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Leerdammer cheese is made exclusively by the Dutch company Le Groupe Bel and has only been on the market for a matter of decades. The cheese is made from cow's milk and has a mild, nutty flavor. It is considered to be a cross between Gouda, Edam and Emmental cheeses. It has become one of the most popular Dutch cheeses in Europe and is often considered an affordable alternative to Emmental cheese.
This semi-hard Dutch cheese was created in the 1970s by a dairy farmer named Cees Boterkooper and a neighboring cheese retailer named Bastiaan Baars. The pair worked for a number of years to design a semi-hard cheese that could compete with Edam and Gouda. In 1977, the two cheese makers announced that their work was complete, and they began creating and distributing the cheese from their dairy in Schoonrewoerd, Holland. Leerdrammer was then manufactured by the Baars company for several years until Le Groupe Bel acquired the recipe and the brand.
True Leerdammer cheese can only be manufactured by Le Groupe Bel, but Maasdam cheese has all of the characteristics of Leerdammer without the brand name. The cheese is available either in wax or a naturally polished rind, and it contains considerably less sodium and fat than other semi-hard cheeses from the region. Maasdam cheese is very similar to Emmental cheese except that it is much more affordable and takes less time to make. Like Leerdammer cheese itself, Maasdam cheese is known for its sweet, nutty flavor, despite the fact that it is made from the same ingredients as Swiss cheeses. Maasdam and Leerdammer cheeses are frequently enjoyed on their own, but they are also key ingredients in a number of different types of soups, souffles and entrees.
In addition to its distinctive flavor, Leerdammer cheese is also known for its prominent holes that are very similar to those found in Emmental cheese. The holes are created by the bacterial growth that occurs as the cheese ages for a period of three to 12 months. The holes expand during the ripening process due to the carbon dioxide created by the bacteria. The size and frequency of these holes are determined by the temperature the cheese is exposed to during the ripening process, as well as the amount of time that it takes for the cheese to ferment.