Kanterkaas ; Kanternagelkaas ; Kanterkomijnekaas

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The names of this BOB (Beschermde Oorsprongsbenaming) cheese are traditionally linked to the Friesland region and the Westerkwartier area. The traditional name ‘Kanter’ refers to the angular shape of the cheese, with a sharp edge where the side meets the base, and is used exclusively for this traditional type of cheese from the region.

  • Description

Kanterkaas is a hard cheese flavoured or not with cloves and/or caraway. It has a flat cylindrical shape, the side forming a sharp edge with the flat base and a rounded edge with the flat top. Each cheese weighs between 3 and 8.5 kg. Kanterkaas is made in two fat content categories: 20+ and 40+. 20+ Kanterkaas contains a minimum of 20 % and a maximum of 25 % of fat in the dry matter. Twelve days after production, it must have a humidity content of not more than 48.5 %. 40+ Kanterkaas has a fat content ranging between 40 and 44 % in the dry matter. Twelve days after production, it must have a humidity content of not more than 41.5 %.

The rind of Kanterkaas and Kanternagelkaas may be ‘natural’ or treated with a colourless or yellow coating material. The rind of Kanterkomijnekaas may be ‘natural’ or treated with a colourless, yellow or red coating material. Specific characteristics are as follows:

-flavour: Kanterkaas: pleasant and sharp to strong, depending on age; Kanternagelkaas (Kanterkaas with cloves): fragrant, flavoured, pleasant and sharp to strong, depending on age; Kanterkomijnekaas (Kanterkaas with caraway): fragrant, flavoured, pleasant and mild to strong, depending on age. It may be eaten within a period of four weeks to more than a year of manufacture.

-interior: close texture with limited eye formation. The coloration of Kanterkaas is a uniform ivory or yellow to greenish yellow; Kanternagelkaas is a uniform yellow-green, sometimes darker around the cloves; the coloration of Kanterkomijnekaas is a uniform ivory or yellow to greenish yellow. The cloves and caraway are evenly distributed in the cheese.

-rind: the rind of the cheese is impervious and smooth and free of mould growth.

-consistency: firm to hard, easy to cut and after some time highly suitable for grating.

  • Geographical area

Friesland and Westerkwartier. The factors underlying the very long tradition in Kanterkaas making are the highly favourable soil and climatic conditions obtaining in Friesland and the Westerkwartier. The soils in this region consist of young sea clay, sand and young peat (raised bog residues) together with eutrophic peat bog. The land is between 2 m below and 27 m above sea level and is used mainly as grassland, which accounts for more than 80 %, as against 40 % for the Netherlands as a whole.

The average annual temperature is 9 °C, with an average of 1 °C in January and 17 °C in July. Annual precipitation is 700 to 800 mm, with effective precipitation (precipitation minus evaporation) ranging from 150 to 300 mm. Wind velocity averages 4 to 6 m/s, the prevailing winds being south to west. Friesland and the Westerkwartier are rural areas. The beauty of the countryside and the fact that population density is low have meant that the region has retained its rural character and has remained relatively unspoilt.

It is this combination of factors which makes this region so extremely well-suited to dairy farming. The grazing is of a high quality and the dairy cows roam freely in the natural environment. The resultant high-quality milk together with the care with which it is processed make Kanterkaas the quality cheese it is. Bearing in mind that the present methods of making Kanterkaas differ in only a few ways from the traditional methods, it can be rightly claimed that Kanterkaas is a wholesome, genuine and distinctive quality product.

  • History

According to documentary sources dating back to the Romans, stock rearing in the Netherlands was concentrated in the North, namely in Friesland and in the adjoining eastern pasturelands, the Westerkwartier. On account of the limited keeping qualities of milk, the process of turning milk into butter and cheese began at that time. After creaming the milk, the cream was churned and the residual skimmed milk was made into hard semi-fat cheese. The angular shape and thus the name have been traditionally used only for this specific cheese.

There are references to the link between the name Kanterkaas and the Friesland region and the Westerkwartier in a large number of publications. Initially farmers sold their cheeses at local markets. The first mention of the municipal scales of Leeuwarden dates back to 1386. In 1427 Sneek also acquired weighing rights as did Sloten in 1480. Markets and ports of exit sprung up in Franeker, Bolsward, Dokkum and Harlingen. Later, Kanterkaas even began to be exported. The 1532 Kampen customs register records the Frisians as supplying this cheese to the German market. It was also exported England.

By about 1800, particularly as a result of exports to England, the production in Friesland of unflavoured cheese without colouring increased dramatically. By 1850, as a result of rapidly expanding production and trade, Kanterkaas had become the most common cheese in Friesland. From that time onwards, high-fat cheese almost disappeared from Friesland. In the second half of the nineteenth century Kanternagelkaas flourished. The addition of spices to the cheese was at first a means of providing flavour and at a later stage served as a control stamp. A regulation of the States-General of 1725 laid down that no cheese was to pass as Kanterkaas unless spices were added to it. That regulation was subsequently repealed. However, as a result of their characteristic flavour, Kanternagelkaas and Kanterkomijnekaas have remained typical cheeses. From 1890 milk began to be processed in factories in Friesland. In spite of commercialism, current preparation methods differ only in a few ways from the traditional production process.

  • Production

The same unique process has been used for centuries to produce Kanterkaas and the type of cheese obtained consequently differs markedly from other cheese varieties. Manufacturing methods have been refined over time as hygiene and technology have progressed. The advances in the techniques employed have meant that capacity has increased and that production has moved from farm to factory.

The manufacturing methods employed can be summarised as follows:

-the milk is delivered at a temperature of about 4 °C and is heat-treated within a few hours

-after standardisation, the milk is pasteurised at a temperature of about 72 °C for about 15 seconds

-coagulation takes place at a temperature of about 30 °C with the help of calf or cattle rennet

-a mixed culture of starter bacteria suitable for Kanterkaas provides the desired acidification

-the curd is washed to obtain the desired pH. After washing, caraway is added to Kanterkomijnekaas, and a very small quantity is sometimes also added to Kanternagelkaas

-the curd is then ripened until the desired pH is obtained

-in the case of Kanterkaas and Kanterkomijnekaas, the curd is subsequently milled, salted and filled into presses and in the case of Kanternagelkaas, the curd is cut into strips to which cloves and salt are added before it is milled and filled into presses;

-prolonged pressing to the desired shape and rind formation

-the desired salt content is then obtained by immersing the cheese in brine

-ripening takes at least four weeks at temperatures of not less than 12 °C

Reference: The European Commission

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