Gouda cheese originated in the Netherlands and is named after the city of Gouda. Historians date the cheese back to the 12th century. As of 2015, Gouda is one of the oldest cheeses still being made.
The cheese is not necessarily made in or near Gouda, but this is the city where the cheese was traded under a complex system utilized by the cheese porter guild. Gouda cheese is traded in the city even as of 2015.
Most Gouda cheese is made out of cow's milk, though some artisanal cheesemakers use the milk of goats or sheep. The milk can be raw or pasteurized.
Gouda cheeses are semihard, with a creamy, sweet taste and dense texture. They are typed by their age. Graskaas is a very young cheese. The classifications of other cheeses include jong, belegen, oud and overjarig, which is a greatly aged cheese. They differ not only in age but in texture and flavor. Older Gouda cheeses have a deeper, richer flavor than younger ones. The wax rinds on the cheeses are also different depending on age. The rinds of younger cheeses are red, yellow or orange, while those on older cheeses are black.
Because the name "Gouda" was never patented, the cheese can be made anywhere, including America. American Gouda cheese tends to be blander than the original Dutch cheese.