I can’t think of one greater food than cheese. It fulfills all the food necessities: filling, comforting, salty, sweet, texturally there are a lot of different varieties to satisfy whatever you’re craving. One of the most fun things to do is build a dynamic cheese board and make that the main dish to serve during dinner. Appetizers for dinner will never get old and when you have the right tools and tricks you can make any cheese board a meal fit for dinner.
How to Make a Seasonal Cheese Board
My basic principle is to pick things that I like to eat that are in season and pile it all on a board for easy snacking. When prepping your cheese board make sure you think about all the elements you need: a variety of cheeses, sweet, salty, crunchy, savory, jam-y- ensuring that you’re satisfying each flavor and texture “bucket”. I think simplicity is best when putting together cheese board, don’t over think it, you cannot mess up cheese. The one thing I don’t recommend is pre-slicing your cheese. Even if you have a hard cheese, let your guests do this so they can pick their portion.
Step One: Pick a Board
Sounds simple, but there are three varieties: slate, marble, and wood. There are advantages and disadvantages of each type. Slate. Advantage- you can write on the board with chalk, very easy to transport, and great contrast for your cheese items. Disadvantage: they break easily and can be costly if not found on sale. Marble. Advantage- you can use this more than just for cheese, very trendy right now, and holds cold temperature well preserving your cheese and fruit a little longer than other materials. Disadvantage- very heavy and hard to transport. Wood. Advantage- clean surface that can be used as a cutting board, etc. Disadvantage- the grooves you make in wood from knives tend to hold bacteria if not cleaned properly.
Pro Tip: Choose a smaller board so that you can fill it up quicker and more affordably. This is one of my favorite small boards.
Once you have your backdrop, you need some knives. There are quite a few great varieties from Crate & Barrel, Target and Williams Sonoma (like these) that I really like that cover all your cheese knives needs: cheese fork, hard, soft and semi-soft knives.
<< Shop for Boards and Cheese Knives below by using the left and right arrow to explore >>
Step Two: Add your Cheese
This is where you need to think strategically about where you source your cheese. There are tons of places out there that sell specialty cheeses where you’ll spend $200 on the cheese alone without the accouterments, but I find popping into Earth Fare is where I’m going to get the most bang for my buck when I’m looking for unique cheeses. Earth Fare does all the hard work for you so you can pop in and get the cheese you need and know that it is organic, free of hormones and antibiotics.
When it comes to choosing cheese for your cheese board you want to have one of each variety: soft, semi-soft, hard and something local. I accomplish these with goat cheese (soft), manchego (semi-soft), gouda (semi-soft), parmesan (hard), and I like to throw in something Georgia made for a little local flair.
Step Three: Add Your Accoutrements
Once you have your cheese placed on the board, you’ll want to add your salty things next. The greatest thing about a cheeseboard is the variety of textures and flavors that are loaded up in one place for quick grabbing. Salty items include nuts, olives, and charcuterie (salami, prosciutto, other cured meats). When you’ve layered in your salty, move onto the sweet which consists of dried and fresh fruit and jams. I always like separating my jams into little bowls (like these coquettes from le Creuset or these glass prep bowls). When you’re selecting fruit, I like to mix in cheap crowd-pleasing fillers (like sliced apples or grapes) and then one seasonal (like fig or peach slices). Apricots and Dates make great dried fruit additions.
Step Four: Add your Cheese Vehicles.
A cheese vehicle, that sounds delicious way to transport yourself. Fortunately or unfortunately, this cheese vehicle is going to be presented as crackers, bread, breadsticks, or whatever starchy, carby thing you want to use to deliver the cheese from plate to mouth. As with the rest of the items on this board, the vehicles should have a variety of textures and tastes. Typically I sub them into categories: soft and fresh, salty and snappy, herby and seedy.
Step Five: Add Honey and Fresh Herbs for Garnish
This is where you start to fill in the depth of flavor and the empty spaces of your board. I like adding fresh herbs to lend some nice aromatics to the board and then will plop a square of honeycomb in the middle. Since we are moving into Autumn I find that thyme and sage work really nicely with autumn fruits like plums and figs. Garnish isn’t necessary, but it adds to the fun of eaching cheese as a meal, right?
While cheese boards are great for entertaining and large crowds, don’t discount these skills for the one-off pajama night you have reserved at home in front of the TV with a bottle of wine. I love putting together a cheese board for myself and do it regularly for other people. As of late, we’ve been doing musical happy hour at my friend’s houses where one person brings the wine and the other prepares the cheese.
Thanks to Earth Fare who provided me with a gift card to use at their store to purchase the cheese and charcuterie. Although this post has a sponsored element, all opinions are my own.