Discovering Boerenkaas cheese from South Africa

Boerenkaas: A Hidden Dutch Gem in The Realm of Cheese

Immersed in the rich history and generous geography of the Netherlands, Boerenkaas is a traditional Dutch cheese that delivers an exceptional gastronomic tale. It is a cherished emblem of Holland’s cheesemaking heritage, skillfully crafted by farmers using raw milk straight from the cow, sheep, or goat. Unlike commercially produced cheese, Boerenkaas, translating to “farmer’s cheese”, is meticulously produced in smaller quantities, resulting in diverse texture profiles and varied depth of flavors.

Bearing the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status by the European Union, this Dutch delicacy is produced following rigorous standards. The milk used for Boerenkaas must come from animals grazing on Dutch meadows for a minimum of 120 days a year. Furthermore, at least 50% of the fodder for the animals needs to be sourced from the farm itself, thereby ensuring the rural, regional nature of this cheese is preserved. These strict criteria guarantee an authentically Dutch flavor, deeply rooted in the country’s land and traditions.

The nuanced flavors and rustic texture of Boerenkaas can be attributed to the handcrafted, artisanal techniques employed during its creation. Cheese connoisseurs treasure Boerenkaas for its unrivaled complexity that reflects the intrinsic variation of the seasons. Characterized by its pleasantly firm yet creamy texture, the taste of this cheese develops from sweetly mellow on the palate, to robust and rich, often with an intriguing hint of nuttiness. Depending on the aging process, the taste can vary from mild to profoundly flavorsome:

  • Young Boerenkaas: Aged for less than four weeks, this version is delightfully smooth and slightly velvety, with a mild and buttery taste.
  • Mature Boerenkaas: Maturity extends from 16 weeks up to a year. The texture becomes firmer and crunchier with age, featuring flavors of butterscotch, toasted bread and a salty tang.
  • Aged Boerenkaas: If aged beyond one year, it yields a hard, crystalline texture, deeper amber hue, and full-bodied flavor with notes of caramel and sharp fruitiness.

In essence, the Boerenkaas is a timeless favorite that carries forward the simplicity and authenticity of Dutch farming life into its complex flavor profiles. It’s a true cheese lover’s delight with its distinctive taste, committed craftsmanship, and paramount level of quality.

Boerenkaas Cheese in South Africa: Test your knowledge

Welcome to our short quiz on the topic of 'Boerenkaas cheese'! Discover how much you know about this traditional South African cheese. Are you ready to test your knowledge and delve deeper into the world of cheese making? Let's go!

Delving into the World of Boerenkaas: Ingredients, Characteristics, and Varieties

Boerenkaas, translating directly to ‘farmer’s cheese’ in Dutch, is a handcrafted cheese exclusive to the Netherlands, with a legacy marinated in tradition. This dairy delicacy essentially derived its name from the requirement that it must be produced on a farm using raw, unpasteurized milk. This strict mandate is in place to ensure the unique, rich flavor profile of Boerenkaas, which is unachievable with industrially produced alternatives.

Goat and sheep variants of Boerenkaas have grown in popularity; however, the most prevalent variety is still made from cow’s milk, constituting 98% of all Boerenkaas produced. As per Dutch law, for a cheese to be officially recognized as Boerenkaas, at least 50% of the milk has to be sourced from the farm’s own cows. This restriction binds the cheese’s identity intrinsically to the local landscape and its flora, manifesting into a unique taste of place, a concept known in winemaking as ‘terroir’. One day’s variation in milk can dramatically shift the resulting cheese’s properties, affecting its texture, flavor, and aroma.

There are several variations of Boerenkaas, classified according to the length of aging time:

  • Boerenkaas Jong: Aged for a minimum of 4 weeks, this young cheese is creamy, mild, and buttery.
  • Boerenkaas Belegen: Aged for 4 to 7 months, it develops a deeper flavor, becoming firmer and complex.
  • Boerenkaas Oud: Aged for more than 10 months, the cheese is hard, crumbly with a robust and sharp flavor.

This line of aging or maturing is also mirrored by an intensification in color, moving from pale yellow to deep amber, throughout the spectrum of Boerenkaas variation.

The production process of Boerenkaas is notably labor-intensive. From milking the animals by hand to manually stirring the curdling milk and transferring the curd to cheese molds – each step of the process is performed by the farmers, making this cheese a testament to their love and expertise. It’s this artisanal creation process that gives Boerenkaas a unique flavor and texture unattainable in factory-produced cheeses.

Discovering the Authenticity of Boerenkaas: A Taste of Traditional Dutch Artisanship

Boerenkaas, a quintessential Dutch cheese, carries with it the unmistakable taste of tradition and the rich cultural heritage of the Netherlands. Produced exclusively on small, family-owned farms, this artisanal cheese captivates the hearts of cheese connoisseurs around the world with its distinctive flavors and meticulous craftsmanship. To truly appreciate the authenticity of Boerenkaas, one must delve into the country and region of its production, where age-old techniques and lush landscapes intertwine to create a truly remarkable dairy treasure.

Situated in the Low Countries of northwestern Europe, the Netherlands is renowned for its picturesque landscapes, windmills, and a deep affinity for dairy farming. Dutch cheese-making traditions date back centuries, with records suggesting that cheese production flourished during the Roman era. Today, the Netherlands boasts over 1,200 registered cheese farms, each playing an essential role in preserving the country’s cheese-making heritage.

Boerenkaas, translated as “farmhouse cheese,” derives its name from the Dutch word “boer,” meaning farmer. This cheese is exclusively made on these traditional farms, showcasing the immense dedication and expertise passed down through generations. Gouda and Edam, two of the most famous Dutch cheeses, are also types of Boerenkaas, demonstrating its prominence in the Dutch cheese industry.

The region of production is vital in understanding the uniqueness of Boerenkaas. Predominantly manufactured in the lush green pastures of the Dutch countryside, these cheeses epitomize the concept of “terroir” – the intricate relationship between dairy farming, regional flora, and microbial biodiversity. The animals graze on nutrient-rich grass, resulting in milk that imparts distinct flavors and aromas to the final cheese product. Each region’s specific environmental factors, such as soil composition, climate, and vegetation, further influence the cheese’s character, giving Boerenkaas a remarkable sense of place.

Key Highlights:

  • Boerenkaas is a traditional Dutch cheese handmade on small, family-owned farms.
  • The Netherlands has a rich history of cheese-making, with over 1,200 registered cheese farms.
  • Boerenkaas takes its name from the Dutch word “boer,” meaning farmer.
  • The region of production contributes to the unique flavors and characteristics of Boerenkaas.
  • The concept of “terroir” plays a significant role in the production of Boerenkaas, influenced by the regional flora and farming practices.

Facts and figures

  • On average, each South African consumes around 40kg of cheese each year.
  • In South Africa, there are many dedicated cheese-makers, with Boerenkaas being a prominent product.
  • Compared to European nations, South Africans consume less cheese, with a preference for cheddar and gouda.
  • South Africa is the largest cheese producer on the African continent.
  • A considerable part of South Africa's cheese production is exported to the neighbouring countries.
  • Despite challenges like water scarcity and fluctuating milk prices, the South African cheese industry is steadily growing.
  • The production of traditional cheese like Boerenkaas is an increasingly popular trend in South Africa.

Unfolding the Culinary Delights of Boerenkaas Cheese

Boerenkaas is a distinctive Dutch hard cheese often referred to as “farmers’ cheese.” It’s made from raw milk which allows its flavour to be deeply enriched, boasting a unique profile of rich, full-bodied and slightly sweet characteristics. There’s a broad range of dishes with which Boerenkaas can be paired or incorporated into, each promising a different gastronomic adventure. Here are a couple of delectable recipes that showcase Boerenkaas cheese in all its glory.

1. Creamy Boerenkaas Mac and Cheese

  • 500 grams macaroni
  • 2 cups grated Boerenkaas
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour and cook out until the mixture forms a light golden paste. Gradually whisk in the milk, let it thicken and add the grated Boerenkaas. Stir continuously until it forms a silky, cheesy sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the macaroni al dente, drain well and stir it into the cheese sauce until evenly coated. Serve hot and enjoy the lush flavours of the Boerenkaas mac and cheese.

2. Gourmet Boerenkaas Grilled Cheese

  • 8 slices sourdough bread
  • 450 grams Boerenkaas, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Lightly butter one side of each bread slice. On the non-buttered side, layer the Boerenkaas evenly across four slices. Cover with the remaining slices, buttered side up. Grill each sandwich in a pan over medium heat until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Slide onto a serving platter, slice in half, and serve. The gourmet Boerenkaas grilled cheese sandwich offers a perfect harmony of a crisp exterior paired with the luxurious melt of Boerenkaas inside.

Exquisite Pairings for the Robust Boerenkaas Cheese

Known for its strong, farm-fresh character and unmatched versatility, Boerenkaas cheese organically bridges the gap between the rustic simplicity of the pasture and the refined nuances of the dining table. An exclusive product of the Netherlands, this farmer’s cheese has earned its title through the earnest use of raw milk direct from the cow, contributing towards the robust, semi-hard format marked by complex flavor and texture. The flavor palette ranges from young and creamy to aged and crumbly, with vegetal undertones. Accurately capturing the soul of the cheese, however, is all about pairing it with the right foods and wines.

Serving up Boerenkaas in its varied gradations is an art in itself. A young Boerenkaas tastes heavenly on a cheeseboard, combined with fresh fruits like apples, pears or figs. Grapes or dried fruits like dates and apricots serve as excellent palate cleansers. Nuts, particularly toasted walnuts or almonds, skilfully heighten the creaminess in the cheese. For an aged Boerenkaas, let its bolder, tangier flavor come alive with stronger companions like spicy chutney or grainy mustards. If you’re feeling adventurous, layer thinly sliced Boerenkaas on warm crusty bread for a simple yet sensational repast. The cheese melds beautifully into gratin dishes and robust soups, imparting a satisfying depth of flavor.

When it comes to wines, the dynamic Boerenkaas pairs heartily with both reds and whites. Here are some favored partners that underscore and elevate the inherent attributes of the cheese:

  • Gewurztraminer: The bold and floral profile of Gewurztraminer beautifully assists the strong farm flavors found in Boerenkaas.
  • Chardonnay: The buttery and round characteristics of an oaky Chardonnay is an excellent choice for young, creamier Boerenkaas.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: For the aged varieties, lean towards a robust, tannic wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon to contrast the tangy sharpness.

The magnificence of Boerenkaas is not just confined to its rich flavor profile but also in its innate ability to hold its own with a variety of foods and wines. Your journey with Boerenkaas is replete with culinary discoveries that are bound to surpass your expectations, elevating ordinary meals to exceptional dining experiences.

Similar Cheeses to Boerenkaas

Boerenkaas is a traditional Dutch cheese made from raw cow’s milk. It is known for its rich and complex flavors, creamy texture, and authentic production methods. If you enjoy Boerenkaas and are looking to explore similar cheeses, here are some other options that you might find appealing:

1. Beemster Cheese: Produced in the Netherlands, Beemster cheese is another fantastic choice for cheese enthusiasts. It is made from high-quality cow’s milk and has a smooth, creamy, and slightly nutty flavor. Beemster cheeses are aged for different periods, allowing you to select the level of intensity that suits your taste.

2. Gouda Cheese: Gouda is perhaps one of the most well-known Dutch cheeses worldwide. It is made from cow’s milk and comes in various forms, including young, aged, and smoked Gouda. The younger varieties offer a mild and buttery flavor, while aged Gouda develops a more robust and complex profile.

3. Leiden Cheese: Hailing from the Netherlands, Leiden cheese is a semi-hard cheese that has been enjoyed for centuries. It has a distinctive reddish-brown rind which is a result of the annatto seed used during production. Leiden cheese has a smooth and creamy texture, with a tangy and slightly nutty flavor.

4. Maasdam Cheese: Originating in the Netherlands, Maasdam cheese is often referred to as the Dutch version of Swiss cheese. It is characterized by its large and irregular holes, mild and fruity flavor, and a slightly sweet taste. Maasdam cheese is an excellent choice for melting in sandwiches or adding to cheeseboards.

These cheeses are similar to Boerenkaas in terms of their origin, flavor profiles, and production methods. Whether you are seeking a cheese with a smooth and creamy texture or one with a more robust and tangy taste, these options are sure to satisfy your palate.

  • Boerenkaas is a traditional Dutch cheese made from raw cow’s milk.
  • It has rich and complex flavors, creamy texture, and authentic production methods.
  • Similar cheeses to Boerenkaas include Beemster Cheese, Gouda Cheese, Leiden Cheese, and Maasdam Cheese.
  • Beemster Cheese is known for its smooth, creamy, and slightly nutty flavor.
  • Gouda Cheese is available in various forms and offers mild to robust flavor profiles.
  • Leiden Cheese has a tangy and slightly nutty flavor with a reddish-brown rind.
  • Maasdam Cheese resembles Swiss cheese, with large holes and a mild, fruity taste.

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About the author: Dr. Wolfgang Sender writes on international careers. He is founder of and

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