Beemster cheese is a hard, Dutch cow's milk cheese. Production of Beemster is similar to other hard cheeses such as Gouda. The specific taste of Beemster stems from the ingredients (milk from grass grown on sea-clay in a polder 4 meters below sea-level) and from the fact that part of the production process (the stirring of the curd) is done by hand and that the cheeses are ripened in changing conditions.
After the completion of the Beemster-polder in 1612 farming was made possible. The new land--four meters below sea-level--was fertile and suitable for agriculture and dairy farming. Until 1901 most of the dairy farmers delivered their milk and home-made cheese to local merchants. The dependency to these merchants did not always please them.
In 1901 a number of dairy farmers in several villages all decided to start a cooperatives. The different cooperatives built small cheese factories. One of these was the cooperative Wilhelmina, opened in 1907. In 1930 they joined with another factory in the polder, De Unie, forming the joint cooperative cheesemaking facility called De Tijd ("The Time").
In 1947 two other cooperatives (Concordia from Oudendijk and Ons Belang from Middelie) joined to form the De Combinatie ("The Combination"). In 1950 the cheese factory Neerlandia in Stompetoren was added. Finally, in 1991 De Combinatie joined with another cooperative, De Vechtstreek, forming CONO Cheesemakers.
In the seventies there was growing competition on the Dutch cheese market. This led to the introduction of Beemster kaas (Beemster cheese). Its handicraft nature results from the stirring by hand of the curd, the riping in diffent temperatures and humidities.
CONO has about 475 farmers, and is one of the country's smallest such cooperatives; it produces about 30,000 tons of Beemster each year. In 2001 the Queen of The Netherlands awarded the title 'By Appointment to the Court of the Netherlands'. Beemsterkaas is one of the main attractions of the area.
Today CONO makes a wide variety of cheeses all based on the Beemster cheese. They also are the exclusive provider of milk to Ben & Jerry's in Europe.
- "Hierdoor kan Cono de melkprijs op niveau houden - Zes vragen aan Wim Betten" (in Dutch). Boerenbusiness. 23 February 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
- "Middenbeemster: Frisse blik op Beemster" (in Dutch). Dichtbij.nl. 5 April 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2016.