At the end of the nineteenth century the first member of the Heemskerk family set foot on the farm. It was quickly decided to make Boeren-Leidsekaas (a farmer’s cheese) from the milk provided by the cows. Fast-forward 116 years and Boris and Ellen Heemskerk are the fourth generation of the Leiden Heemskerk family continuing the tradition of making cheese at De Morgenstond.
De Morgenstond farm can be found in the middle of the extensive meadows, which the picturesque Oud Ade is known for. A historic building, in which to this day the Heemskerk family produces the tastiest Boeren-Leidsekaas, a cheese which has won various awards. Although making cheese is very precise work, the family does it with pleasure. 'At present we have some seventy dairy cows. We milk them twice a day, in the morning and in the evening,' Ellen explains. On the days that Boris and Ellen make the Leidse cheese, the alarm clock goes off at 4 a.m. 'It's almost like an Olympic sport.'
The milk from the dairy cows is pumped into a large container, where a centrifuge separates half the fat from the milk. Every other day Boris and Ellen make some twenty Leidse cheeses. 'Because a lot of fat is removed from the milk, the artisan Boeren-Leidsekaas has a fat content of about thirty percent. This is as much as the cheeses which are sold as low fat in the supermarket,' Boris says with a smile.
Some twenty round Leidse cheeses are presented on long shelves in the cheese storage, which borders immediately on the farm's living area. The rind has a characteristic red-brown colour, in which the Leidse Sleutels (Keys of Leiden) are engraved. 'The Leiden cheese has a distinct, tangy flavour,' says Boris, as he cuts of a piece of cheese with a big knife. 'Because of the low fat content it is very firm, but can still be cut. It has to be, consumers do not want crumbly cheese.'
The tangy flavour is due to the cumin, a herb which is added to the milk during the preparation process. Non-connoisseurs will describe the smell as being the same as ordinary seed cheese, but the real Boeren-Leidsekaas is more tangy and fuller flavoured. 'It is really a cheese for true cheese lovers,' Boris explains.
In September 2012 the Heemskerk family won first prize with their Boeren-Leidsekaas at the annual cattle and cheese judging. In 2013 the cheese was crowned tastiest Boeren-Leidsekaas of 2013. Ellen and Boris are very proud of their artisan product, but do not yet know what the future will look like. 'Our oldest daughter, who is in high school, says she wants to be a farmer. We'll see!'