{Netherlands} Say Cheese!

November 6, 2013

Netherlands

Gouda, Edam, Maasdam, Leerdammer, Limburger…the Dutch are known as for being one of the great cheese making nations of this world, so it’s no surprise to find a Cheese Museum in Amsterdam.

amsterdam cheese museum

Unlike it’s larger cousin, the “Kaasmuseum” in Alkmaar (currently closed for refurbishment until 2014), the Amsterdam Cheese Museum is a small-ish exhibition tucked in to the basement level of a specialist cheese shop on the beautiful Prinsengracht. But if you happen to be in that area, e.g. visiting the nearby Anne Frank House,  it’s still interesting nonetheless and worth stopping by. If you manage to make it past all the wonderful cheeses on display in the shop, each of which comes with samples to taste! – you descend a set of narrow stairs to the level below, while stacks of cheese tower above your head, to be greeted by the message “Welcome. Enjoy our wonderful cheese experience!”

cheese museum cheese stacks

cheese museum exhibit

The exhibit covers different aspects, from the dairy cows to the final cheese that lands of your table. There are both historical and modern tools on display used in the production of cheese – milking, churning, curdling, pressing, ripening – as well as various knives, picks and other utensils used to serve and eat cheese. The different substances involved – milk, rennet, curd, whey, cheese – are explained, and there’s also a little intro in to the history of cheese in general.

cheese museum tools

cheese museum milk jars

The cows get their moment in the limelight too, with two sets of cow portraits by Dutch artist Marie-Renée Hoeks from the series “Characters” on display, which give the cows “an almost human radiance”. If you happen to fall in love with any of these bovine beauties, the paintings are also for sale.

cheese museum cows

cheese museum cheeses

If you’re up for a bit of fun, you can dress up as a Dutch fairy farmer and snap some souvenir photos of each other – since I was visiting on my own, the logistics of taking a photo were a bit tricky, though I did of course dress up ;)

dairy farmer costume

cheese press

As well as the more practical tools and utensils relating to cheese and dairying, there were also some personal items such as the large 19th cheese press. Apparently it was a tradition in peasant families, to give a decorated cheese press as a wedding gift. Okay, so it’s also practical, but initials of the bride and groom carved in to either end give it a personal touch. It also happens to be one of the oldest remaining cheese presses in the Netherlands.

round cheese box

Other more decorative exhibits included a colourful, metal orb used to package up Edam and Gouda, and the world’s most expensive cheese slicer – encrusted by a ring of 220 diamonds!

diamond cheese slicer

And, of course, there is cheese and more cheese on display where ever you look. Speaking of cheese slicers, I learned that slicing cheese results in a more intense tasting experience than if it’s cut in to cubes, due to the cheese getting more oxygen. I don’t know if it actually works, but I’m always open to more excuses for eating cheese.

cheese museum cheese orbs

The Amsterdam Cheese Museum is located at Prinsengracht 112, and is open daily. They don’t seem to have a website, but you can find them on Facebook if you want to check their current opening hours. And, of course, don’t forget to buy some delicious cheese on your way out. I couldn’t decide, so opted for both the vintage Gouda and the award winning goat’s cheese. Cheese Heaven!

cheese_museum_vintage_gouda

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