Festive Cheese Boards
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Whether you’re making homemade cheese out of milk from your goats, buying commercially made cheeses, or doing a little bit of both, serving your cheese on festive cheese boards makes it even more enjoyable. And it’s a sure way to impress your friends and family! You can make an elaborate board worthy of fancy entertaining or just a simple cheese plate for a dining-in date night. There aren’t any hard and fast rules, but here are a few tips to simplify your planning.
What equipment will you need?
- A pretty plate, a nice wooden board, or a piece of slate
- Cheese knives or spreaders (optional)
- Toothpicks (optional)
- Mini bowls for accompaniments (optional)
- 3-5 (or more) varieties of cheese
- 3-5 pairings
- Crackers or bread
Types of Cheese:
Not sure which cheeses to select? I like to use a variety of flavors, textures, and colors when making my boards. My favorite cheesemonger and Certified Cheese Professional, Kelly Liebrock, teaches an online class on this topic, and she says, “The simplest selections include something old, something new, something Brie, and something blue!” By old, we mean an aged cheese, such as cheddar, Gouda, or Manchego, while new would pertain to a fresh cheese such as chèvre, mozzarella, or burrata. Something Brie means something with a bloomy rind such as Brie, Camembert, San Marcellin, or any other surface-ripened cheese. Something blue refers to blue cheese. Of course, not everyone likes all these cheeses, so feel free to make substitutions or additions to suit your taste.
You may choose to pair just the right wine or beer with your cheeses, and it’s also nice to pair food and condiments on the board itself. There are two basic strategies to choosing what to pair with your cheese: complementing or contrasting. Complementing involves pairing like with like. For example, pair mild goat cheese with a mild olive such as Castelvetrano. Contrasting involves pairing opposites such as a salty, dry parmesan with silky, sweet honey. It’s also a nice idea to include a variety of textures (smooth, crunchy, crispy, juicy) and flavors (sweet, salty, savory, tangy). I also like to include different food groups, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and meats on my cheese boards. Crackers and bread can go in a bowl or basket next to your cheeseboard or can be included right on the board itself.
Below is a list of some lovely pairings to consider:
|Cheese||Complementing Pairing||Contrasting Pairing||Wine Pairing|
|Chèvre||Calabrese salami||Fig jam||Sauvignon Blanc|
|Blue Cheese||Pecans||Dried dates||Port|
|Brie||Apricots||Sour cherry jam||Chardonnay|
|Feta||Kalamata olives||Red bell peppers||Pinot Grigio|
|Gouda||Mixed nuts||Peaches||Cabernet Sauvignon|
How to arrange your board:
This can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. To make a quick and easy board, you can alternate cheese and pairings all around the board. For instance, if using a round plate or board, think of dividing it into slices like a pie. Start with your first cheese and fill in one wedge of the pie, then next to that, add the pairing you’ve chosen to go with that cheese to fill the next wedge. Continue with the next cheese and pairing and work your way all around the wheel.
Another method of arranging your cheese is to use anchors and build around those. For instance, you could have a wheel of cheese on one side and a round bowl holding a condiment (honey, jam, olives, nuts) on the other. Place your selected pairing for each cheese near each other.
A third method of arranging is the mirror method. This works particularly well with square or rectangular boards. Start in one corner with cheese and a pairing, and then do the same thing in the opposite corner. Continue this pattern until your board is all filled in. Then fill in any gaps with flowers or herbs.
While some of your softer cheese selections may require the use of a knife or spreader to dish up, you can cut other hard cheeses into bite-sized pieces to make it easier for your guests to serve themselves. But these pieces don’t all have to be exactly alike. Try making cubes, wedges like little slices of pie, sticks, and triangles. You might choose to put toothpicks in some of these (mainly the cubes) and leave others for people to pick up with their hands or little tongs.
A final tip for making perfect festive cheese boards is considering a theme that fits the season or occasion. For instance, you might pick orange, white, and black for your color theme for Halloween. Cheeses might include Colby (orange), chèvre (white), and an aged Gouda (black wax), and pairings might consist of oranges, yogurt-covered raisins, and black olives. You can complete the board with orange flowers, herbs, and a mini pumpkin. For Christmas, you might have a red and green theme, and for a bridal shower, you might use flowers and pastel colors.
Making goat cheeses is satisfying and a great way to make use of excess milk. Having fun designing your festive cheese boards makes it even more enjoyable to share with your family and friends!