How to Craft the Perfect Cheese Board
Building your first cheese board can be a humongous task, and dare I say intimidating? I mean what kind of flavors go well together, how many different cheeses do I need, should I go with mixed nuts or dried fruit? What are the rules!?
Throughout this season we’re reminded of some of the finer things in life: pastries, cocktails, turkeys that stick their tail feathers out of the oven, even those fancy dish towels your mom finds at a home goods store. One of my favorite things to bring to a holiday party is a charcuterie board.
And while there won’t be any holiday parties outside of my own pod this year due to COVID-19 -- that doesn’t mean I have to stop with one of my favorite holiday traditions.
There are so many ways to decorate, style, and craft your cheese board, so you can take my advice with a grain of salt. One of the things I love the most about these boards is that they’re simple to make once you know what you want.
Cheese the Day! Depending on the size board you want, I would begin with three or four cheeses. It’s usually good to have 3-4 oz per person. You want to include a variety from your firm cheeses like cheddar, asiago, or manchego, to soft like brie, Camembert, or goat cheese. Then you have the happy middle of semi soft cheese like Gouda, havarti, or fontina. And while I may not be the biggest fan, some suggest to always include a shade of blue like Gorgonzola or Stilton.
Don’t settle for just your simple goat cheese or gouda, pick up something unique like tomato and basil goat cheese or apple smoked Gouda. Having a simple twist adds an extra layer to your serving, and is sure to leave your household impressed.
Celebrate with a variety of textures. The secret to a great cheese board is to have the following flavors on your radar: salty, sweet, crunchy and tangy.
For sweetness, Jams, jellies, preserves, and more! One of my favorite parts of arranging a cheese board is finding characters that compliment the cheese.
In my opinion, you can never go wrong with pepper jelly. I could write sonnets upon sonnets as an ode to the ways that I love pepper jelly. It’s a light amber spread with a little kick to it, spread it on a cracker with some cheese and prosciutto and you have the perfect bite.
Another type of spread I like to add is something sweet, this could be something like delicious apple butter, honey, or even blackberry preserves! In the Before Times, I loved venturing out to my local farmer’s market to see all the different flavors I could find.
Your local market gives you the opportunity to explore your creative side outside of your neighborhood grocery store. I almost never leave Stone Hollow Farmstead without a jar of their Fairytale Plum Jam, this slightly tart spread is thick and perfect for the sweet side of your platter.
Some of my favorite cured meats to include are prosciutto, coppa, and chorizo. The more you become familiar with that portion of the deli aisle you’ve never had the courage to explore, you’ll be able to curate your board more to the flavors you aspire to.
For an added crunch fill a ramekin with mixed nuts or dried fruit. Another tip I’d like to add is that when selecting your crackers, include at least two flavors.
I like to include a classic butter cracker, then add a crisper water cracker to add a different texture. These three pieces add a little bit of salt, a little bit of munch to abide you until you’re ready to dive into the main course.
Don’t over think! Let me start off by saying that you don’t necessarily have to visit an upscale butcher counter. You can easily check off everything on your list at your chain stores like Publix, Trader Joe’s, the Piggly Wiggly, and others. I especially love when my local grocery store has seasonal cheeses that I can incorporate into the holiday season.
And to channel the spirit of the late Bob Ross, there are no bad cheese boards, only happy accidents you can scoop up in each bite. So be kind to yourself if your board doesn’t turn out how you imagine (no one in your pod will know the difference, I promise!)
Arrange with care. When you’re ready to lay out your board, begin by alternating between colors. If you have pale cheese and crackers, you can intermingle them with your charcuterie meats, jams, nuts, or even fruit.
This keeps the platter aesthetically pleasing while allowing your guests to explore all the wonders that you’ve prepared for them.
For cured meats like prosciutto or dried coppa, fold over to create a ribbon like texture between your cheese. This makes it easier to pick up, and to add to the top of your cracker!
Dig in! The most fun part about crafting a charcuterie board, is to eat it! Let’s be honest, as a cook and potential Star Baker, there’s nothing more fulfilling than watching your guests become completely enamored with your creation.
So sit back, put on your favorite holiday movie and pour yourself a glass of wine, because friend, you did the thing!
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