The perfect Christmas Cheeseboard should be bursting with treats – from the stinkiest Stilton to a crunchy Farmhouse Cheddar and everything in between.
If you don’t have ready access to a cheeseboard from Christmas Eve until New Years Day, I’m sorry to tell you, but you’ve yet to nail your festive food. Truly. It’s the only time of year we’re all allowed to eat three times as much normal and if it’s not Quality Street, mini Mince Pies or Stollen I’m snacking on, you’ll find me hovering over a cheeseboard, knife in hand and trying to coax the gooiest piece of Brie onto my plate.
The most important thing to remember when crafting your Christmas cheeseboard, is that the festive season is a marathon not a sprint. To satisfy those savoury cravings, you need a grazing platter that can be left out and nibbled at whenever the mood takes you (can you tell I take cheeseboards very seriously?). And so we present our thoughts on how to build the perfect Christmas Cheeseboard.
With this year seeing fewer of us getting together, you’ll need to think about your household’s favourite dairy treats. There’s no point splashing out on a hunk of Aged Comte if you hate the stuff, so be a little selfish and choose your faves. That being said, is it even Christmas without a bit of Stilton lying around?!
Aim for four or five large pieces of cheese – the bigger the piece, the better it’ll keep (there’s nothing sadder than a tiny, dry lump of Cheddar) and, let’s be honest, it just looks nicer to have outrageously decadent slabs of cheese!
We’ve established that Stilton is pretty much essential to a festive platter, but make sure you choose wisely. There’s a whole heap of inferior Stilton out there and this is the time to seek out something a little special. Stilton is widely regarded as being at it’s best around Christmas, because it’s made with milk from the end of the sunny summer months. A ripe Stilton isn’t white and shouldn’t be crumbly – look out for a something creamy in colour and texture, we’d recommend Colston Bassett.
Many of us are lovers of mature Cheddar and for good reason – the mass produced mild stuff has such a rubbery texture and barely tastes of anything! Try a traditional Farmhouse Cheddar for something really special. Wrapped in cloth and left to mature much longer, Westcombe Cheddar is our favourite. Though if you prefer something a little creamier in texture, Black Bomber always goes down a storm.
“A ripe Stilton isn’t white and shouldn’t be crumbly – look out for a something creamy in colour and texture.”
Something Creamy –
A good cheeseboard should be balanced, so try something a little more subtle . Rachel Goats Cheese is creamy, with nutty notes and works as a beautiful foil to the spicy flavours of Stilton. Or if you’d rather something a bit more unctuous, Baron Bigod is the only traditional raw milk Brie-de-Meaux style cheese produced in the UK. It’s an absolute show stopper and you’ll certainly be fighting over it’s silken nose!
These are just as important as the cheese you’re nibbling on. Grapes are a classic and a few pieces of crisp green apple certainly cut through those richer cheeses. We’re fans of adding a depth and saltiness to the proceedings with sliced Charcuterie and a handful of Cornichons and Caperberries too. Add a home-made Chutney for a touch of sweetness and you’re good to go!
Handily, we’ve found the perfect way to present a grazing platter – take a look here!
If you like to leave your cheeseboard out for a few days like us, choose somewhere reasonably cool to store it (a counter top next to the back door is ideal) or your house will start to smell like the inside of a particularly pungent sock. Just lay a piece of waxed paper or baking parchment over it and it’ll be fine. Then whip the paper off whenever the munchies strike.
If you’d rather keep everything tucked up in the fridge, make sure you bring your cheese up to room temperature before tucking in (1-2 hours should do it) to allow the full flavour and aroma of your cheese to wake up.
And to drink?
Port and cheese are a classic festive combo. Try a Tawny Port – it’s not too rich, so it won’t overpower those softer cheeses, but it’s spicy enough to hold it’s own against a tangy Cheddar. Sherry works well too but I tend to opt for another glass of fizz… well if you can’t at Christmas when can you!?