When you are entertaining a cheese board or cheese tray is a crowd pleaser and easy to pull off. Not only is it easy to do one on your own, it makes a beautiful centerpice to any spread. A well-balanced cheese tray should have five to six cheeses representing each of the basic categories. Fresh, soft-ripened, washed rind, blue, and aged. When crafting your cheese board you will want to combine an assortment of items that will please everyone. Here's how...
For your cheese board you will want to select at least one cheese from each catergory.
Fresh cheese such as chevre, ricotta or mozzarella is cheese in its youngest, purest form. This variety tends to be very milky, and lightly flavored. The texture ranges from creamy and spreadable, to soft and pliable, to crumbly.
Soft ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert are often silky, luxurious and have a higher fat content. These cheeses are rich and velvety and melt in your mouth. These cheeses often have white bloomy rinds which are edible.
Washed rind cheeses such as Taleggio, Raclette, and Gruyere are often referred to as "stinky cheeses". These cheeses are stinky due to how they’re aged; periodically washed in differing solutions ranging from salt water to wine. Even though their aroma is pronounced the flavor is milder comparatively.
Blue cheeses, such as Stilton, Roquefort, and Gorgonzola are pungent, full flavored, and are filled with blue veining. They range in texture and firmness depending on age; the older they become the softer the paste, and more spreadable.
Aged cheeses have a wide range of varieties and are very versatile. They tend to have a pronounced aroma and concentrated flavor. Cheeses such as Romano and Parmigiano are hard and crumbly while aged cheddars or Goudas are firm to semi firm.
Add a selection of cured meats, you will want no less than three if having one cheese from each category.
Bresaola is very lean, made from a single muscle and any outer fat is removed before curing. Bresaola is a bit like a lean prosciutto made with beef instead of pork and slightly reminiscent of pastrami in terms of flavor.
Soppressata is a great option as many varieties carry a spicy kick flavored with calabrian chili. This is a pork salami which is traditionally cut not into paper thin slices like prosciutto, but with a knife to give more texture to the mouthfeel.
Prosciutto is a salt-cured, dry-aged Italian ham. It is a little on the salty side, but with its paper thin slices marbled with ribbons of rich fat it becomes a well balanced tasty bite.
If you have something unique to the region of the world you live in add it! For instance, we have a great salami made locally that comes in a wide variety of unique flavors like porcini sage and the "Seattle Stick" with Theo Chocolate and coffee.
Now that you have the key players of your cheeseboard chosen its time to choose your pairings for the cheese and charcuterie.
You'll want something to please everyone so choose sweet items such as preserves and dried fruits and candied nuts. For savory choose olives, tapenades, roasted peppers or spicy mustards.
Add an assortment of breads for your guests to choose from. An assortment of flavors and textures is ideal. Items like a soft baguette or a multigrain crusty loaf, fruit and nut crackers and a gluten-free option for your celiac guests is always a good idea.