Beemster X-O- is a very-firm, pasteurised cow-milk cheese with a wonderful caramel sweetness. Beemster X-O- cheese which is made in Holland is actually an eXtra-Old Gouda that has been aged for around 3 years.
Beemster cheese is produced by a farmers co-op located in the canal lined pastures of the Beemster Polder in the North of Holland.
The Beemster Polder, which is located north of Amsterdam, is a remarkable example of reclaimed land in the Netherlands. In 1612, Dutch engineers using a system of dykes and windmills, drained the marshes and bogs of the Beemster Polder and converted the wet lands into pastures. The Beemster Polder is the oldest and most renowned of the polders in The Netherlands and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The unique blue coloured clay soil found in the Beemster Polder is rich in nutrients and minerals. This terroir yields grasses that are thicker and longer than others areas and grass that is more fertile, giving the milk produced on this land an especially sweet and creamy quality. The farmers of the Beemster Polder are aware of the value of their fertile land and to this day they use no pesticides on any of the pastures within the Beemster polder.
It is important that the quality of the milk is of the highest standard to make Beemster cheese. This standard is provided by continuously testing the milk as it arrives at the dairy from the individual farms. Cheese-making then begins with the so called ‘curdling’ of the milk. This is done by adding rennet to the milk and to allow the proteins and fat components found in the milk to coagulate. After the milk is curdled, some of the whey is drained and water is added to wash the curd. This creates a sweeter cheese and a reduction of lactose. Beemster’s cheese curds are stirred and raked by hand during cheese making. Beemster is the only coop left in Holland which still uses this artisan technique in cheese making. The whey is then completely drained and the curds are placed into molds and then pressed to form into its wheel shape. Then the wheels are placed into a brine bath that starts the aging process from within the cheese. The cheese wheels are then removed from the brine and dried for a few days before they are coated with a yellow wax coating to prevent the cheese from drying out. The wheels are then transported to warehouses where they age on wooden boards where the temperature and humidity is controlled to make ripening conditions ideal. All Beemster cheese wheels are hand turned, inspected, and polished every day for up to 26 months to ensure perfect maturation.
As Beemster cheese wheels age, the textures firmness will change from semi-firm when it is young, to firm when old and very-firm to hard when it is X-O (extra old). A wheel of Beemster X-O- cheese weighs approx. 11.5 kilos (25 lbs) and measures approx. 38 cm (15") in diameter and 10 cm (4") in height.
Beemster X-O-'s very-firm paste has a rich deep pumpkin orange colour with small white dots, which are formed by the crystallisation of the proteins and minerals during maturation. Beemster X-O has a smooth and creamy taste which develops into a full-bodied, wonderful butterscotch caramel sweetness, with a bit of crunchiness and a strong nutty finish.
Beemster X-O- pairs nicely with port wines, sherry, as well as sweet whites, such as Riesling. It is a great addition to any cheese platter served with dates, figs and walnuts.
Check out this video on the making of Beemster cheese directly from the Beemster Polder in Netherlands.