Adding a tasty parma ham and Cheddar cheese will definitely impress.
The top three things about the holiday season, from worst to first are as follows – friends and family, presents and cheeseboards.
After a heavy festive lunch, a tasty palate cleanser, accompanied with sweet and savoury biscuits and a selection of pâtés and fruits, among other toppings is exactly what the doctor ordered.
The first thing any party host should think about when preparing a cheeseboard, is getting the balance right.
Hosts should try and cover one each of the cheese types, featuring one soft, hard, blue, medium-soft, and goats cheese to ensure all palates are accounted for.
With that considered, here are our top cheeses for the festive season!
Soft cheeses can be distinguished by their creamy texture, and unwashed, floury rinds. They are high in fat so you might not want to binge heavily after one too many turkey helpings.
Normandy based cheeses dominate this type, with Brie, Camembert and Coulommiers all hailing from the region.
Brie is usually the safest bet. The creamy cheese is enveloped by a delicious white mould sprayed rind, that perfectly compliments the soft inside.
Fussy eaters can remove the rind and still enjoy a great cheese. Serve with apple slices and herby crackers.
Unsurprisingly enough, these cheeses are an in-between for soft and hard cheeses.
Medium-soft cheeses will have rinds, and be washed using a number of methods, including brine, beer wine or fruit juices to create particular fusions of flavours.
The washing process tends to help counteract the naturally bland (in comparison to hard cheeses) flavours.
The washing process also helps keep the rind moist, which can make the cheese more appealing to those turned off by the outer texture of a Brie.
Cheeses in this group include Durrus and Mileens from Ireland, and Livarot from Normandy.
Like soft, medium-soft cheeses work well with sweet fruits such as apples and grapes. Pear slices are also welcome.
Popular British hard cheeses include Cheddar (from Somerset), Red Leicester and Double Gloucester.
This type of cheese develops a sharper flavour as it is matured, with more vintage cheeses (matured for up to 2 years or more) being the sharpest.
These firm cheeses are also joined by other hard, but crumbly examples. These include Cheshire, Caerphilly and Wensleydale.
Although the ageing process is much reduced (typically between 4 and 8 weeks), crumbly cheeses tend to carry the stronger flavour.
This makes Cheddars and the like a safer option when entertaining guests, but given the amount of selection a cheeseboard offers, a crumbly cheese here is a great opportunity to showcase your cheese expertise.
A selection of olives, cured meats (Parma Ham is a favourite), pickled vegetables and dips make an exquisite accompaniment to Cheddar.
Less of an acquired taste, and more of an acquired idea, blue cheese can be hard to come to terms with thanks to their visible (and blue) mould.
However, the mould is harmless and is in fact, used to enrich the flavour of the cheese.
Penicillin mould is injected into the cheese, but is dormant until needles are inserted into the cheese to allow it to breathe.
The mould then penetrates the rest of the cheese through visible blue veins, bringing a strong flavour with it.
Britain offers Shropshire Blue and Dorset Blue Vinney and Stilton, the most popular British blue cheese and Britain’s claim for the finest blue in the world.
They are up against France’s Roquefort and Italy’s Gorgonzola.
Stilton will be the easiest to source from this ‘Best Of’ list. Stilton’s strong flavours pair well with sweet jams and chutneys.
Our guide to a festive cheeseboard should help you serve a tasty after dinner treat, whilst impressing your guests with your cheese savvy. Be sure to serve a selection of different biscuits and don’t be afraid to experiment with the combinations.
Olives and grapes tend to compliment one another impeccably. And adding a tasty parma ham and Cheddar cheese will definitely impress.