q&a: serving cheese
Because there are hundreds of cheeses that come in all sizes, it is important for every cheese lover out there to know how to cut and serve it. Like the cheese itself, handling and serving this gourmet treat is an art form that must be mastered through patience, experience and flawless technique. This 'Question and Answer' section should help you resolve all your cheese serving and storing dilemmas.
Q: How Should I store Cheese?
A: When storing, it all depends on what type of cheese you have.
- Soft cheeses: Usually last a few days in the lowest part of the refrigerator, and must be kept in a plastic airtight bag. The temperature must be between 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Hard cheeses: Will remain fresh for an extended period of time.
- Goat cheese or ewe's milk cheese (sheep) cheese: Will usually last for three weeks.
Q: What is the best way to serve cheese?
A: The next time you want to serve cheese at a party, here's are a few things to remember.
- Always serve at room temperature, unless your idea is to have it melted, like in a fondue.
- Don't take it in and out of the refrigerator too frequently. This may damage its texture, and it will not taste as good.
- Remove all wrappings before serving, unless the cheese comes in a special packaging or presentation (wooden box, etc).
Q: How much cheese should I serve?
A: About 100 to 120 grams of cheese per person should do it.
Q: How do I prepare a great cheese board?
A: A good cheese board takes time and thought to prepare. Follow these rules:
- The idea is to have variety and complementing or contrasting flavors and textures.
- It is always best to have a wide selection of cheeses for everyone to select from; the more you have, the more probability that each and everyone of your guests will find a cheese that they like.
- Also consider this: The best cheeses for an appetizer cheese board will not be as suitable for a dessert cheese plate, which will typically include sweeter fromage.
- For a good mix, try five cheeses of different flavors, colors and textures.
- Add some fruit or colorful garnish of some sort, like strawberries, grapes or springs of fresh herbs.
- Have the breads play an important supporting role. The more delicately-flavored the cheese, the white and blander the bread. Powerful, flavorful cheeses like blues and chèvre go well with spiced or herbed breads. If in doubt, try the understated (but always fresh) French baguette. For very soft cheese, provide a variety of hard, bite-size crackers to make the whole process easy and elegant. Tip: prepare a few as examples.
A Cheese Board Example:
- Poligny-Saint-Pierre (chèvre): A great-looking cheese, nicknamed the Pyramid for its unique cone shape. A natural moldy rind with orange and bluish colors makes this cheese a great centerpiece for your board. Complex flavors, sour, sweet and salty, make for excellent contrast.* If you can’t get it, try another full-flavored chèvre.
- Comte: Extremely popular and refined, fruity with nutty undertones, firm pâte.
- Manchego from Spain: Sheep’s milk, hard pâte.
- Emmnetal: An industriel cheese, riddled in holes for visual contrast.
- Livarot: Strong, heavy and moist cheese, very popular, covered in a moldy rind and spicy undertones.
- Roquefort AOC: An attractive blue-veined cheese, clean and strong flavors, very salty to contrast the sweet cheeses above. Stilton blue cheese, like, and a chèvre, like the popular Crottin de Chavignol. This simple mix will satisfy all palates.
Q: Help! All these cheese are different! How do I cut them?
A: Cutting the cheese seems like such a simple procedure; but cheese is full of textures and nuances, and is anything but simple, but not impossible.
- Round or square cheese: Cut like a cake. In half and triangle-shaped wedges.
- Pyramid or cone shaped cheese: Cut horizontally and in slice.
- A drum shaped cheese: Always cut into discs and then cake-like wedges.
- A bûche or log-shaped cheese: Best served in slices.
- A cheese wheel: Typically cut by a cheese-monger.
Notes on Cheese-Cutting:
- A good cheese knife has a slightly bent blade with two sharp points at the end and a wooden handle, and should be kept clean and sharp. Use a knife with a strong blade, preferably long. You want to cut the fromage simply and efficiently, without crushing it.
- If you're cooking with a hard cheese that calls for grating, use a strong grater.
- If serving cheeses with very different textures or flavors wash or clean the knife before cutting the next. You don't want delicate flavors to mix. You can use a piece of bread (and you're welcome to eat it too).
Q: There are a lot of special cutting instruments out there, what are they, and should I invest?
A: Invest in a double tipped knife, if you're getting one thing, as well as a good cheese board.. Anything else is up to your particular needs, how often you eat and serve cheese, how important presentation is to you, etc.
- Roquefortaise: Wire butter knife that cuts Roquefort without altering the delicate texture.
- Girolle: A very popular invention, it is a cheese board with a guillotine knife attached, used for firm cheeses like Tete-De-Moine.
- Cheese board: Can be marble or solid wood.
Q: I want to serve a cheese plate as desert, any suggestions?
A: If serving cheese after a meal, follow these straight-forward guidelines.
- For meat-based meals: Serve a blue cheese as dessert, like Bleu d'Auvergne.
- For light, airy meals: Creamy, fatty cheeses are in order, for example Soumantrain.
- Spicy, strong-flavored meals: A matching strong cheese, like a Munster or Livarot.