The fifth stop on the Bi-Rite Cheese Trek takes us Terschelling, one of the Frisian Islands off the northern coast of Holland. I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days in Holland visiting farms and enjoying great cheese. My hosts were Betty and Martin Koster, the owners of Amersterdam’s Fromagerie L’Amuse. The Kosters select and mature Dutch cheeses which they either sell in their shops or export. Their L’Amuse Signature Gouda is a mainstay at Bi-Rite, but their selection and passion goes beyond aged cow’s milk Gouda. Betty was excited to take me to Terschelling to visit one of Holland’s most inspiring farmhouse sheep’s milk cheesemakers.
Our day started with a drive from Amsterdam to the port town of Harlingen, where we boarded a boat for a windy and rainy crossing of the Wadden Sea. When we finally arrived at Terschelling, we were greeted by Jolanda and Gerben Bakker of Schapenboerderij De Zeekraal. Gerben grew up on the island and now spends his days milking sheep and maintaining an organic farm; his wife, Jolanda, makes cheese and ice cream with the milk and runs a charming farm shop on their property. We made it to the Baaker’s farm just in time to see their 200 Frisian sheep being milked for the evening and we also spent quite a bit of time with the new born lambs out in the pasture. We enjoyed the couple’s cheeses for dinner and were treated to an off-road excursion to the eastern tip of the thin island to watch the sunset (at 10pm!). After spending the night in yurts on the farm, we woke to the sounds of the animals and cups of coffee with fresh sheep’s milk.
Jolanda is one of only three cheesemakers on the island – and the only one using organic milk. Her signature cheese is a small wheel of sheep’s milk gouda named for the island. I first tried this cheese a few years ago and was intrigued by its rich flavors of nuts and caramel that accompanied its smooth & dense texture – the wheel I tasted from had been selected by the Kosters and matured to export to the United States. I appreciate the cheese even more after visting the Baakers and tasting younger wheels of their cheese on their farm – Terschelling is a unique cheese that reflects the commitment this couple has to their animals and land. I recommended enjoying the cheese on its own encounter all the complex flavors. Betty Koster is also passionate about tea and encouraged me to enjoy her selections with Jasmine Tea – the pairing was unexpectedly wonderful.
The next destination on our Bi-Rite Cheese Trek is my home state of Ohio for a taste of an extra-special seasonal sheep’s milk delight!