After fifty-one years in the specialty food business, one might think I would not find a new cheese all that exciting. But I have even managed to surprise myself.

We just received our first shipment of a gouda-style cheese from Holland called Kanaal. This wonderful cheese, produced by Kaaslands and imported by Epicure Foods in Madison, New Jersey, is quite new to market.

Evidently, I am not the only one excited about this new cheese. Kaaslands Kanaal debuted in October of 2017 and has already placed silver in the Specialty Foods Associations 2018 SOFI (“Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation”) Awards.

This is a big accolade, as the Specialty Foods Associations Show is one of the largest international food shows anyone in the food business can attend, and SOFI competitions are also international.

Kanaal is made from pasteurized milk that comes from free-range, grass-fed cows. They do not use GMO ingredients in production. Epicure Foods describes Kanaal as crunchy, with a butterscotch salty-sweet, candy-like flavor. This is due to the presence of Tyrosine, an amino acid that results from aging in certain cheeses.

Even though it tastes both salty and sweet, Kanaal contains neither salt nor sugar. When a cheese is brined during production, salt crystals form on the outside as the cheese ages and dries. This cheese achieves a great crystalized flavor, despite its ripened age of only ten months.

Kanaal is technically not a Gouda, but a similar style called Proosdij, which employs a mixed-strain starter cultures to give the cheese characteristics of both a Gouda and a Parmigiano. Its butterfat content falls around 45%, versus Gouda’s butterfat content at 48%. The wheel weighs around eighteen to twenty pounds and comes with a heavy outer wax covering, which enables it to have a long shelf life. If properly cared for, Kanaal will last many weeks at home.

Serving Suggestions

This is one of those cheeses that pairs with just about anything. You will find it not only great as an appetizer, but also in cooking and as a dessert.

Here are just a few suggestions that Epicure Food recommends you try with Kanaal:

• Amber and red Ales with a grilled cheese sandwich of Kanaal cheese, buttered rye bread, mustard, smoked ham and pickles;

• German-style wheat beer with Granny Smith apples and a drizzle of Caramel;

• Stout or Porter mixed with a drizzle of honey or raspberry jam over fine dark chocolate.

I personally recommend Kanaal as an appetizer or dessert, served with Bourbon or a single malt Scotch.

Kanaal can also accompany both white and red wines, if you prefer. It will pair well with Reisling, Spatlese, Vintage Port, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel. And, of course, anything goes with Champagne or Prosecco.

Similar Cheeses

This cheese is so new that it might be difficult to find just yet. Here are a few other similar and very popular cheeses that might fill the void. These cheeses also have butterscotch notes and great crystallization.

Beemster XO

This is a 26-month old cheese, sharp with butterscotch, whisky and pecan undertones. It has creamy finish and pairs well with Reisling, Spatlese, Vintage Port, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.

Beemster Classic

An 18-month old cheese with a sweet and creamy texture, it teams well with Roquefort and Muenster. Enjoy it with Vintage Port, Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.

Ewephoria

A one-year old cheese, also made in Holland, this cheese differs in that it is produced from sheep milk (hence the name). Similar to Kanaal, Ewephoria is remarkably sharp for such a young cheese.

Caring for your Cheese

Like all cheese, special care should be given to maintain freshness. Wedges should be tightly wrapped in fresh plastic film wrap (Saran, for example) every time they are opened. When you rewrap with old cling film, any beginning molds are reintroduced back to the cheese surface. Cling wrap really only seals well on its first use. If these steps are not taken, your cheese will likely dry out and lose flavor faster. Protect your treasures.

When purchasing cheese, avoid pre-cut, Cry-o-Vac cheeses packaged weeks prior. Even though they might have started as the same great cheese, it will take some time to get through the plastic taste, hence ruining what might have been a great cheese.

Instead, aim to buy fresh-cut wedges from whole wheels at time of sale. It would be best to taste a fresh sample of your choice, and not a sample cut into cubes hours ago. Only in this manner can you be sure the cheese you buy is at its peak condition.

A Great New Find: Kaaslands Kanaal