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How To Put Together the Perfect Cheese Platter

posted in Dairy by Lisa Freeman

A cheese platter can be served as an appetizer or instead of (or before) dessert.

There are several ways to put together and present a cheese platter. Varying the types of cheese you choose is a must. Stay clear of the pre-sliced sandwich cheese – buy a wedge or log or a block of cheese for a cheese platter.

Picking The Cheeses

Choose an interesting assortment of cheeses—hard sharp cheeses, soft creamy ones and pungent blue cheeses. Look for an interesting mix of flavors, textures and colors.

We’re aiming for lots of character with cheeses you should be able to find at your local supermarket. Mix and match any 3 to 5 cheeses of these varieties (sorted by milk type) and this should be more than enough to satisfy your guests.

Things to consider:

  • country of origin (France, Spain, Italy, Greece and so forth)
  • cheese texture (soft, semi-soft, hard, etc)
  • flavor (mild, strong)
  • milk type (goat, cow, sheep/ewe, vegetable)

Cow:

A wide range of cheese comes from cow’s milk. Set out a soft French brie which will be mild and creamy (no need to remove the rind on this one.) You can consider a fresh mozzarella (which I always sprinkle with a little bit of salt), but make sure it isn’t those little balls that are soaking in oil or the Polly-O packages—it’s gotta be the fresh stuff! Hard Asiago is not just for grating and sprinkling on your pasta, it’s a great choice as a zippy selection to round out a cheese plate. Holland’s cheeky Gouda falls in between these two and has quite an intricate taste.

Sheep:

Lovely and mild Spanish Manchego has become so popular that they even sell it in the big food club stores these days. Roquefort blue cheese on the other hand is bouncing with big tangy flavor and the ubiquitous blue spots of mold. Don’t freak out, this is a healthy bacteria that tastes divine.

Goat:

This class of cheese is known for sharp and strong flavors that can range from very moist to quite hard. The French are king in this category and you will often see the words “chevre” (goat) on the label. You may find it in your dairy section in the shape of a 6 inch log or in a spreadable form branded Boursin. Either of these would be suitable on a cracker. But there are heaps of other varieties that are firmer, but no less tasty.

Vegetarian:

If you’re a true blue vegetarian, then you might be aware that many cheeses are made with rennet (a product derived from calf gut that is basically what hardens milk to form cheese). There are many cheeses that do not use rennet, and use a vegetable source to mold the cheese instead. There are plenty of delightful cheddars, provolones and fetas that are readily available to fit the bill if you’re so inclined.

Serving Tips and Suggestions:

  • Don’t slice your cheese until the day you are ready to serve it, as it loses moisture, flavor and aroma.
  • Store your cheese in a cool, dry place preferably wrapped in the waxed paper it came in or a paper bag.
  • Cheese should be taken out of the refrigerator one hour before serving.
  • Click here to figure out what quantity you’ll need per person.
  • Serve cheese on a large, roomy tray where everything isn’t crushed together and touching.
  • Cheese has a habit of absorbing other flavors quickly, so if you’ve got your blue cheese rubbing up on your brie, you can be assured that both will end up tasting the same. Give your cheese some elbow room.
  • Cut off the outer hard rind on all your selections and don’t cut the cheese into tiny cubes. I recommend thin ¼ inch triangular wedges that are about ¾ inches long. Basically, something that can sit neatly on your tongue.
  • Cheese shouldn’t be slapped on a plate and just put out there. It needs accompaniments such as crackers or thin crispy slices of bread. Keep it simple and just buy the unflavored varieties — you don’t want rosemary bread competing with a sharp cheddar. The cheese is the star of the show here, and the bread is just part of the set design.
  • Add pizazz with a few sides like a small bowl of almonds, a side of mixed olives or a bit of sliced hard salami. These will serve to clear out the taste buds for your guests before they try the next cheese variety.
  • The Wisconsin Cheese Cupid will help you choose which beverages go best with which cheese.

The cheese clerk at your local supermarket will be a wealth of information, and if you’ve got a cheese specialty shop in your neck of the woods you are really in luck!

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2 Comments

Z4 said:

Great tips, thanks!

not george clooney said:

I’m throwing a party and would love to have a cheese platter set up. Thanks for the tips!