Cheese Basics

Of course we all want to put a beautiful cheese plate together for family, clients and friends! We’re here to help! Here are a few cheese basics that will make you look like a pro and your party will be the talk of the town — or the kitchen.

Cheese Types

Fresh
This is young. Think of Tart. Tangy. Lemony. Smooth. Moist  Dreamy. No rind. This would describe a fresh Goat Cheese (Chevre) or Mozzarella.

Bloomy
Snowy, fluffy, blooming rind. Think White. Buttery. Decadent. Rich. Mild to Mushroomy. Edible rind. Look for: Brie,  Brie de Meaux,  Camembert, Triple Cremes such as Chateau de Bourgonne, St. Andre, Grand Creme,  Riopelle, Brilliat de Savignon

Semi-soft
Think: Pliable. Earthy. Wet straw. Hay. Leaves. Melting. Look for Fontina, Raclette, Morbier, Mont Jacob, Pecorino Ganaraska de Magie (local sheep).

Washed
These cheeses have been washed during aging, brine (salt water) or the good stuff, such as beer, wine, or spirits! Think: Pungent. Stinky. Fruity. Meaty. Intense. Aromatic.Vibrant pink to orange edible rind. Look for and find: Epoisse, Livarot, Taleggio

Firm
Think of this: Dense but supple. Grassy. Eggy. Fruited (wine grapes come to mind) Sharp. Thick, natural rind that really isn’t eaten..Find: Cheddar (including cloth bound) Gruyere, Manchego, Ossau Iraty

Hard
Think: Super aged! Dry. Crunchy. Caramelly. Butterscotchy. Grainy. We’ll show you Gouda, Picobello, Beemster xox, Piave, Asiago Vecchio (big lovely Italian)

Blue
Think: Mold! Veins. Craters. Big. Sharp edged. Punchy. Complex. Find: Roquefort, Cashel Blue, Gorgonzola, Stilton, Shropshire Blue, Roaring Forties, Devils Rock, St. Agur..(a great creamy French that’s a wonderful blue for the little blue beginners!

Storing Cheese

First wrap in waxed paper, then in plastic wrap. If you are not eating it right away, no worries, but change the wrapping every couple of days and definitely after you have eaten it. The remaining cheese will taste and be fresher next time you eat it!

Foil is great for cheeses with a higher moisture content…ie, St. Agur, Cashel Blue…

Where in the Fridge?
In the veggie drawer…it’s a little moister and warmer than the rest of the fridge and because

How do I Serve this Delicious Cheese?

Well, for starters, all cheeses should be served at room temperature. Remove cheese from the refrigerator at least an hour before serving. Hard cheeses take longer to reach room temp and their ultimate flavour, so don’t forget this important step. Sometimes when our customers come in and try a cheese that I’ve taken out of the cooler I feel badly that they are not tasting it at it’s best…but what can I do. Most people understand.

How do I display?

Don’t panic. Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be fine. As a more rustic peasant food, cheese looks great on wood or marble or stone boards, surrounded by fruits (a simple bunch of grapes), nuts, crusty bread, and wine. Avoid slicing or cubing in advance and put out one cheese knife or cheese plane per cheese..(we can hook you up if you don’t have those tools). If you have a crowd, where self service is best,  by all means pre-slice or cube, but cheese can tend to dry out. Opt for a cheese dome if you can. They look beautiful and will add another lovely dimension.

Cheese Boards and the Cheese Course

Some basics to consider when serving a cheese course:

  1. As hors d’oeuvres, avoid sweet triple creams (which are more for dessert) blues, which are too strong or very aged cheese which are also too strong. Stick to the bloomy rinds, medium washed rinds or semi softs.Three to five cheese are enough for any course. Less is more in this case.
  2. After dinner cheeses would typically start with a fresh cheese, like a chevre or bloomy rind, then a semi soft, or medium cheese, i.e. Morbier or Cheddar then an aged Gouda and finally a blue, like Roquefort. Again, we’ll help you with that.
  3. Arrange in a clockwise fashion, with the first cheese at “midnight” on the plate.
  4. Experiment with all the types!
  5. Have fun.
  6. Have more wine!

Other Offerings on the Board. What goes with What?

Now that you have selected the lovely cheeses for your little party for one, two, or twenty, you are ready to add a few accompaniments that will tie it all together on the board. These little tips will help you pull it off!!

Nuts
Almonds bring out the subtle flavours and aromas of cheese. Toasted walnuts and hazelnuts work as well. Pecans work well with high fat or oily cheeses like Pecorino.

Olives
A perfect companion for sheep and goat milk cheeses!

Dried Fruit
Apricots, figs, dates and any kind of berry.

Fruit Pastes
Pear and Fig are great with blue cheese and quince is nice with sheep cheeses and stronger cheddars! Cheese Pleasers are perfect as well. Try cherries and Calvados with a French triple cream.

Seasonal Fruits
Grapes are fine, but try others!! What about blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and whatever other fresh fruits that are available. Apples with Cheddar and pears with Stilton are always a hit!

Charcuterie
Serve thin slices of Prosciutto and sweet and spicy salamis. Cured meats are excellent with aged cheeses like Pecorino and Manchego. If you choose to serve crackers, pick low-salt or unsalted ones. You can never go wrong with a baguette, and our Manoucher Baguette is perfect! Specialty crackers and breads with fruit and nuts are not only pleasing to the eye, but are terrific in the mix!

You are now a pro!! Look at that cheese board! Bellissima!!Magnifique! Maravilloso!
Give yourself a big pat on the back and enjoy!