I am a cheesemonger. Which means I monger cheese. I taste, sample, describe, eat, and share cheeses from all over the world with others. I love cheese. I love everything about it; I love the taste of it; the smell of it; but even more than that I love the history of cheese and I love the stories behind each individual cheese. Artisan cheese is a beautiful thing. It is make by human hands, in small batches, by well cared for animals, and comes from all over the world. Cheese is special and when you share cheese with others it should be done with care & love; as most food should. Cheese is also very personal and can cause people to have major reactions too. Some people hate blue cheese (ps you’re crazy). Some people can’t stand goat cheese (ps you’re out of your mind). Some people just plain dislike cheese, or they think it’s unhealthy. To those people, go to a cheese shop and ask to taste Saint Angel, a triple creme from France, or taste Lamp Chopper, a sheep’s milk cheese from California…and if you’re one of those people that thinks cheese is unhealthy, you’re just wrong. Everything in moderation but…cheese is good for you skin, hair, nails, and taste-buds.
Keeping all that in mind, here my tips when creating a perfect cheese board.
At best you want to have a cheese from each milk category: cow, sheep, goat, buffalo. Also include several categories of cheese style: gouda-style, cheddar, blue, brie-style, stinky or washed rind. If you cant, find cheese from different places in the world: USA, France, Ireland, Spain, Australia, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands…the list goes on. And finally include a variety of textures: hard, semi-soft, and soft.
Think about the colors on your plate. Cheese in it’s natural state tends to be all the same color. That being said some cheeses have natural differences. Goats milk tends to be whitest in color, followed by sheep, and finally cow. Plus, some cheese makers add natural (and unnatural but don’t get these types of cheese please) color, such as annatto seed, to alter the natural color of their cheese. Additionally, add items to your plate to spice up the color. I love veggies, fresh & dried fruit, nuts, sliced meats, jams and honeys.
To be honest, taste thumps all other tips. If you don’t like the taste of the cheese, don’t buy it. You’re gonna be stuck with the leftovers and wasted cheese is a sin! Pick a style are start tasting your way through it. Or find a real cheese shop. A majority of these places will allow you to taste the cheese. Plus most cheesmongers love to help you find the cheese of your dreams. So…go, taste, and fall in love. Once you do, buy those cheeses and add them to your cheese repertoire.
Now that you have your cheese in a variety of milks, styles, and texture plus your additional accoutrements you’re ready to make a cheese plate.
For the cheese plate you see below here if what I included:
Harbison: A soft, cows milk cheese from Jasper Hill Farms. It is mushroomy, brie-like, and wrapped in bark from trees on the farm. In the lower right hand corner of the plate.
Saint Agur: A soft, triple creme, blue cheese from France. This cheese is salty and mild in it’s blue punch. I adore this cheese! The only blue, smack dab in the middle of the plate.
Humboldt Fog: A soft goat cheese from Cypress Grove Creamery in California. It’s got a mild & smooth goaty taste with an ash sprinkled middle. In the upper right hand corner of the plate.
Old Croc Cheddar: A sharp, firm, and nicely salted cows milk cheddar from Australia aged about 9+ months. This one is chunked up to the lower left hand corner of the picture.
Pecorino Camomilla: A semi-soft sheeps milk cheese from Italy that is wrapped in camomile leaves. A nice earthy and also herbaceous flavor profile comes through in this young pecornio aged around 60 days. In the upper left hand corner of the plate.
sliced yellow bell-pepper
a small salad with heirloom tomatoes
homemade apricot/strawberry jam
Big Island Honey
How to assemble:
Lay your cheese out first. Keep in mind where you want the focal point of your plate to be. How do you want your guests to look at it? Place cheese so they open up in that direction. Chunk some cheeses,
Now start adding your additional items. There is no wrong way to do this. Have fun!
Finally, be sure your cheese are left out for at least 40 minutes before you serve it. Cheeses are best served at room temperature.
Serve with crackers & sliced bread.
Keep this in mind:
This is simply the most basic type of cheese board you can create. It’s one that is meant to give guests a variety. But…you absolutely don’t have to go this route. I love to make all sheep cheese boards, or an all Spanish cheese board, or even a cheese board all in one color using only red fruit with white cheeses. Thus the possibilities really are endless!!
Cheese is meant to be fun! So don’t freak out…enjoy yourself as you pick out your cheese, assemble, and share with friends & family. But with out a moments hesitation: Eat this!