Introduction: How to Make the Perfect Cheese Board for the Holiday
A CHEESE BOARD genuinely is THE most satisfying experience you could possibly share with your friends and family, on a - very - special - occasion. As I am French myself, I am gonna use french cheeses in this tutorial, but, don’t worry, I know most of you don’t live in France, so I am also gonna share available world alternatives.
It's all about balancing the flavors, textures and also about plating it beautifully, cause YES presentation matters.
Step 1: DIFFERENT MILKS & DIFFERENT TEXTURES & DIFFERENT STRENGTHS
Different MILK TYPES
Milk is the main ingredient of cheese and often the only one. It has great impact on cheese flavors. Sheep or Goat cheeses for examples, are easily recognizable because of that. A perfect cheese board has to have a balance of milk types. Classic would be to go mainly cow (most common), then a bit of goat and a bit of sheep for diversity. Here are a few examples from each type of milk : Cow’s milk cheeses : Cheddar, Any Brie, Any Camembert, Italian Parmesan, Swiss Gruyère, Emmental, French Comté etc… Sheep’s milk cheeses : Spanish Manchego, Pecorino, Ossau Iraty, Roquefort Goat milk : Italian robbiola di capra, bonne bouche cheese vermont, humboldt fog in california.
Cheeses offers a world of different sensations : Creamy, Crumbly, Hard, Soft, Semi hard, Buttery, Moist, Dry... Try to fit a bit of everything on your cheese platter.
About Strengths : ( aka THE STINKY SITUATION )
Have mild and soft all the way to stinky cheeses on the board. Wouldn't be wise to only have blue cheese, wouldn't be adventurous to only have emmental cheese.
Step 2: A Soft, Creamy, Surface-ripened Cow's Milk Cheese
It is the first on the list. A french CHAOURCE : Soft-ripened cheese made from cow’s milk. Coming northern east France, the Champagne Ardennes region. Even if it has its own personality, in many aspects, it is similar to BRIE cheese, and that’s why I chose it.
Like Camembert and Brie, the rind is fluffy white and marbly. It’s soft, and smooth. You can see the differences in texture Cream on the edges. More chalky in the center.
Smell : fresh Mushroom, earthy, with some tamed wilderness underneath.
Taste : Slightly salty, very creamy, a bit nutty. It looks crumbly but in fact it melts in your mouth.
As BRIE cheese is produced all over the world, it is the perfect alternative to CHAOURCE CHEESE. Example : - Brie from King island dairy in Australia - Cornish Brie from the UK - or really, any Brie cheese in the US.
Step 3: A Soft-ripened Cheese Made With Goat’s Milk
This is a french MOTHAIS GOAT CHEESE : wrapped in a chestnut leaf, Coming from western France, a region called POITOU. The leaf was introduced for practical reasons, like easier to pile up, but it stayed cause let’s face it, it looks so much better with it.
Cream-colored to very light orange color, slightly darker on the edges. The rind is thin, it has many intricate wrinkles, it’s beautiful, it’s like a maze, inside it’s more white, you've got two textures, creamy close to the rind, and more like chalky in the center.
Clearly smells like GOAT cheese. Feels like being in the farm.
Tastes nutty yet very fresh.
ALTERNATIVE Cheeses :
Any creamy goat cheese would work, so :
- Italian robiola di capra
- Bonne Bouche cheese, in Vermont
- California : Humboldt FOG from CYPRESS grove,
Step 4: A Pressed & Cooked Cheese Made From Cows’milk
Comté is a pressed and cooked cheese made from Cow's milk. It is produced in eastern France / moutains of the Jura. Comté is aged for at least 4 months, but more likely for about 8 months. This one is 3 - years - old, which is just spectacular for a comté
Outside, the Rind : dusty brown color, Inside : it’s pale creamy yellow the bigger the rind = the older the cheese. Texture wise : smooth, flexible, semi hard cheese. it gets more crumbly over time.
Has mild milky and and caramelized, and toasted aromas, Even a bit spicy like nutmeg.
Semi hard, Dense, intense, slightly sweet, definitively salty, especially with an older one.
few crystals inside make for random bursts of flavors.
Although you can find it in many places around the world, here are a few international alternatives to COMTE cheese :
- Swiss Gruyère
- Young british cheddar
- And in the us, i’ve found :
- Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese, from UPLANDS CHEESE in wisconsin
- Tarentaise cheese from Spring Brook Farm in Vermont
Step 5: A Pressed and UNCOOKED Cheese Made From Sheep’s Milk
OSSAU IRATY is a french pressed and uncooked cheese made from Sheep’s milk. Coming from south-west France, in the pyrenees mountains. In fact OSSAU valley and IRATY forest are two separate places but gathered cause they produced similar cheeses.
To the EYE : Cream colored inside, light brown and grey thick rind outiside. Quite uniform but , Sometimes small openings inside. To the TOUCH : Semi hard, Smooth, gets more crumbly over time.
Smell : You immediately get that funky sheep vibe, but overall It’s smells fresh and nutty.
Taste : It’s quite Mild, yet you do get different layers of flavors. People say hazelnut is the main one.
Here are a few international alternatives to OSSAU IRATY cheese :
- Spanish Manchego
- Young Italian Pecorino
- From the us Gran Queso, in wiconsin.
Step 6: A Blue Cheese
No cheeseboard is complete without a blue cheese. ROQUEFORT CHEESE is a French unpressed and uncooked cheese made from SHEEP's milk, Comes from the SOUTH of France, more accurately from the AVEYRON region.
It belongs to the Blue cheese family, so as such, it is run throughout with blue-ish penicillium veins, and carries a distinct smell. In the center, this one has an insert of quince jam.
To the EYE : There’s no rind, It’s all white-ish and a tad shiny, with inner blue veins. To the TOUCH : Very soft, a bit Crumbly, and slightly moist.
Smell : It doesn’t stink but I reckon it smells strong. Taste : Super sharp, Not Creamy but more buttery. Salty, a bit pungent, a bit tangy. It is naturally strong in monosodium glutamate aka umami bomb.
ALTERNATIVE CHEESES :
Here are a few international alternatives to ROQUEFORT cheese :
- ITALIAN Gorgonzola
- British Blue STILTON
- Danish blue cheese
- Blue Maytag.
Step 7: A Washed-rind Cheese Made From Cow’s Milk
EPOISSESCHEESE is a Washed-rind Cheese made from cow’s milk, coming from Burgundy. in the center of France. During its making process, That cheese is washed several times with brandy liquor.
To the EYE : Pale orange or brick colored rind, shades are absolutely stunning. Inside it’s beige, or very light yellow. To the TOUCH : Soft, slighty wrinkled outside, inside moist particularly shiny and smooth.
Smell : I intentionally chose this cheese for its super Strong, sharp smell. It doesn’t smell anything like feet but it’s very pungent. Taste : Very surprising, you would expect something harsh but it’s only unctuous and creamy and velvety inside.
Here are a few international alternatives to EPOISSES cheese :
- Ardrahan cheese from Ireland
- German Limburger
- British stinking bishop
- Italian taleggio
Step 8: Put Together a Beautiful CHEESE BOARD
Now it’s time to assemble the ultimate cheese board. Using sides is brilliant, cause it makes it pretty, and less intimidating i would say, but most importantly you can choose to emphasize or balance the different cheeses on the plate.
There are mainly 5 types of sides
- Bread and crackers
Step 9: What to Drink With It ? WINE PAIRING ? Beer Pairing ?
Having one drink to fit every cheeses on the board is a tricky process. But I would suggest going for something dry and simple like a chardonnay wine, sauvignon wine or any other dry white wine, Or if you like beer better than go for a clean Lager, or a white citrusy beer.
Step 10: Enjoy in the Right Order...
Everything's complete. You have a wonderful array of cheeses and textures and smells. haha. Always Start from the mild, and end up on the tough (the stinky, the brave, the daunting cheeses). That way , flavors won't fight each others.
Have a wonderful time, and I am sure you will.
6 years ago
A quite exhaustive lesson, thanks.
I often make lunches with only cheeses, fresh and dry fruits, a real whole weat bread, and wine as well, this is the gateway to paradise. Irish guiness cheddar, french "brie aux truffes", italian parmeggiano, swiss appenzel, etc. White wine is an obvious and safe choice but some red wines can fit perfectly with, as you say "brave", cheese.