It seems like something that should be obvious. It seems like it shouldn’t even be a question—so much so that we’re often too embarrassed to ask it at all.
Here’s the thing, though: you get home with a few pieces of cheese to share, but the beautiful wedge of aged gouda you bought suddenly looks clunky, unwieldy. It’s delicious, but you can’t really cut it into cubes or cracker slices like you did with the cheddar or the pepper jack. The brie and blue can be presented as-is—your guests can handle those with a knife or even a spreader if the cheese is soft enough—but this gouda is too hard to expect guests to cut it for themselves. What do you do with this thing?
You ask your friendly neighborhood cheesemonger for advice, of course! Here are three simple approaches you can handle at home without any special equipment beyond a kitchen knife and a cutting board.
1. When life gives you wedges, make more wedges!
Just cut that beauty in long, thin triangles running the length of the original wedge. You can remove the rind on top and bottom, if you’d like, but leave the rind on the back edge. This works particularly well with a wedge that’s thick enough to offer long isosceles triangles with a decent-sized base of rind. If the wedge is too thin to begin with, your triangles will also come out looking a bit spindly—more cheese stick than triangle.
If the cheese is especially hard and crumbly, it’ll have a tendency to crumble under the knife. Thin wedges are preferable, but you may need to cut them a bit thicker to mitigate the risk of crumbling. (If a wedge crumbles, I say serve it anyway—it’s not like it loses any flavor when a triangle breaks in half!) With a younger, softer gouda, you can cut the triangles as thin as you like. A sharp knife certainly helps.
For presentation, you can reassemble the pieces so it looks like the original wedge or you can sort of fan them out or get as creative as you’d like. You may even be able to stand the pieces upright.
2. Radial cuts radiate joy!
Imagine you’re cutting half a pizza into triangles. All the cuts point toward the center (or the center of the straight edge without crust, in the case of a half-pizza). At the edges, every piece has a bit of crust (or rind, in the case of cheese). Because your cheese is oblong rather than perfectly round, the pieces won’t all be the same shape—that’s okay. I like to piece the wedge back together for presentation.
This approach works well when you have a thinner wedge to begin with. It also helps if the wedge isn’t especially long—but if it is, you can always cut a few servings off the nose (the thin, pointy end) and then cut the rest radially.
3. Crumblers gonna crumble.
If you’re working with a long-aged, dry, hard, brittle gouda, it wants to crumble. It’s made to crumble. So be it! Let that crumbly cheese be its authentic, crumbly best self! Jab it with whatever knife or spreader you’ve got and start crumbling! Leave the rind on the plate and the crumbles piled up inside, as if the crumbles are on stage in an amphitheater. I like to crumble most, but not all of it, not all the way to the rind. That way, guests eventually get the pleasure of breaking off some bits themselves, which is really quite satisfying! It works best with a big thick wedge sporting a handsome rind.
These aren’t the only options, but they’re my favorites. You could also cut the wedge in half and use a cheese planer to make paper-thin triangular slices. Or, heck, just ask your monger to cut it up for you if you’re planning on serving the same day. (If you’re not planning to serve for a few days, it’ll hold up better intact until then.)
Also, nota bene, if you ask a monger to take an extra few minutes to do this for you, take note of whether there are many other customers around or not. If you see a line of customers behind you, it would be very thoughtful and much appreciated if you’d offer to come back to pick up your neatly-sliced wedge a little later, so the monger can serve the customers waiting in line.
Note that these approaches can be used for other cheese wedges, too, not just gouda. I always use that first option with Manchego, for example. Perfect triangular servings every time!
As for pairings, I’ll have to address that issue in another post. Aged goudas are tricky to pair because they’re such a mouth-bomb of sweet flavor all on their own. Sometimes, they need nothing more than a full-bodied red wine or an oaky, oily, savory white.
Let me know how your gouda crumbles! Pics or it didn’t happen!