Whether you invite friends for appetizers, want to create an easy pre-dinner nibble or decide to make a meal out of one of these fabulous arrays of deliciousness, here are some tips on how to create a great cheeseboard.
My daughter, Cait has a wonderful talent for putting together a fabulous cheese board. Several weeks ago I asked her to bring an appetizer for a family get-together at our home. After arriving with a bag of goodies, I watched her, quickly and effortlessly, throw together the most gorgeous array of cheese, crackers, fruit, nuts, whipped, honey jam, etc. Within minutes it was ready to be enjoyed, as everyone gathered around the delicious appetizer tray.
I’d seen Cait make wonderful cheese boards many times before but it really struck me this time; what an easy, elegant, minimal-effort entertaining option this is. When I asked if she would mind sharing her cheeseboard tips on the blog, she readily agreed. I’ll sign off and introduce you to Cait, wife to Josh, mom to Annie, Elle, Lilly and Luke (oops, almost forgot Crockett!), RN (in another life, before kids), Pilates instructor and best daughter a mom could have!
How to create a great cheeseboard
This is kind of embarrassing, so shhh… but if I’m honest I’d eat from a cheeseboard for dinner instead of actually HAVING dinner…anywhere!
It all started when we moved to England 10 years ago. Not long after having arrived, we were kindly invited to ‘tea’ by some new-found friends. Now, for the American readers, if I invited you to ‘tea’ you’d think I was inviting you to come to drink tea – right?
We totally missed the boat with that assumption.’Tea’ in England has multiple meanings, but what our sweet friends meant was a unique and quite useful invitation that meant to get together late afternoon, feed the children dinner while the adults ate appetizers and often had drinks.
We left that day so pleasantly surprised at how the whole thing went, we were able to get together with another family, our little ones were fed and the adults enjoyed a happy hour while the children played…it was wonderful!
So, we adopted the practice ourselves and now 10 years on and back in the States we still invite our friends over for tea. It took a few reps for them to catch on, but now they are all big fans of ‘tea’ in the British sense of the word as well!
What to include for a great cheeseboard
But, I digress… back to the cheeseboard situation. One of the many things I learned whilst in London is the joy of a well put together cheeseboard – so, quite often that’s what I serve whilst hosting tea. I typically aim to include the following:
- a soft goat’s cheese
- a blue cheese (Maytag blue or Roquefort are my favs)
- a nice sharp cheddar, sliced
- fruit- typically apple slices, grapes, cherries or blackberries if they’re in season
- a chutney or fruit spread designed to be served with cheese (Here I used a fig jam from the Dalmatia region of Croatia, surprisingly it’s easy to find at least on the east coast of the US and isn’t terribly pricey…but it’s SO good!)
- 2 types of crackers, one being water crackers
- fine celery sticks (which I forgot to bring when we were shooting this cheese board!)
I generally find my cheese at a typical grocery store but in the specialty cheese section or deli area (not the cheese aisle).
Optional cheeseboard items
- a Spanish cheese like manchego
- creamed honey or honeycomb
- thinly sliced meats
- quartered figs if they’re soft and in season
Tips for plating a cheeseboard
When plating everything I try to make sure there are knives for each of the cheeses and space to cut the soft cheese- but otherwise I just pile it on the board. I think the haphazardness of it makes it even more enjoyable, as it makes the vibe more casual.
There are rarely leftovers, so I guess I’m not the only one in love with a great cheese board!
Serving ideas for a cheeseboard
As far as how to present your cheeseboard, the sky’s the limit. Go with your favorite platter or wooden board, a slab of slate… Here are a few of our favorites:
Spreads, chutneys and jellies
A chutney, relish or pepper jam adds a delicious element to a cheese tray and is very well received. As mentioned above, one of our faves is Dalmatia Fig Spread but we also have some wonderful jam and jelly recipes that are fabulous on a cheeseboard. Check them out:
Easy Strawberry Jalapeño Jam – it’s sweet, spicy and extraordinarily delicious! It’s wonderful spooned over goat cheese, cream cheese and on appetizer trays. But don’t stop there, read on for lots of other ways to use this wonderful condiment!
Sweet and spicy, this Pineapple Habanero Pepper Jelly is delicious on cheese trays and makes a wonderful grilling glaze.
Cranberry Sriracha Pepper Jelly – this stuff is crazy good! We love it spooned over cream cheese and served with crackers but it also makes a wonderful glaze for chicken, pork, salmon, etc.
Keep a stash of these Cranberry Clementine Conserves handy for a super easy and absolutely delicious appetizer. It’s also fabulous for gift giving!
Mango Sriracha Chutney – this stuff is crazy good and so… versatile. It’s fabulous for appetizers, as a sandwich spread, a base for pizza, a glaze for grilled chicken…
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