Hello, my friends! The holiday season is upon us! While I photographed and tasted this week’s blog post, M. Cheesemonger set out our Christmas stockings, put some green boughs out on the door, and strung up our air plant globes with lights. We’ll be away in the Yukon Territory for the end of the year, though, so we will REALLY feel some wintry weather then!
This week, I am beyond delighted to be able to partner with one of my favorite local cheese shops, Cheese Plus! We teamed up to bring you an all-out holiday cheese and charcuterie board! If you want to knock your holiday guests’ fuzzy socks off with an amazing board, here’s what Cheese Plus and I suggest for you!
Cow, pasteurized, traditional rennet, Sennerei Huban, Vorarlberg, Austria
This alpine style cheese looks like it’s covered in confetti, but really, those are edible flowers and herbs from Austrian meadows pressed onto the rind! This funky, nutty, creamy cheese is made by a coop that works with 34 local Swiss Brown cow herds, all of which are within a couple miles of the creamery. The cheese is aged at least 6 months, so it can develop those wonderfully full, deep flavors. M. Cheesemonger got a strong sense of pineapple, and I was won over by the funky floral and broth notes. This cheese made my tastebuds prickle, like summer cheeses sometimes do.
Trufa La Mancha
Sheep, pasteurized, Spain
Do you love Manchego? Do you want to serve it on your cheese board, but dress things up a little? Then Trufa La Mancha is for you. This cheese is essentially Manchego that has been seasoned with black truffle paste. I’m not always a fan of truffle products, but this one balances flavors out beautifully. The cheese itself is bright with notes of sweet grass, and complements the truffle’s earthiness well. I could feel the cheese drawing out the truffle’s deep mushroomy flavors, and almost transforming it into something floral and extraordinary.
Pecorino allo Zafferano et Pepe
Sheep, raw (there are pasteurized versions as well), Sicily, Italy
Another flavored cheese! This one is a fun twist on traditional Sicilian pecorino, which is sheep’s cheese. Pecorino alla Zafferano e Pepe, infused with saffron and peppered with black peppercorns, is a decadent one for the cheese board and the palate. The saffron imparts sumptuous flavor, but the peppercorns brighten the cheese up considerably so as not to weigh you down. The delicate sheep cheese flavors create a flavor floor on which the saffron and peppercorns can perform their balancing act.
Rush Creek Reserve
Cow, raw, traditional rennet, Uplands Cheese Company, Wisconsin, USA
Ah, Rush Creek Reserve! No holiday cheese plate is complete without this seasonal favorite from Uplands Cheese Company. It is wrapped in spruce bark, which imparts its characteristic woodsy notes. This is a hearty cheese to keep you warm and cozy as winter settles in around you! To serve it, let it warm up to room temperature (or warm it in the oven if you’re feeling bold!), cut off the top rind, and let your guests spoon out the gooey paste onto some crusty bread or rustic crackers.
Rogue River Blue
Cow, pasteurized, vegetarian rennet, Rogue Creamery, Oregon, USA
This time of year brings out several amazing seasonal cheeses—in addition to Rush Creek Reserve, Rogue River Blue is another favorite! Rogue Creamery is one of my favorite creameries, and their specialty is blue cheese. This fromage, Rogue River Blue, is only made during the fall, when the milk is best for the cheese’s flavors. If you get a little alcohol note in the cheese, it’s because the wheels are wrapped in pear brandy-soaked grape leaves. There are so many wonderful flavors to be found in this gem—M. Cheesemonger said it reminded him of the hard ciders of his dear Normandy. I sense some toasted nuts as well. That long, sweet finish is a thing of beauty.
Jambon de Bayonne
Cheese Plus owner Ray Bair gleefully let me know that Jambon de Bayonne is now available in the US! It had been approved for American import a couple of years ago, but with the time to set regulations in place, we’re only seeing it now. What makes this French ham so special? It goes back to the idea of terroir, that a region’s climate, land, flora and fauna can impact the flavors of a food. The regulations for Jambon de Bayonne are strict—covering what species of pigs can be used, their diet and conditions at slaughter, aging times and temperatures, and more. The result is a rather delicate, slightly sweet, not too salty ham that fits elegantly into any cheese board.
Bündnerfleisch || Smoked Bresaola
This air-dried beef from Larchmont Charcuterie in Larchmont, New York, is a little on the drier side as far as charcuterie goes, which only means your fingers will be slightly less greasy as you reach for a 2nd or 5th slice. This specimen I obtained was smoked, although that is not always the case. It felt more savory than the Jambon de Bayonne, so I liked it with the heartier cheeses, like Rush Creek Reserve or Alp Blossom. When serving charcuterie, I do try and serve a variety of meats. Not all charcuterie is made of pork, and sharing a variety of meats enriches the cheese board considerably!
These Italian figs are flavored with some secret flavoring that tastes almost like brandy—but isn’t. They’re not too sweet, which I appreciate, and are a surprising fig flavor bomb for the cheese board. I don’t know where else you will be able to find these beauties, since their origins are rather mysterious!
I love adding caramelized nuts to a board, like these Spanish caramelized pecans. Pecans feel rather festive, and presenting them in this way is a little more dressy than just plain pecans. Plus, they’re not too sweet!
These sweet dark cherries by Eat This in Pennsylvania have added balsamic vinegar to give the cherries some depth. They’re not cloying in their sweetness, and so complement a wide variety of cheeses.
I love these delicate olives because of their light flavors and beautiful color. They’re also on the smaller side, which I think looks rather polished on a cheese board!
The standard for locally-made flatbreads has been set by Rustic Bakery in Marin County. Their olive oil and sel gris flatbreads are pretty neutral and will stand up to even the thickest cheese (I’m looking at you, Rush Creek Reserve!)!
Gosh, I feel stuffed and content just recounting all these lovely cheeses, meats, and condiments to you. What is on your holiday cheese plate? I want to see! Just tag me @misscheesemonger on Instagram!
Thank you, Ray, for this chance to partner with Cheese Plus! You can find all of these cheeses AND MUCH MORE at his amazing shop in San Francisco! I am a huge fan of Cheese Plus, and you can find me there several times a month selecting cheeses or getting a delectable sandwich.
I received free product for this blog post. All thoughts are my own.
[Updated Dec 4, 2017, 14:57pm to correct the source of the Bündnerfleisch. it is from Larchmont Charcuterie.]
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