At this time of year we should think about Quality not quantity so with that in mind this week we look at cheese and putting together the perfect cheese board
How much cheese?
Buy less varieties of cheese but bigger pieces as these store better than smaller cuts. Overall, allow 100g-125g (3½-4oz) cheese per person if your cheeseboard is being served after a meal, or 150g (5oz) per person if you’re serving it as a snack/meal.
What cheese would you recommend?
There should be 3 or 4 cheeses on offer – more than that and there’s too much for the palate to enjoy. Ensure your choices include different styles, textures and flavours. The combination of Cheddar, Stilton and Brie is a classic as it mixes a hard, soft and a blue. But consider nice goats cheese also as well as something a little more adventurous maybe a spicy cheese or vine leave wrapped cheese, something unusual
And to accompany it?
A good biscuit, cracker or artisan bread can complement the cheese, as can chutneys, fruit confits and dried fruit. The main thing to remember is not to overload the cheeseboard with additions – one chutney, some biscuits and some bread that complements the cheese is enough.
What about drinks to match?
Think about the following for drink to go with your cheese:
Provenance: Where was the cheese made? Try a drink from the same area to complement it, such as a cider from the Cheddar region.
Flavour matches: A sweet wine works brilliantly with blue cheese.
Versatility: A light red wine is a great all-rounder, as is a heavy white wine, as they give a good flavour and body without dominating the palate.
What's the best way to store cheese?
Store in a cold room or the bottom of the fridge, wrapped in waxed paper if possible, so the cheese can breathe. Allow the cheese to come up to room temperature about 20min before serving to improve flavours.
How to Cut Cheese
Camembert, Reblochon, Selles sur Cher , Langres, Goddess, Fourme d’Ambert plus many of our soft cheeses or washed rind cheeses.
Many of our individual cheeses are this shape. Cut a round cheese into equal wedges by slicing it first across the middle, then making further cuts across the width of the cheese.
Hard Rinded Rectangular Cheese
Sharpham Rustic, Double Gloucester, Cheddar.
To preserve the shape and the life of the cheese, slices should be cut lengthwise from the nose to the edge. Given that many of these cheeses are also irregular shapes, it also ensures that you, or your guests, don’t mangle the cheese or cut off their fingers.
Hard Rinded Rectangular Cheese
Gouda, Comte, Red Leicester
When handling a rinded, rectangular cheese, it’s best to avoid making long, thin slices. Instead, begin by making 2 portions by cutting the cheese horizontally, about a third of the way down. With the remaining larger portion, cut slices across the width of the cheese. From the smaller portion, cut slices along what would have been the length of the cheese when it was intact.
Soft triangular shaped cheese
Brie, Stinking Bishop,
Ideally everyone should get a piece of the ‘nose’ from a slice of Brie, but it’s not a practical way to cut this gooey cheese. Instead, take one slice from the nose, then you can make several long cuts from the edge towards where the nose used to be, ensuring everyone gets a bit of goo.
Pyramid or Square Cheese
Cerney, Dorstone, Pont L’Eveque
Cut a pyramid or square cheese as you would a round cheese. So begin by slicing the cheese down the middle, then making a two further slices at 45° angles.
Wedge of Blue Cheese
Stilton, Shropshire Blue, Perl Las, Roquefort
The key is to ensure everyone receives an equal amount of ‘blueness’ in each slice. So make diagonal cuts at the two high corners and further cuts along the length of the cheese.
Aldwych, Ragstone, Bosworth Ash
Slice a log-shaped cheese horizontally to create several small ‘rounds’.
Rind - to eat or not to eat?
Once you have cut your cheese, you can then consider whether to eat the rind. The rind is the outer layer that forms on the cheese during the cheese-making process. There are three main types:
Bloomy rinds are white and soft and found on cheeses like Camembert or Brie. They form when cheesemakers spray an edible mould onto the cheese.
Washed rinds form when the cheeses are bathed regularly with a bacterial solution during the ageing process, found on cheeses like Stinking Bishop, Epoisses and Goddess.
Natural rinds form as a result of the temperature and humidity of the rooms where the cheeses are aged, found on cheeses like Parmesan and Stilton. A number of our traditional British territorial cheeses are wrapped with cloth once made. The cloth is removed once the cheese is ready to eat and the natural rind is left.
Whether you eat rind or not is purely a matter of personal preference – every cheese is different, as is everyone’s sense of taste. The rind on some cheeses, like Parmesan, is usually just too hard to be enjoyable, but we would suggest that for most cheeses, you simply give it a try.
We would also recommend you try a small piece of the cheese just underneath the rind as this is usually one of the most delicious parts.
However, eating cheese is about enjoying cheese, so eat what you want and leave what you don’t!