There’s something very special about cheese at Christmas, it’s a course all of its own. Now, this can be difficult when you’ve already sampled the luxuries of Christmas throughout the day so it’s important that the cheese you use at Christmas time is special. Remember, an idle stomach is strictly against the festive spirit, so soldier on you must!
I get asked about my tips for the perfect cheese board often and it’s no wonder really, even some of the finest London restaurants will serve up a disappointing cheeseboard and charge you a tenner for it. There’s nothing more disappointing than an inferior cheeseboard.
What you really need is a well balanced Christmas cheese board, that can sit on your beautifully decorated table, waiting for people to carve bits off as they pass. Of course, it can also be pressed into service after the pudding to tide you over until the next round of courses, and will be perfect at the Boxing Day buffet alongside the cold meats. The lovely experts at Pong Cheese have taken the guesswork out of the Christmas cheese board and chosen a well-coordinated and fantastically tasty cheese box with the family Christmas dining experience in mind. The Christmas Explorer Box has something for everyone, from the extraordinary Driftwood to the ideal Christmas cheese Shropshire Blue. This clever little box contains the following impeccably well balanced bunch, so you can impress your visitors by making it look like you know what you are doing. When in reality, you may not, ha!
Langres AOC 180g (UNPASTEURISED) – Bizarre look but incredible smooth Epoisses-like taste
Cropwell Bishop Shropshire Blue 200g – The ultimate Christmas cheese from the legendary Stilton producers
St Maure de Touraine 250g (UNPASTEURISED) – A goat’s cheese masterpiece from Indre-et-Loire
Lincolnshire Poacher 250g (UNPASTEURISED) – A nutty, savoury cheese made in an artisan cheddar-style
Wyfe of Bath 250g – An organic gouda-like cheese with a yellow rind.
Now, let’s get down to business. Ideally there should be 50g of cheese per person at the end of a meal, going up to 100g per person if the cheeseboard is being served as a main. You should keep the rest wrapped in greaseproof paper or foil (no clingfilm because it makes cheese sweat) in the drawer of your fridge. Putting something like a carrot in with it will help stop it from drying out. Take it out of the refrigerator about an hour before you want to serve, so it can come up to room temperature, but keep it wrapped and leave on the rinds to preserve the shape of the cheese and make it look its best. A cheese’s flavour develops from the outside in, so the rind is also depended on for this. Remember to also lay out a different knife for each cheese, to prevent cross-contamination.
So, that’s the very important cheese bit covered but what to put with it? We’ll get to the crackers in a minute. I want bread as well as crackers, crusty bread is always the best. Oh, and you definitely need loads of butter. Blue cheeses go best with something a bit sweet, soft cheeses with a crisp, light cracker, but something neutral should work with everything. Any chutney that goes well with Christmas meats will also go well with cheese, a bunch of grapes and a few walnuts scattered across the board and you can have a real poncetastic Christmas spread.
Now that we’ve covered the cheese, accompaniments and chutneys it’s time to pair it all with wine! Cheeses obviously go down well accompanied by a nice posh vintage port but white wine actually makes a better accompaniment to cheese, because the acidity cuts through the creaminess. Throw a Christmas curve ball and serve the hard cheeses with a medium-dry Vouvray, its slight rich sweetness offsets the cheese’s salty dryness, and smooths out the nutty flavours. The tangy soft cheeses are well-paired with an aromatic white, so my choice would be a Loire Sauvignon. My in-laws live very close to the region where Roquefort is created and the French have matched Roquefort with Sauternes for years. The saltiness mixed with sweetness is divine, so I can’t recommend that match highly enough.
What makes the perfect cheese board for you? Are there specific types you purchase each and every Christmas or do you like to try out different ones each time?