Today we feature two cheeses that are both quintessential representatives of their place of origin, Stilton from Colston Bassett Dairy in Nottinghamshire, England, and Beemester Classic Gouda, from the canal-lined pastures of the Beemster "polder" in northern Holland. They have as much terroir and complexity as any fine wine.
The farmland from which Beemster Gouda originates, locally known as a "polder" — a low-lying tract of land enclosed by embankments (barriers) known as dikes —is situated 20 feet below sea level. Rich in alluvial soil with the finest of Dutch pastures, it is world-renowned for its high-quality milk. This Beemster is the product of a dairy co-op manned by the local residents of the polder, who have learned the techniques over generations and perfected this recipe dating from 1901. Matured for 18 months, it is a hard cheese with a stunning amber color, slightly flaky texture and flavors of fresh-cut grass, butterscotch, and almonds. The Dutch regard Beemster as their "signature" cheese.
No cheese is more "British" than Stilton. Stilton is a trademark, and the cheese of this name can only be produced in the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottingham. Colston Basset, one of the smallest Stilton dairies in Great Britain, was founded in 1913 and produces the most traditional-style cheese. The cheese-makers of Colston Basset hand-ladle the curd, preserving the structure, which results in a distinctly luscious, creamy texture when the cheese matures. This Nottingham Stilton is made with animal rennet, rather than vegetable, which produces a more complex, deeper, lingering flavor than other Stiltons. Relatively sharp and aggressive when young, Colston Basset Stilton matures to a rich, velvety tang with age. Slightly salty, nutty, and piquant, it is a great foil for sweeter tastes such as fig cake and quince paste. It claims its rightful place as the "King of English Cheeses."