Turkeys might not vote for Thanksgiving, but Cows do.
Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and feasting. Turkey and the trimmings takes center stage, but sometimes you need something a bit easier but with no less of a party atmosphere.
Everyone knows what to do with cheese –there is no hard work with plates and place settings or sitting next to that uncle. Informal but guided, a cheeseboard is the very easiest but also if you follow the below tips, it will be very impressive..
If I have one tip? Go for the unexpected? That is what people remember. And if it works everyone likes a good tradition – you can roll out your classic cheeseboard extravaganza every year!
1. A Very Big Cheese Board – I mean a VERY big bit of wood
A cheese party is all about the cheese. We will be adding to it later, but the cheese is the centre piece so give it a stage. Theatre is everything.
When it comes to the cheese, go for variety in shape, colour, size, height wrapping. Choose a variety of cheeses from my cheese wheel from soft to ripened to aged, from goats curd to parmesan. Put crowd-pleasers like brie, camembert and cheddar as your base, then branch out. Include some artisanal or local cheeses for a touch of uniqueness, and something that will scare the pants off great Auntie Sue.
(Don’t forget – either label each cheese to educate your guests about their origins and flavor profiles, or have the list in your back pocket. It’s easy to forget in the moment of maximum jolliness)
2. Cheese Jokes
I highly recommend you have some cheese jokes in your back pocket. Perhaps you think you’ve heard them all, and some are quite grating, but there are stiltons out there. The family might say they camembert it, but a good bad cheese joke gets the party going. You can even make a competition out of it.
Here are some starters you won’t get board with:
- What do you call a cheese revolutionary? Cheddar Guevara (pronounced “shay-dar Guevera!)
- What cheese is best on Christmas day? Cheesus
- What cheese has the largest Instagram following? Paris Stilton
- What cheese is made backwards? Edam
- What movie starred Clint Cheesewood? The Gouda, the Mouldy and the Smelly
3. Hot and Cold Cheese
We may be celebrating the 15th century, but don’t be stuck there. Include some modern hots like:
- Welsh rarebit toasts
- Halloumi fingers to dip; and/or
- Toasted taleggio in pitta
4. Accompaniments for Every Palate
To complement the cheese, offer an array of accompaniments to enhance and expand the board. Some popular choices include:
- Dried and cured meats: salami, cured ham, cooked ham, crisped bacon or jerky of different styles
- Fresh and dried fruits: Sliced apples, pears, and grapes, as well as dried apricots and figs, provide a sweet contrast to the cheese’s saltiness.
- Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, and pecans add a delightful crunch and nutty flavor to the platter.
- Crackers and bread:.
- Condiments: Include honey, fig jam, chutney, and mustard for a burst of flavors that pair perfectly with the cheese.
- Chocolate! Yes believe it or not chocolate is great with cheese. Go for a chocolate dip, finely grated chocolate of just some chocolate chips.
When is enough enough? When your cheeseboard is over flowing that’s when you family will sit back on their heels and whistle in appreciation. If there is space, add greenery to fille the gaps. Things like flowers, lettuce leaves such as rocket, tomato salad, even holly, candles and fairy lights. It’s Thanksgiving – go large!
5. Drinks: Go off Piste.
Yes red wine will be popular, but here are some ideas to think bigger
- Mulled wine or Sangria: it could be cold outside, so don’t be afraid to go for hot wine with the cheeseboard
- Beers: lagers are hard to pair with cheese, so be aware. If you can, splash out on highly flavoured or craft beers.
- Ciders can be amazing, and hot cider even better.
- Sweet and fruity wines: sweet drinks make great pairings with cheeses, especially mould ripened and blue cheeses.
- Softies: berry and hedge fruit soft drinks like elderflower go down very well. Again go hot: warm spiced apple juice can be a winner with cheese.
6. Do you need special equipment, like cheese knives?
Its your board! Go for your life! On my boards I use a wide variety of knives, old and new. I feel the variety matches the variety of cheese, like dance partners.
But most of all it should reflect you. If you like order, get the kit and make it look perfect. If your house looks like an antiques shop, a different knife and plate for everyone makes perfect sense.
7. Cheese Tasting Games
Some families see games as the highway to hell, others like nothing more than putting the tv in the garage for the season and breaking out the board games. If that’s your thing, there are lots of cheese games to have fun with such as:
- Blind tastings
- Cheese quizes
- “Guess the cheese”
I have played cheese checkers where you eat the pieces as you take them. I have never played StripCheese. I’ll leave that to you.
8. Desserts and More
Just because it’s a cheeseboard doesn’t mean you can’t add dessert. I recommend individual desserts spread around your cheese board. Consider mini pumpkin pies, fairy cakes, apple crisps, or individual ricotta cheesecakes or apple crumbles.
You can even add sweet around the board such as fudges, chocolates and other candy. It will keep the kids happy.
9. How Much Per Person?
A quarter pound in cheese usually does it. If it’s a small gathering, go up, If it’s lots of people, go down.
If your cheese board is after the turkey, you can take it down to an 1/8th.
10. Parting Gifts
I’ve heard in some houses people sometimes do party bags, small cheese-themed party favours. These might be mini cheese knives, or cheese markers, or a selection of cheese to take home can make for a thoughtful gift.
Personally after one of my cheeseboards I think they should be giving me gifts.
No event can not be improved with a cheese party. Whether you are entertaining lavishly, or running a tight ship, the cheeseboard is perfect blend of ease, family and feasting.