How to Build A Scrumptious Cheese Board

 

I always think you should never show up to a soiree empty-handed, and you definitely shouldn’t host a party without snacks. My secret for pulling off both is the eye-catching and stomach-satisfying classic: the cheeseboard. Here are some tips from a real-life cheesemonger, yours truly, for staging the prettiest and tastiest cheese board your friends have ever seen!

 

It’s all about texture

The key to a really delicious board is choosing a few kinds of cheese of varying texture. Depending on the aging length that the cheese undergoes, it can have soft, semi-soft, semi-firm, or hard textures. Generally, cheeses aged for longer periods of time will have small, crunchy tyrosine (crystallized milk protein) throughout it, while younger cheeses are more mild and soft. Pick out a hard, semi-firm, and soft cheese (at the very least) so that your guests will have a range of delicious options to choose from. Be sure to use separate knives for each one that works best for the cheeses’ textures so that you can slice, crumble, or spread like a pro.

 

Choose complimentary flavors

Each cheese’s unique flavor comes down to what milk type was used, how long it was aged, and if it has any external aspects like washes or seasonings. You want to be sure to choose several different flavors to make your cheeseboard as intriguing as possible (that means don’t pick out three types of cheddar). Goudas are milky and tangy, cheddars are salty and nutty, blues are spicy and bold, bries are creamy and mushroomy, washed-rind are stinky and meaty, but there are so many other options to choose from! While it’s great to go wild on flavor, be sure to ground your cheeseboard in a profile that ties all of your cheeses together; don’t choose from opposite ends of the flavor spectrum without including things from the middle. Keep in mind that your cheese needs to set out for 15 minutes to warm up in order to have the best possible flavor. 

 

The more colorful, the better

The most beautiful cheese boards are a feast for all the senses, including sight. Make sure that your cheeses stand out from one another and look attractive together. Use the colors of the rinds or the color of the cheese itself to create a vibrant edible array. Generally, cow milk cheese will have a manila color, goat milk cheese will be bright white, and sheep milk cheese will have a creamy off-white color. Add herb sprigs and fruit to your cheese board to tie all of its colorful aspects together. It’s especially artful to arrange your cheese board with sections and trails of cheese and pairing items that weave within each other throughout the entire plate. 

 

Always use pairings

I stand by this rule 100%-- you can’t have a fantastic cheese board without including tasty pairings, like jams, honey, mustard, fresh or dried fruit, pickles, or cured meats. Fig jam, especially, is your best friend when it comes to pairing because it complements literally every cheese. Other pairing items complement only certain cheeses well; pickles and mustard go well with umami-flavored cheese, fruit jams go well with cheddars and goudas, honey goes (surprisingly) well with blue cheese, but these are only a sample of the combinations you can make. The best way to determine what to pair with is to identify what flavors in the cheese you want to highlight. For example, jams and fruit bring out the cheese’s milky sweetness while salami and other meats enhance the saltiness. Remember: nothing’s more boring than plain cheese and crackers.

 

Some Cheese Recommendations

The sheer amount of cheeses at your local store can be very overwhelming! Here’s a list of my recommendations to get started on your own fantastic cheese board.

 

Cheddar: Irish Cheddar, Aged English Cheddar, Whiskey/IPA flavored Cheddar

Flavored: Blueberry Stilton, Truffle Parano, Cranberry Wensleydale

Gouda: Estate Gouda, Goat Gouda, Parano

Washed Rind: Port Salut, Taleggio, Gruyere

Bloomy: St. Angel, Fromage D’Affinois, Humboldt Fog

Blue: Cambozola Black Label, Black River Blue

Miscellaneous: Manchego, Drunken Goat, Chevre