It’s the weekend and something we love to do is open a great bottle of wine, kick back and enjoy one of our favorite meals. And for this meal, I don’t even turn on the oven or the stove. Instead, I pull together an assortment of beautiful cheese, meats and fruits for a spectacular cheeseboard. This idea is perfect for weekends, for game day or any casual or formal gathering.
Creating a cheeseboard doesn’t need to be overwhelming but it shouldn’t be boring and no, it’s not necessary to buy those prepackaged trays. All you need to get started is a variety of cheese – you can include soft, hard, sharp and mild. If you’re not sure what to choose, head to the deli of your favorite food market and ask for the cheese expert on staff. They can offer suggestions depending on your tastes. Then add fruit, meats, nuts plus crackers or bread.
Over the holidays we received a wide array of cheese and other wonderful food items from dear friends and they are perfect for this type of spread. I love trying new foods and the delicious assortment of cheeses, crackers and goodies has provided a lot of delicious sampling. So, I grabbed some of the cheese we received, picked up some meat and fruit from the market and added items from my pantry. Here’s how this cheeseboard came together.
One gift we received was a collection of delectable cheese from Vermont’s Plymouth Cheese Factory available through Williams-Sonoma. Col. John Coolidge who was also the father of Calvin Coolidge founded Plymouth, the second-oldest cheese factory in the United States in 1890. One taste and you are convinced there is a good reason they are still making cheese.
I pulled out the classic Vermont Cheddar. Though there are many types of cheddar cheese on the market, many are mass-produced and not all are wonderful. Plymouth’s original Vermont Cheddar has a sharp flavor that you expect from great cheddar. This cheese has a creamy bite and provides a nice addition to any cheeseboard and is always a crowd-pleaser.
Another gift we received was an assortment of glorious foods with a Spanish profile including cheese, quince paste and tortas – all favorites of our friend. There was a creamy Tetilla Spanish cheese, a light soft Spanish cheese, buttery and mild with a subtle tangy undertone. Made from whole milk from Blonde Galician cows it’s a perfect balance with Serrano ham or Sopressata.
Then there was a Queso Al Vino with its wine-soaked rind. Queso al Vino or Murcia al Vino is also known as “drunken goat” because of the ripening process. It is another fabulous Spanish cheese; semi-soft in texture it is macerated in red wine while ripening giving the rind a gorgeous plum-colored appearance. The aroma of the wine reads into the cheese –it is simply delectable!
Blue cheese is a must on my cheeseboards. It’s available in many forms and flavors ranging from the very mild to bold and piquant in nature. One of my favorites is St. Pete’s produced by the Faribault Dairy Company out of Minnesota. Aged for 100 days it is a creamy, traditional blue cheese and is wonderful with fresh or dried fruits and meats.
Saint-André is a glorious French triple crème cow’s milk cheese; almost decadent in taste and texture it pairs extremely well with a jam, in this case our Ginger Pear Jam. One bite of this cheese and you might never buy Brie again.
For the fruit I used pears with their delicate sweet flavor along with gorgeous red grapes. (Always buy seedless!) To keep the pears fresh, toss them in a cup of water with the juice of a lemon.
And a trick I learned years ago, clip the grapes into small pieces which make them much easier for your guests. No one wants to stand and pull grapes off the stems. For the cheeseboard, arrange them back together creating a cluster.
I added that lovely quince paste we received. Quince fruit is essentially inedible raw but when they’re cooked they transform into a deep orange, slightly sweet treat with hints of citrus and apple.
For meats, I included a spicy Sopressata
and slices of Serrano ham providing a salty, savory addition to the cheeseboard.
You need something to carry” the cheese and meat. A sliced multi-grain baguette looked appealing plus maybe a cracker of sorts, something special. Those Seville Orange Sweet Olive Oil Tortas would do the trick – they are an unbelievably wonderful crisp pastry from Ines Rosales.
These fabulous tortas are wonderful enough to stand on their own but are an unexpected pleasure on your cheeseboard.
Use your favorite cheese, meats, and fruits. Add olives or nuts. Get creative. There really is not a right or wrong way and the outcome is always wonderful!