Deciding what to serve at a party or casual evening with friends doesn’t have to be tricky. One great staple for any get-together is the cheese tray: dependable, customizable, and delicious.
Who doesn’t love a cheese or two, crackers and maybe some additional snacks? We’ve rounded up three secrets to remember when creating your own cheese tray.
Choosing the Cheese
The first step in creating the perfect cheese tray is, of course, choosing the cheese. It’s easy to get intimidated sorting through cases of cheese varieties at the grocery store, but the word ‘wrong’ can never be used when selecting cheese. There might be ones that you don’t care for as much as others, but that’s the beauty of cheese trays – you and your guests can try new varieties and explore new tastes.
Once you’ve determined the number of guests you’ll have in attendance, a good rule to follow for proper cheese amount is 2 to 4 ounces of each cheese per person.
The majority of cheese falls within four categories: soft, aged, blue and firm. Try to incorporate one cheese from each category.
Example cheese choices are:
- Soft: Brie, Camembert, Feta, or Ricotta Salata
- Aged: Cheddar, Comte or Goat Gouda
- Blue: Stilton, Gorgonzola or Cashel Bleu
- Firm: Asiago, Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano
Cheese is great on its own, but it’s even better when paired with fruit, nuts or crackers. Try adding in something from the savory, sweet or wheat categories to jazz up your cheese tray.
- Something Savory: Olives, artichokes, nuts and meats such as prosciutto, salami or pepperoni can be eaten with the cheese or as good palate cleansers in between bites.
- Something Sweet: Honey, jams or jellies, dried cranberries, and fresh fruit such as strawberries, grapes or figs add a pop of freshness.
- Something Wheat (or gluten free, of course): Baguettes, and crackers, and pretzels, oh my! A little crunch is always a great addition to your cheese tray. One thing to remember is to choose the non-flavored versions of your favorite crunchy snack because too many additional flavors can overwhelm the cheese flavors.
Serving the Cheese
Cheese trays can be plated on whatever you have on hand. It’s best to choose a tray or plate large enough to leave room for guests to serve their cheeses without being squished. It might also be wise to label each cheese with a toothpick flag or mini chalkboard, particularly for cheeses that are uncommon to guests.
While it’s important to take proper food safety precautions, over-refrigerating your cheese can ruin its natural flavors. Thirty minutes to an hour before guests arrive, take the cheese out of the fridge and let it rest on the counter to bring out the subtleties of each cheese flavor.
Finally don’t forget the napkins, plates and one small knife for each cheese on the tray. Using separate knives helps keep the cheese flavors distinct and uncontaminated.
Cheese trays don’t have to be difficult. Remember to have fun when choosing your cheeses and don’t forget the three secrets to a great cheese tray. If you’re ever in a bind and need an effortless cheese tray, our ready-to-order cheese trays are here to help! To order yours today, visit your local Homeland or order online.