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What Is Edam Cheese?

By Charles R. Pearson
Updated May 16, 2024
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Edam cheese is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese usually made according to a Dutch recipe that dates back to for centuries, to the 1300s at least. It is named for the town of Edam on the northern coast of Holland, now known as the Netherlands, where this particular variation is believed to have originated. The name is not a protected geographical term, however, and today these cheeses can be made anywhere and the quality of ingredients, production, and final taste can very a lot. Despite this, the cheese tends to be quite popular in most parts of the world. It ages well, and as such is often available in several maturity levels ranging from mild to sharp and even extra-sharp. All varieties tend to have semi-firm texture that is easy to grate, and it melts well, too; as a result it’s commonly used in cooking to create a range of different dishes. It is also popularly eaten on its own

Physical Characteristics

This sort of cheese is almost always prepared in a wheel shape, often with the use of molds and presses, and it’s traditionally wrapped in red wax. The earliest cheese makers in Holland used caves as studios, pressing, drying, and aging the cheese in cool mountainous caverns, though today industry standard usually recreates these conditions in temperature-controlled manufacturing suites.

Most of the time it has a pale yellow color. Young cheeses tend to be the softest, and wheels get harder and crumblier as they age — though in most cases even very sharp cheeses are only partly firm.

Taste Profile

It’s common for people to describe this cheese as “mellow,” as its flavor is usually mild, understated, and has a hint of sweetness to it. Others have call the cheese nutty and mild. Some types have a salty taste, while other types have a bland flavor. A lot of this is determined by the quality of the milk that’s used in production, and perhaps equally importantly the diet of the cows giving that milk in the first place. Cows that eat primarily corn and processed grain tend to produce a very different sort of milk from those that eat mainly wild grasses, and these differences are often amplified as the milk is processed down into cheese. What this means is that, even if people follow the same recipe exactly, the result is likely to be different, sometimes strikingly so, if they are different places with access to different milk.

Common Food Pairings

Edam is a cheese that traditionally goes well with wine, and is commonly featured on after dinner cheese trays or, alternatively, on appetizer platters, often alongside crackers and fruit spreads. The mild version of this cheese pairs best with sweeter fruits like cherries, while more mature versions are often matched with salted nuts and cured meats.

Use in Recipes

There’s usually a lot that cooks can do with this sort of cheese. It can be formed into balls, rinds, bread, sticks, and crisps. It is also commonly used to create fritters, and can be melted in or over almost anything, from potatoes and pastas to crepes and cheese pies. This cheese is also great for cheese soup and cheese sauces of all kinds.

Nutritional Profile and Storage Tips

As cheeses go, Edam is usually right up the midline in terms of fat and caloric content. Per 100 grams (about 7 ounces), it typically has 27 grams (0.95 ounces) of fat and 25 grams (0.88 ounces) of protein. This cheese is high in calcium, sodium and phosphorus. It also has some retinum, Vitamin A and choline. Additionally, and as is true of most dairy products, it is a great source of calcium.

If covered in wax, Edam cheese does not need to be refrigerated. Once unwrapped, however, it should be covered in order to prevent it from drying out. Of course, even if it is covered in wax, cheese should not be placed in a very hot room or in places with a lot of exposed sunlight in order to avoid spoilage.

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Discussion Comments

By anon152149 — On Feb 13, 2011

The reason is Edam is so widely available is that the Dutch sensibly ship it out. They know the value of a cheese which feels and tastes like a squash ball.

By stolaf23 — On Jan 07, 2011

I know someone who was living in a region of Europe with very little cheddar cheese, and she often used edam cheese to substitute in recipes, because the taste can sometimes be similar. However, she found that this did not always work, because many edam cheeses do not melt as well as cheddar or emmental varieties.

By afterall — On Jan 04, 2011

Edam cheese is very popular in Europe, more so than it is in the United States. While it is easy to find and buy edam cheese, though, it is hard to know what you're getting. Most kinds of edam I have found in Europe were the very mild variety; however, many were also much less soft than I had expected. I think that in some regions of Europe, at least, Edam is a bit of a catch-all term, just like emmental can be, and varieties can differ a lot.

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