Marieke Gouda from Holland’s Family Cheese

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table
Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

That a Wisconsin cheese won the top prize at the 2013 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest, held last month in Green Bay, WI, probably comes as a surprise to exactly… nobody. Or that the Wisconsin cheese happened to be a gouda crafted by Marieke Penterman, the Dutch-born gouda wunderkind who only has been making cheese on her Thorp, WI, farm under the Holland’s Family Cheese brand for the past six years. After all, Penterman has racked up more than 60 awards since the beginning of her cheese career and took home a best-of-class award at this same event last year for her semi-soft Marieke Golden. But it was a happy surprise to walk into Surdyk’s this past weekend and find a wheel of the champion gouda from the same batch, ready for slicing. And if you hurry, you might be able to grab a wedge, too.

The award-winning gouda is somewhat of an anomaly for the Surdyk’s case, according to the cheesemonger who called our attention to it. Normally, the shop stocks Penterman’s younger gouda, which is aged about 6 months, and its 14-month-old cousin. This particular batch falls somewhere in between — the 6- to 9-month window — which gives it the best characteristics of both kinds of gouda. The cheese combines the sweet, sun-streaked flavor and pliable softness of a young gouda with the buttery caramel notes typically found in a more mature wheel. No crystals dot the paste to provide the crunch often associated with older goudas. Instead, you’ll find small holes and a lovely, light creaminess that coats the palate with each bite.

Sure, gouda may not literally ooze sex appeal like Rush Creek Reserve, another cherished Wisconsin artisanal cheese, but you can’t overlook the fine craftmanship, high-quality milk, and I-need-to-sneak-one-more-taste flavor that put Penterman’s gouda in a league of its own. Cheese lovers, you need to experience it for yourself. Assuming the Easter bunny didn’t get to it first, that is.

A batch of the U.S. champion gouda from Holland’s Family Cheese is (or was, as of Saturday) at Surdyk’s, 303 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, for $24.99 / lb.

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