As the holidays roll around, entertaining family and friends takes center stage. For many of us the holiday cheese board is a star player in the food festivities, yet with the plethora of choices available at local markets, assembling it can prove a bit daunting. We've taken some of the guesswork out of it for you by providing several tips listed below to help ease in the process.
For presentation purposes, select cheeses that differ in color, shape, and size. Next, when calculating the amount of cheese to purchase, three ounces per guest is a solid guideline. Thus, if you’re serving three types of cheese and entertaining twelve guests, you should buy at least twelve ounces of each type. If other appetizers will be served, the amount of cheese per guest can be reduced to two ounces. In general, three different types of cheese—a hard, a semi-hard, and a soft—will provide ample variety for most events.
This Dutch cheese is always a strong player on any cheese board. If you prefer a sharper, nuttier flavor with those delicious salty bits, opt for a Gouda aged at least 10 months. Many of the premier Goudas will be aged up to 18 months or more. Top brands include Beemster, Parrano, and Rembrandt.
A full-bodied cheese made from sheep’s milk, this Spanish cheese from the La Mancha region is creamy yet nutty with toasty nuances. Aged Manchego has a wonderful granular texture much like aged Gouda, and will be a superb compliment to fruit, and meats such as prosciutto, salami, and capicola.
A good aged cheddar is always a welcome member of any cheese board. American, English, and Irish cheddars are all fantastic choices providing slightly different characteristics. In general, the longer cheddar is aged the sharper the flavor. Tillamook, Kerrygold, and Cabot are all fine choices.
Originally from Italy, this versatile cheese features a sweet and pungent character nuanced with tones of butter and roasted nuts. It is rich and creamy with an intensity of flavor that increases with age. Sartori, Stella, and Boar’s Head are all excellent brands.
One of the most popular French cheeses, this creamy, mild cheese is a pleasing addition to any cheese board as it blends well with bolder flavored meats and preserves while adding a luxurious undertone. Jura Flore, Fort Rousses, and St. Antoine are all quality brands. Trader Joe’s Comté is also an excellent value.
Soft, creamy, with a musky complexion, this French cheese is spreadable and delicious slathered on bread or crackers. Try it warmed and melted. Excellent brands are President, La Bonne Vie, Dietz and Watson. Marin French is a quality domestic brand.
Another soft spreadable cheese that hails from the Normandy region of France, is Camembert. Not quite as creamy as Brie, it is less pungent, and pale yellow in color. Often celebrated as the most popular cheese of France.
For festive additions consider cranberry cheeses such as Wensleydale or Celebrity. Crave truffles? Explore the many varieties of truffled cheeses on the market. Murray’s offers a selection of truffled specialties which include a truffled Brie, and truffled Gouda.
Many manned cheese counters have helpful customer service representatives that are happy to offer samples and suggestions. Take advantage of the opportunity to expand your culinary knowledge.