Creating a holiday cheeseboard worthy of company doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow our simple tips to make your board shine this season.
A cheeseboard is your easy street to elegant entertaining this holiday season.
What could be simpler then buying all your cheeses and assembling an hour or two your company arrives? No bake, no cook, just unwrap and plunk on board. Stick a fork in it, it’s done.
A lot of host and hostesses fall into the trap of over thinking it, which just leads to analysis paralysis. I can understand why. Instagram is loaded with carefully curated photos brimming with cheesy goodness. Elegant cheeseboards overflowing with temptation, just inviting guests to snap up photos before diving in.
But what if I told you creating an impressive holiday cheeseboard is a snap to create? Seriously, we do it all the time for our tastings. And if I’m honest, the longest it’s ever taken is 15 minutes to lay out.
That’s why we’re so proud to partner with Black River Cheese this season. As a 100-year old company located in the heart of Prince Edward County (Ontario’s second largest wine region), it celebrates the ease and elegance of simple entertaining. With a commitment to make premium cheeses only from locally-sourced ingredients, the farmers behind Black River Cheese still adhere to the same traditional European practises of naturally smoking and aging as the founders did when they started in 1901.
Follow these simple guidelines to create the cheeseboard of your dreams.
Odd numbers are the most visually interesting. I usually opt for three, five, or seven, though seven pieces of cheese is a rarity for us. That would need to be quite a big board for a lot of guests. For most parties, five is enough, which is what I’ve used on the cheeseboard pictured here.
Most seasoned cheeseboard designers will use a combination of hard, creamy, and aged cheeses. And mixing up the flavourings, washes and rinds are not only delicious, but also make pretty display.
For my holiday cheeseboard I used:
BRC 2-Year-Old Cheddar – Black River still uses the traditional European way of naturally aging its cheeses without the use of anything artificial. This 2-year-old cheddar has a bit more tangy depth, but isn’t overly strong.
BRC Goat Cheese – this semi-firm cheese has a mild cheddar flavour with a subtle tang of classic goat cheese, and it’s easier to digest than most cow’s milk cheeses.
BRC Maple Cheddar – The crown jewel in Black river’s illustrious portfolio, this cheese deliciously blends medium sharp cheddar with Prince Edward County maple syrup and maple sugar. Gently sweet, with a lightly salty bite, this is brilliant solo, or with a dollop of crunchy mustard, or chutney.
BRC Cheddar Cheese Log with Cranberries – The jolt of knobbly red cranberry against the smooth, bright white centre is absolutely stunning on holiday cheeseboards. I like to slice off a few rounds to show off the contrast.
BRC Maple Cheddar with Cracked Pepper Log – The flavour combination here is spectacular. I love the peppery spice against the creamy, sweet cheddar. It reminds me of the classic Italian dish, cacio e pepe.
I like to give a boost to my cheeseboard by adding height where I can. Simple tricks include cutting a cheese log in half on the diagonal and standing flat-side down. Or, if I have a rectangular shape, I may cut it into two triangles, leaving one half flat on the board and leaning the other half against it. With a couple of cheeses a bit higher than others this creates dimension and interest.
Remember that old science lesson you learned as a kid with the rocks, pebbles and sand demonstrating space? If you fill a vase with sand you won’t be able to fit in the rocks and pebbles, but if you fill it with the large rocks first, then pebbles then sand everything will fit?
Same idea for cheeseboards. Use your cheese as anchors to the board and then fill it in with the accoutrements.
I like to divide cheeseboard styles into what I call “European” style and “North American” style. And you must pick a lane, otherwise your poor cheeseboard will just look like you gave up halfway through.
Let me explain: when we were in Burgundy last year, cheeseboards were presented beautifully but simply, with only the cheese showcased. Sometimes there would be a small bunch of champagne grapes, or a few fresh sliced figs, but the board wasn’t really adorned by anything other than cheese. Similarly, when we were in Tuscany, a winemaker we were visiting, opened the fridge, took out a huge wedge of Parmesan, placed it on a board in the centre of the table and stabbed a knife into the centre of it. These simple, and in some cases rustic, presentations are what I think of when I think of how Europeans present cheeseboards.
In North America, on the other hand, just like our cars and coffees, the bigger, the better! And I only say that slightly tongue-in-cheek, because I too love to design these intriguingly sumptuous boards.
For my Black River Cheese board I used my big wood cutting board for a simple, rustic presentation and literally grabbed whatever I had in the fridge: fresh herbs, pomegranate arils, some mustards and spreads, nuts, olives.
And keeping in mind texture, height and dimension, I simply started playing around. I love the seasonal look and flavour combo of fresh rosemary against the cranberry. Placing a few pomegranate seeds on the goat cheese created texture and delicious bite. A streak of hot mustard against the aged cheddar, OMG, spicy decadence!
The point here is not to stress about it, because then we’re right back to square one with analysis paralysis. Grapes, orange segments, shavings of dark chocolate, chips, your kids’ dried fruit… they’re all fair game. And remember, they’re moveable. You don’t like the look of the red grapes against the pepper jack, put them next to the maple cheddar. Heck, you only have white bread? Throw it in the toaster and using a round cookie cutter (or even the edges of a clean can) slice it into rounds for a pretty presentation.
You really are only limited to what you can imagine. Use this holiday to hunker down and have a little fun creating beautiful cheeseboards that are totally company (or bubble) worthy. It’s also heart-warming to know you’re supporting local artisans. So grab a bottle of Ontario wine, set up your cheeseboard, and have a happy holiday!
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