Dutch cheese markets
There are five cheese markets operating in the Netherlands. Woerden is a modern working commercial cheese market. Four, Alkmaar, Gouda, Edam and Hoorn, are like traditional merchant cheese markets as operated in the post-medieval period, re-enacted during the summer months for tourists. The shows are today surrounded by stalls selling all things traditional to the Dutch culture, including cheese.
Dutch cheese farmers traditionally brought their cheeses to the market square in town to sell. Teams (vemen) of official guild cheese-porters (kaasdragers), identified by differently coloured straw hats associated with their forwarding company, carried the farmers' cheese on barrows, which typically weighed about 160 kilograms. Buyers then sampled the cheeses and negotiated a price using a ritual system called handjeklap in which buyers and sellers clap each other's hands and shout prices. Once a price is agreed, the porters carry the cheese to the weighing house (Waag), and scale of their company.
This large 400-year old cheese market located on the Waagplein ("weighing square") now opens every Friday morning between 10 am and 12:30 pm from the first Friday in April until the first Friday in September. From opening ceremonies to final load, market activities are explained in Dutch, German, English and sometimes Japanese.
At the Edam cheese market, which unsurprisingly features Edam cheese, horse-drawn carriages and boats bring farmers' cheeses to the Jan van Nieuwenhuizen Square to be presented at the current weigh house, built in 1778. This traditional-style cheese market opens in July and August on Wednesday mornings from 10:30 am until 12:30 pm.
Gouda cheese has been traded on the Goudse kaasmarkt for more than three centuries. Nowadays it is open from mid-June until August, every Thursday morning between 10 am and 12:30 pm, Farmers from the region gather to have their cheese weighed, tasted and priced. The Gouda cheese market is surrounded by many exhibitions of authentic Dutch professions, from cheese production to clog making and buttermilk preparation.
Opened in 2007 on the Roode Steen square, this reproduction cheese market takes place between 28 June and 20 September on Thursdays between 12:30 and 13:45 and 21:00 and 22:15. There are live commentaries on the whole process of carrying in the cheese, weighing, and negotiating in both Dutch and English.
This commercial cheese market features farmers' cheeses with little of the spectacle or pageantry of the other markets. For more than 100 years, every Wednesday morning starting around 9:00 am, there is an active trade between the cheese farmers and the marktmeester (market foreman), where prices are determined for the different types of cheeses. The cheeses for sale are boerenkazen (farmers' cheeses) which are considered by cheese aficionados to be more authentic and have a much better taste than factory-made cheese.
Annual Historic Cheese Market Woerden
Every August, on the last Wednesday of the school summer holidays (for the central Netherlands), a historic cheese market is held. The cheese farmers, as well as their wives, dress up in period costumes and re-enact a traditional cheese market. In 2011, the historical cheese market was held on 13 August.
- Alkmaar cheese market - Cheese Bargaining. kaasmarkt.nl; VVV, NL.
- Edam cheese market . Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions (list of open markets is out of date).
- Alkmaar Cheese Market schedule. kaasmarkt.nl; VVV, NL.
- The Alkmaar Cheese Market, a tradition since 1593. alkmaar.nl; Municipality of Alkmaar.
- Edam Cheese Market event information. Stichting Kaasmarkt Edam, 2010.
- Gouda Cheese Market event information. Stichting Goudse Kaas foundation, 2010.
- Hoorn Cheese Market official site (Flash)
- Woerden Cheese Market (in Dutch)
- Historical Cheese Market Woerden (in Dutch)