When putting together a cheese platter, it is essential to remember that it's not all about the cheese. Although the focal point, cheese is often served with crackers, as well as condiments to eat with the cheese, such as jams, fruits and nuts. Certain condiments complement specific cheeses better than others, so it it's beneficial to learn what condiments go with what cheeses to make a successful and impressive cheese platter for your next party.
Vinegar and Oils
Balsamic vinegar, made from unfermented grape juice, commonly accompanies several different types of food. In particular, aged balsamic vinegar complements aged hard cheeses such as Gouda, Pecorino and Parmigianno-Reggiano. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over thin slices of cheese or dip the slices in a small bowl of the vinegar. Slicing the cheese thin keeps the strong cheese flavour from overpowering the vinegar flavour. Serve high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil with fresh mozzarella and goat cheeses.
Jams and Chutneys
Chutneys combine the savoury flavours of spices with sweet fruit flavours, and have textures that range from very thick to very thin and runny. Chutneys that are more fruit-based work well with certain types of young cheeses, such as Fontina and mild Swiss. Jams and jellies which are all fruit-based pair well with a variety of cheeses depending on what type of fruit jam it is. Try fig jam with strong blue cheeses and raspberry preserves with fresh goat cheeses. Quince, a Spanish fruit similar to apples and pears, is made into a thick, jellylike paste and is commonly paired with Spanish cheeses such as Manchego and Roncal.
Fruits and Nuts
Whole fruit, both fresh and dried, is also commonly served on a cheese platter to complement specific cheeses. Pair soft cheeses such as Brie with dried apricot, and other French cheeses, such as Camembert, with green grapes. Red grapes pair well with goat cheese as well. Nuts are also a common condiment found on a cheese platter. Serve almonds alongside asiago cheese, or serve walnuts with soft cheeses such as Brie and goat cheese.
Mustard and Honey
Among the best types of mustard for cheese are the French and English types, which provide the right amount of spice for most cheeses. Try spreading English mustard on bold cheeses such as Gloucester cheddar and French mustard with delicate French cheeses, such as the sheep cheese Le Berger Basque. Like fruit jams, the sweetness of honey blends well with a variety of cheeses, from strong blue cheeses such as Gorgonzola to fresh goat cheeses such as Ile de France.
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