Constructing The Perfect Festive Cheeseboard
The cheeseboard is bound to make an appearance at some point over the festive holidays. Whether its an after dinner board to indulge in following the Christmas dinner, or a ‘by the fire feast’ to nibble on, while watching a favourite movie, there are some do’s and don’ts to constructing the perfect cheeseboard.
How Many Cheeses?
Less is more when it comes to cheese. Offer choice, but don’t confuse matters. A good rule of thumb is one hard cheese, one blue cheese, one soft or semi soft cheese and a speciality cheese. A fifth cheese is acceptable, but make sure it’s sufficiently different to what you’ve already got. Alternatively, if you feel passionately that you have found THE one cheese which will please everyone, go for it.
A single large wedge of aromatic vintage cheddar cut from a big truckle, or whole or half large wheel of moist and inviting blue cheese, can look fab and wow everyone. But the important words here are ‘optimum condition’. Anything less than a perfect quality shining example of your single chosen cheese, served at its absolute best, will look cheap and lazy. Below are examples of cheeses in the Good Food Ireland range which will fit each category of cheese for your typical board:
- Hard Cheeses: Knockanore, Mossfield Organic, Toons Bridge Dairy
- Soft Cheeses: Cooleeney Gortnamona / Tipperary Brie, Milleens
- Semi Soft Cheeses: Durrus Farmhouse Cheese, Dunbarra from Cooleeney Farmhouse
- Irish Blue Cheeses: Boyne Valley Blue
- Irish Speciality Cheeses: Ardsallagh Goat’s Cheese, Bluebell Falls Goats Cheese, Corleggy (goat’s sheep or cows milk), Daru and Gleann Oir from Cooleeney Farmhouse, Knockanore Oakwood Smoked/flavoured cheeses.
Feeling inspired and intrigued with Irish speciality cheese? Check out our list of approved cheese producers here.
Presentation of the cheeseboard is everything. We eat with our eyes first, so always have your cheeses looking fresh and in peak condition. No dried or hard bits on the cheddar, please.
- Opt for decent sized wedges of hard or blue cheeses, which look appealing and inviting.
- Choose whole wheels of smaller soft or semi-soft cheese.
- Soft young goat’s cheeses can be served in a decent sized chunk cut from a large log or as a whole small log.
- There is no room on your perfect festive cheeseboard for square blocks of cheddar or pre-sliced cheeses!
- Waxed cheeses are popular and should be served with the wax still on.
- All your cheeses should be removed from the fridge at least an hour before serving to reach optimum temperature for the flavours and aromas to shine.
- Choose a decent sized cheeseboard board which will comfortably hold your cheeses and have room for some decorative touches.
- Use fruit like sprigs of grapes or whole/halved fresh figs and fresh green foliage for decoration.
- The Spanish love the combination of dried fruit and nuts with cheese, which can also be quite rustic and colourful. Semi dried apricots and dried apple or pear pieces make a good choice.
- Avoid olives which have strong flavours and can overide the natural flavours of the cheeses. Instead, offer fruity chutney or quince jelly, either of which is much more compatible with cheese.
- You may want to go one step further in your cheeseboard presentation and make little tags with the names of each cheese and the milk it is made from (cows, sheep, goats etc ) and whether it is raw milk or pasteurised.
To help you remember, if nothing else! Attach the labels with a cocktail stick in each cheese.
Bread or Crackers
Crackers are often better suited to an after dinner cheese board because they are lighter to digest after a heavy meal. But you’ll always find the traditionalist who will want a slice of crusty baguette with their soft cheese, so it might be wise to have some on standby.
- Water biscuits form a plain platform on which to place your cheese to eat it, and will not detract from the flavours.
- Ditty’s Oatcakes and Foods of Athenry Crackers and Toasts add their own complimentary tastes to your cheeseboard.
- Serve crackers on the cheeseboard with the cheese, if the board is big enough. Otherwise, arrange your crackers in a napkin lined basket or on a long serving platter or slate.
There’s a little bit of etiquette involved in serving and choosing from a communal cheeseboard. Never, ever, cut the ‘nose’ (the point) off a wedge of cheese. This is a punishable crime! Wedges should be cut as neatly as possible down the side, to keep the original shape and make them presentable for the next person.
Little wedges or slivers can be taken from whole soft or semi-soft cheeses. It’s also a good idea to have a separate knife to cut soft runny cheese, to prevent it smearing from the knife blade onto other cheeses.