oven-dried examples may have a golden rind, which darkens to yellow for full-dried cheeses. Aged Goudas sometimes have a black wax coating.
Young Goudas are eaten fresh, or melted into cooked food; older, drier cheeses can be grated as a garnish.