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One of Our Dairy Best: Holland's Family Farm & Marieke Gouda Cheese

Updated on June 23, 2014

The Best Gouda Cheese I've Ever Tasted

A trip to Holland's Family Farm & Marieke Gouda in Thorp, Wisconsin, makes a great day trip for anyone living in Wisconsin or Minnesota. Even if you don't live here though, it's still fun to read about how this dairy farm became an artisan cheese factory through the efforts and vision of one couple from Holland.

I hope you'll read on to learn about the dairy, the cheese, and their new facilities that can be toured. I have toured a number of dairy farms and cheese factors, and what makes this one special is that the entire operation was designed to be viewed, learned about, and enjoyed firsthand. You'll learn more about dairy cows, the cheese making process, and other fun facts on this page. I hope you like this little "tour" if you aren't able to experience the real one yourself.

All photos on this page are my own.

Wisconsin Cheese - An Excellent (Cook)Book about Cheese

Wisconsin Cheese: A Cookbook And Guide To The Cheeses Of Wisconsin
Wisconsin Cheese: A Cookbook And Guide To The Cheeses Of Wisconsin

If you're not from Wisconsin, you may ask yourself why a person would want a book about cheese. The answer - whether you are a Wisconsinite or not - is because cheese truly makes everything better. Be prepared to read and use a book that makes your mouth water, broadens your horizons when it comes to cheese, and opens your eyes to the ways it can be used. This is an excellent publication for chefs and cheese lovers everywhere, and I highly recommend it!

 

Cheesemaking License

In Wisconsin, all cheesemakers are required to hold a cheesemaking license. No other state has that requirement. That ensures high quality cheese from the Dairy State. It's worth looking for "Wisconsin" on the label.

Do you like Gouda Cheese?

Marieke Gouda cheese
Marieke Gouda cheese

Do you like Gouda Cheese?

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The Dairy

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This facility was built so you can view the milking parlor from ground level or the second floor. You really get to see where your food comes from.Kaitlyn, our tour guide.Biosecurity is very important on the farm. We wore booties so that anything we had on our shoes would not come in contact with the cows in the barn.Brown Swiss cows produce high butterfat content cheese that is excellent for the producing the creamy texture of Gouda cheese.Red Guernsey cows are also an important part of the herd at Holland's Family Farm.Many farmers focus on one breed. A combination of Brown Swiss, Guernsey and Holsteins help create the special flavor profile of Marieke Gouda cheese.Wisconsin has really happy cows. Each one at Holland's Family Farm gets to take a turn at the automated brush that keeps them clean and happy.We'll head to the cheese factory and store next.Unhappy cows moo or bellow. The barn, filled with more than 300 cows, was totally quiet the whole time I was there. This girl kept trying to lick me.
This facility was built so you can view the milking parlor from ground level or the second floor. You really get to see where your food comes from.
This facility was built so you can view the milking parlor from ground level or the second floor. You really get to see where your food comes from.
Kaitlyn, our tour guide.
Kaitlyn, our tour guide.
Biosecurity is very important on the farm. We wore booties so that anything we had on our shoes would not come in contact with the cows in the barn.
Biosecurity is very important on the farm. We wore booties so that anything we had on our shoes would not come in contact with the cows in the barn.
Brown Swiss cows produce high butterfat content cheese that is excellent for the producing the creamy texture of Gouda cheese.
Brown Swiss cows produce high butterfat content cheese that is excellent for the producing the creamy texture of Gouda cheese.
Red Guernsey cows are also an important part of the herd at Holland's Family Farm.
Red Guernsey cows are also an important part of the herd at Holland's Family Farm.
Many farmers focus on one breed. A combination of Brown Swiss, Guernsey and Holsteins help create the special flavor profile of Marieke Gouda cheese.
Many farmers focus on one breed. A combination of Brown Swiss, Guernsey and Holsteins help create the special flavor profile of Marieke Gouda cheese.
Wisconsin has really happy cows. Each one at Holland's Family Farm gets to take a turn at the automated brush that keeps them clean and happy.
Wisconsin has really happy cows. Each one at Holland's Family Farm gets to take a turn at the automated brush that keeps them clean and happy.
We'll head to the cheese factory and store next.
We'll head to the cheese factory and store next.
Unhappy cows moo or bellow. The barn, filled with more than 300 cows, was totally quiet the whole time I was there. This girl kept trying to lick me.
Unhappy cows moo or bellow. The barn, filled with more than 300 cows, was totally quiet the whole time I was there. This girl kept trying to lick me.

All in a Day's Work

Marieke Gouda makes 40 wheels of cheese a day. Each wheel weighs about 20 pounds.

Meet the Cheesemaker - Marieke Penterman

Visit Holland's Family Farm & Marieke Gouda during the week, and you get to see this woman making the cheese herself. This is a video of her telling her story.

Wooden Shelves & the FDA

A recent FDA ruling stated that cheese should only be aged on stainless steel shelves, claiming that it would be more sanitary. However, cheesemakers know that wooden shelves actually absorb excess moisture and create more sanitary conditions for the cheese. The FDA has since backed down on their regulations due to information they have gotten from cheesemakers like Marieke and many others.

Cheese Making

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Foreground - the vat where the milk starts out. Right - the vat where the curds settle out. Very small, background - wheels of cheese being pressed.Brine Room - Wheels of cheese are submerged overnight in salt water.Cheese wheels at varying levels of readiness. Each wheel gets 4 coats of a plastic blend material that protects it. Dark yellow wheels have 4 coats.One of the Cheese Affiniers "paints" the first protective coating on a wheel of cheese.Hundreds of wheels of delicious Gouda cheese aging on wooden shelves.
Foreground - the vat where the milk starts out. Right - the vat where the curds settle out. Very small, background - wheels of cheese being pressed.
Foreground - the vat where the milk starts out. Right - the vat where the curds settle out. Very small, background - wheels of cheese being pressed.
Brine Room - Wheels of cheese are submerged overnight in salt water.
Brine Room - Wheels of cheese are submerged overnight in salt water.
Cheese wheels at varying levels of readiness. Each wheel gets 4 coats of a plastic blend material that protects it. Dark yellow wheels have 4 coats.
Cheese wheels at varying levels of readiness. Each wheel gets 4 coats of a plastic blend material that protects it. Dark yellow wheels have 4 coats.
One of the Cheese Affiniers "paints" the first protective coating on a wheel of cheese.
One of the Cheese Affiniers "paints" the first protective coating on a wheel of cheese.
Hundreds of wheels of delicious Gouda cheese aging on wooden shelves.
Hundreds of wheels of delicious Gouda cheese aging on wooden shelves.

Vegetarian Cheese

Most Gouda cheese is made with veal rennet. Marieke makes a vegetarian-friendly version using rennet derived from vegetables. Ask for Marieke Golden.

What You'll Find at Their Website

  • Locations (including an online store) where you can buy their cheese
  • More information about who they are, their team, and FAQs
  • Details about their Gouda cheese
  • A mouth-watering selection of recipes that include Gouda cheese (my favorite is the Gouda Cheese Crisps)
  • and more...

Real Wisconsin Cheese

I have lived in other states and the selection and quality of cheese in the places I've lived is questionable. If you want to taste and experience (yes, experience... not just enjoy) high quality, flavorful cheeses, I recommend any of the following variety packs. There's so much more to life than Velveeta.

Wisconsin Cheese Variety Blocks 28oz If you want all one flavor, let us know.
Wisconsin Cheese Variety Blocks 28oz If you want all one flavor, let us know.

For those who like flavored cheeses, this is a great option. Perfect for parties!

 
Gouda in curing room
Gouda in curing room

A Dairy State of Mind

As you may have guessed by now, dairy is more than a business in Wisconsin. It's a state of mind and a way of life. We have whole events and whole months of the year that focus on dairy. While it may sound funny to some, dairy is important to us and we're good at it. National Championship good - like Marieke Gouda, a (relatively) small operation that has won more than 50 awards and makes the best cheese in the country (2013).

I love cheese! I love my Dairy State! And I wrote this page to share that with you.

If you can visit and tour Holland's Family Farm and Marieke Gouda, I encourage you to do so. If you can't, you can always order some of their cheese online and savor it's creamy deliciousness (I don't get any money for this. It just feels great to support a Wisconsin original.).

Have you ever eaten real Wisconsin cheese? - Would you like to tour a small-scale cheese operation like Marieke Gouda?

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