When I entertain I love to create a cheese board. It’s fun, creative, delicious and everyone loves them.
A cheese platter is perfect for entertaining at any time of year. They are especially welcome during the holidays, when everyone seems to entertain at least once or twice. My neighbor recently invited me over for a cup of tea and had a lovely cheese platter for just the two of us. Cheese platter for one? Certainly. I have been known to put together a small platter of cheese, crackers, fruit and nuts just for my own enjoyment.
If you are having people over for cocktails or wine and are unsure about what to serve, bring out the cheese board. You will see how easy it is to create a amazing one, and it’s pretty much a guaranteed crowd pleaser. No matter how many wonderful appetizer small bite recipes I have on the site, I am also often seen putting together a cheese platter for entertaining, either as a stand alone for a small gathering, or as part of a larger offering of food for a larger crowd.
Girls night in? I almost always include a cheese board filled with savory cheeses, fruit, nuts and meats. My friends and I gather together to catch up and share over a wonderful array of savory and sweet snacks.
There are no set rules as to what constitutes a great cheese platter, but I do have lots of tips I am going to pass on to you so you can easily make your own cheese board the hit of the party.
So let’s get started.
A great cheese platter isn’t just a slab of cheese or two on a plate. Adding sweet and savory sides brings it up to the next level and we’ll talk about what works really well.
The star of a cheese platter is, of course, the cheese. I have a rule in creating a cheese board – use at least 3 different cheeses. If I am creating a large cheese platter for a bigger crowd I will often use 4 or 5 cheeses, but for small gatherings, start with three.
It is really important here to use a variety of cheeses, not just 3 different kinds of cheddar. Make your cheese platter look beautiful by using cheeses of different colors. A yellow cheese, a white cheese and a blue cheese for example. (Be careful with blue cheese. Not everyone likes it and you may be wasting your money. I wouldn’t buy it unless I know that a lot of the people in my crowd like it.)
Texture is important too. It’s nice to include a softer cheese like Brie or Camembert, as well as a semi-hard cheese. Semi-hard cheeses include things like the cheddar most of us love as well as cheeses like Edam, Swiss, Monterey Jack, Stilton and Gouda. You can also include a bit of hard cheese like Parmesan or Romano.
The perfect mix of cheeses is a mild cheese of some sort, a medium strong cheese and a stronger tasting cheese.
Mild tasting cheeses include: Colby, mild cheddar and havarti, mild Gouda, Brie and cheese curds.
Medium tasting cheeses include: medium to old cheddars, smoked Gouda, Camembert, Jarlsberg, Fontina and Swiss.
Strong tasting cheeses include: Parmesan, Stilton, feta, blue cheeses and Oka cheese.
You may not want a lot of the strong cheeses, unless your friends really like them. If you are offering 3 cheeses, I would select one mild cheese and either one larger piece of medium cheese and a small piece of strong cheese or two medium cheeses.
Sample Cheese Offerings:
Of course you can mix and match whatever cheeses you want to put out on your cheese board, but here are a few suggested combinations:
Gouda cheese, an old cheddar and a small piece of Parmesan, broken into small pieces.
Brie, Blue cheese and Jarlsberg.
Stilton, Swiss and cheese curds.
If you are not familiar with cheese curds, they are the small pieces of cheese that are formed before the cheese is squeezed together to form cheddar. They not aged at all. In fact, the fresher the better. If cheese curds are really fresh they actually almost squeak when you bite into them.
The truth is that any mix of cheeses will work. Just select a couple of cheeses you love, plus another that you have thought of trying and put them on the cheese platter. It’s really that easy. If you are really unsure, don’t be shy about asking the person at the cheese counter at your grocery store or cheese shop. They are usually fairly knowledgable and happy to help.
How Much Cheese?
You can usually count on needing about 3 or 4 ounces of cheese per person. So just count your guests and multiply by 3. Mild and medium cheeses often go faster, obviously depending on the taste buds of your guests, so I would have a little bit more of the medium tasting cheeses than I would of the strong tasting ones.
The Extras Make all the Difference
You can put a few cheeses and a bowl of crackers on a platter and call it a cheese board, but adding in a few extras makes all the difference in terms of how much your guests will enjoy it. Extras fall into the sweet or savory category and it’s always best to include a few of each.
Savory extras include things like:
- A variety of marinated or stuffed olives
- Marinated artichoke hearts
- Cured meats like salami and Prosciutto, sliced very thin
- Nuts – raw, smoked or salted nuts of all sorts work well
Sweet extras include:
- Dried fruits like apricots, raisins, mango and figs
- Fresh figs
- Fresh strawberries
- Red or green grapes, or both
- Sliced apples or pears
- Honey in a small bowl, with a honey spoon for drizzling
- Jams and preserves, like fig jam apricot jam, red pepper jelly or sweet mango chutney
It shouldn’t cost a fortune to put together a great looking cheese platter. Look in your fridge to see what of the extras mentioned above you probably already have and mix them in with some new purchases. Don’t forget the bulk stores or the bulk area of your grocery store for things like nuts, dried fruit, crackers and olives.
Crackers that Let the Cheese be the Star
I always suggest that you use a plainer cracker rather than one that is already infused with lots of herbs, spices and flavors. That way the flavor of the cracker doesn’t clash with any cheese you may have selected. A neutral flavored cracker allows the cheese to be the star. I often use low sodium plain Triscuits, plain Breton crackers, Vinta or if you want gluten free try Blue Diamond Nut Thins or Mary’s original gluten free crackers (amazing!). I have also had raw vegetable ‘chips’ and they tasted fantastic as well.
You don’t have to use just crackers on your cheese board. Slices of a fresh crusty baguette work really well too. You can also toast them to make crunchy crostini.
Make it Pretty
You’ve got all sorts of suggestions for wonderful additions to your cheese board. Now it’s time to simply put it all on a pretty plate or platter and serve. There are all sorts of pretty and/or functional cheese serving patters available in the stores or online. If you don’t have one, don’t fret. Just use a plate you already have. The plainer the better. A plain white or colored plate will allow the colors of the food to stand out and make a great presentation.
Having labels for your cheeses not only makes the plate more beautiful, it helps guests easily identify the cheeses you have.
So – select three cheeses, two or three savory add-ons and two or three sweet components and put them on the plate. Don’t worry about not being Martha Stewart. Just mix and match the suggestions I gave you above and you will have a great cheese platter. Here are some suggestions of how to mix and match your add-ons.
3 cheeses with green and black olives, raw almonds, fresh figs and honey
3 cheeses with fresh strawberries, green grapes, Prosciutto and walnuts
3 cheeses with dried apricots, marinated artichoke hearts, spicy olives and fig jam
The main point is…
A cheese board should be an easy appetizer or party food. Don’t fret about whether you made a praise worthy cheese platter. If you just follow the few tips given here, your guests will enjoy their cheese platter taste experience for sure. It is meant to be easy and fun. From start to finish a great cheese board should only take about 10 minutes to assemble, 15 minutes tops. Then you have the whole evening to enjoy.
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