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Meet the Producer: The Big Cheese

Marieke Penterman of Holland’s Family Cheese
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After moving to the U.S., Marieke Penterman of Holland’s Family Cheese missed her favorite Dutch Gouda so much, she begin making her own.


Why did you move to the U.S. from Holland?

My husband Rolf and I both grew up on small farms in the Netherlands and always wanted to have a dairy, as did his brother, Sander. But there, regulations were prohibitive including how much land and how many cows you could have. It is difficult to make a living with a small farm. Here, it is cheaper and easier and you need less capital to start.

Why did you start making farmhouse Gouda?

We were missing our cheese from Holland and my husband and I wanted to start something together—the dairy is really a partnership with his brother. So we took our savings, found a bank that wanted to come along and then got expert advice from the Dairy Business Innovation Center here in Wisconsin to help us figure out what to do. I first got my cheesemaking license, which included 240 hours of practical work, and then spent two days in Holland learning about Gouda and finding the best recipes. In November 2006 I made my first batch of cheese. In February 2007, we won our first “Best of Class” award from the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and in 2008 won second place in the World Championship Cheese Contest for our Marieke’s Foenegreek and Plain Goudas. 

What do you think makes your cheese special?

We use fresh raw milk from our own rBGH-free Holstein cows. The milk is often still warm when we begin making the Gouda because it is piped directly from the first milking of the day into the processing vat. Within five hours of milking, our cheese is being made.

Are you going to stay with producing only Gouda?

Absolutely. Though initially we had our doubts. Holland doesn’t export its best Gouda and we  knew we would need to work to get the reputation of Gouda up where we wanted. So we compromised and called ours Marieke Gouda and the plan is working. We are getting better known by cheese aficionados and getting into more restaurants. Seventy percent of what we produce is plain Gouda, with cheeses aged anywhere from two – 24 months. The other 30 percent is herbed Gouda. Flavors vary depending on the availability of the ingredients but they include Italian Herb, Onion/Garlic, Smoked and Foenegreek (which is a seed native to Holland with a nutty, maple-like flavor). Seasonal flavors include Black Pepper Mix, Cumin, Black Mustard and Burning Nettle, an herb that tastes like spinach when cooked.

If you knew it were going to be your last meal, what would you eat?

I would have shrimp cocktail, then a traditional Dutch dish, Boerenkool Stamppot, which is kind of like a hash made with kale, potatoes, milk, bacon, vinegar and pickles, accompanied by a glass of red wine. For dessert, custard with whipped cream. —Susan Segrest

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