The Dutch are known, throughout the world for their cheese and clogs. It is a part of their culture, legacy and local traditions; something one must not miss while visiting the Netherlands. From enjoying the exalted Dutch cheese and wine on a cruise that sails across the ensemble of the UNESCO listed canals of Amsterdam to visit the farm where this great-tasting food is made, from the pressed curds of fresh milk; is like experiencing the highlights of the Netherlands regional talents up and close. On a somewhat cloudy day in July, we set out on a journey to Southwestern Amsterdam, across a bucolic panorama, to visit the 160-years-old Clara Maria Cheese and Clog Factory.
Within the confines of 30-minutes, and after crossing several windmills and gardens, including 19 of the last 17th-century preserved windmills, we arrived at the venue that constitutes a very-exciting experience, instantly teleporting you to age-old Dutch farming. We toured the windmills, strolled by the canals, ultimately landing at the Clara Maria Cheese and Clog farm where they make cheese and clogs, a type of Dutch wooden shoes. Roosted on a big farm, this small family-owned factory gives you a fantastic tour into its cheese and clog area. We were shown around by one of the male staffs who introduced us to the thorough cheese-making process.
Located in the Amstelveen district of Amsterdam, Clara Maria farm opens at 7 AM each morning. This land, used for rearing several animals such as geese, pigs, cows, chicken and other farm animals, also stars a few ancient abandoned wagons. Once every morning and evening, farmers milk 60+ cows under utmost care. The Dutch farm cows release 1000 litres of milk in an hour which, is conveyed to a large barrel by steel pipes. Consequently, the milk is boiled at 36 degrees through hot water pipes to process a reduction. Following which, the farmer adds rennet extract and bacteria to coagulate the milk into Gouda flavoured cheese.
Simultaneously, some of the other milk is also used, towards preparing yoghurt. After the cheese is ripe, one of the family members interpolates knives in the vat to split it into pieces. The family also collects the curd in towels and processes it through cheese press where it is squeezed out. The cheese is then slid, in a salt brine solution at noon which aids in preserving it. Following which, a variety of herbs such as cumin, mustard seeds, black pepper, red pepper, ginger and garlic, are added to the cheese. In the end, cheese is pressed with farmer’s label; indicating name, location and date of cheese manufacturing.
While here, you can taste some of the fresh creamy cheese for a nominal fee. At this farm, I learnt a great deal about the centuries-old cheese-making traditions, different cheeses and also had a look at the 9th-century machines that facilitate the process. The friendly and courteous staff also had us meet some of the farm cows. As about the Dutch Shoes: At the Clara Maria Cheese and Clog Farm the traditional (painted) wooden shoes are crafted, with authentic antique machines, with no new technology involved. These Clogs are essentially made, from willow wood, which is a sturdy and light material.
Despite being made from wood, the shoes more or less, feel light on the feet. From Clog store, I purchased, a pair of brown wooden shoes and a cow painted piggy bank; great souvenirs echoing Dutch culture in plain simplicity. Clara Maria Cheese Farm and Clog Factory, indeed is one of the best places, to explore the two most iconic and authentic elements of the Netherlands. This hidden gem can comfortably be experienced, in a day. Before leaving, buy your favourite clogs and cheese from their gift store and on your way back, experience the spectacular Dutch landscapes once again.