With Gouda, it's usually about the age, as Holland's most famous dairy creation can gracefully mature for years into one of the most complex hard cheeses on the planet. But with Beemster's month-old Graskaas, it's all about the milk — in particular, milk drawn the first week of spring. That's when the cows are allowed out to joyously romp and graze across the lush Dutch pasture after a long cold winter inside the barn, and that milk is considered the richest of the year. Graskaas translates to "grass cheese," and this annual early-summer release is limited to only 2,000 wheels. Because it's aged for just one month, the cheese has a softer, springier paste than most Goudas. But the qualities of that milk really shine though, with an exceptional creaminess to the texture; a sweet, fresh tang; and the early signs of the butterscotch flavors that are a signature in aged Gouda already starting to appear. Do not bother melting graskaas, which will destroy its delicate texture — you'll want to eat it cubed, or tossed with fruit into a summer salad. I nearly walked past this wheel at S. Clyde Weaver's stand at the Lancaster County Farmers' Market in Wayne, which had an exceptional collection of other funkier Euro cheeses to distract me. But one nibble of a free sample of Graskaas, then another, and I knew I was hooked on the magic of spring's first milk. This will now be my summer snacking cheese — while it lasts.
— Craig LaBan