How to Prepare a Cheese Board
A cheese board or cheese platter is always a popular sight at the table, whether served as a starter or after the meal. There are no hard and fast rules about setting up a cheese platter but we offer you some tips about putting together a tasty selection of cheeses. Learn how to prepare a cheese board and you will be able to rustle up this snack, appetizer or dessert alternative anytime the mood strikes.
Choosing the Cheeses
Aim for diversity in appearance, flavor and style. You might want to offer a hard cheese, a soft cheese and a blue cheese for example. Or you can serve three semi hard cheeses which are similar in texture but offer different flavor. How to prepare a cheese board is largely about getting creative and finding interesting combinations.
A Guide to Hard Cheese and Soft Cheese
The hardness or softness of a certain cheese depends how much moisture it contains. Hard cheeses are usually sharp, salty and gritty. Examples include Pecorino and Parmigiano Reggiano. Semi hard cheeses are smoother but will have some small grainy particles from aging milk enzymes in them. Gouda and Cheddar are good examples of semi hard cheeses. Jarlsberg and mozarella are semi soft. They contain plenty of moisture and they are pliable and easy to chew with a low melting point.
Soft cheese is anything spreadable, so Torta del Casar, Saint-Felicien and brie all fall into this catagory because they are paste-like inside their rinds and can fall apart easily. Bear all this in mind when learning how to prepare a cheese board like a pro.
Cheese Board Tips
You might like to have cheeses made with different types of milk, so maybe a sheep cheese, a goat cheese and a cow cheese. Or you could have different nationalities, maybe a French cheese, an Italian cheese and a Dutch cheese.
Taste the cheeses before buying them, especially if they are cheeses you are unfamiliar with. Any good fine food store will allow this and understand that you’re discovering how to prepare a cheese board everyone will appreciate.
As a rule you will need a couple of ounces of cheese per person if you are serving a cheese board starter. If there are only a few people, you can serve more rather than present a few tiny chunks of cheese. What is not eaten will keep.
How to Store Cheese
Knowing how to prepare a cheese board is all very well, but what’s the best way to store your cheeses? Cheese is best when you buy it at peak ripeness or near peak ripeness and eat it on the same day. The best storage area for cheese is a cheese cave but most people don’t have one. Any cool, dark, humid place will do. Cheese stored in the fridge does best in the vegetable drawer where there is more humidity.
Wrap semi hard and hard cheese in plastic wrap or wax paper to keep it fresh. Long term storage in plastic will result in storage. Hard rinded cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano are fine if you wrap the exposed parts with plastic wrap and leave the rind open so the cheese can breathe.
Havarti and other semi hard cheeses should be wrapped in wax paper or butcher paper then in plastic wrap. Soft cheese normally comes in a container so just replace the lid or cover it with plastic wrap.
Blue cheese gets bluer if it is exposed to the air and it becomes tastier. This might sound good but the mold eventually destroys the dairy flavor and makes the cheese too harsh tasting to enjoy. Wrap blue cheese tightly in foil then plastic wrap and keep it away from other kinds of cheese so the mold doesn’t spread. Store other smelly cheeses such as raclette in a different container.
Serving a Cheese Board
Let the cheese reach room temperature so the flavors get more intense. Cut hard cheeses into slices so guests do not have to try hacking off their own. You can choose whichever cheese board design and cheese knife set you find appealing. You might like to serve flat breads, crackers, toast, fresh fruits, dried fruits or nuts with the cheese board.
As for wine pairings with cheese, this can be tricky if you are serving different cheeses. Try matching the wine nationality to the cheese, so if you are serving a Spanish cheese for example you can serve a Spanish wine. Beer is also a good accompaniment if you are having a cheese board as a starter course.
A cheese board is traditionally served after the main course but why not defy convention and serve it as a starter instead? There are many exotic cheeses and traditional cheeses you can choose from. Perhaps you would like to serve a combination of your favorite cheeses – Stilton, Brie, Camembert, cheddar, Wensleydale, goat’s cheese and mozzarella are all good.
Serve some grapes or nuts with the cheese as well. If you are making food for a buffet, a selection of cheeses is another nice idea. Don’t worry about keeping the cheese cold. Most cheese has a superior flavor when it reaches room temperature. Now you know how to prepare a cheese board you can make a really great one!