Selecting and Serving Cheese

Shopping for cheese can be as much fun as serving it to guests.

First, some basics. Cheese is defined as a food product made from the pressed curd of milk. Like wine, natural cheese is thought of as a living food because of the friendly, living bacteria that are continually changing it.

The term natural is used to distinguish cheeses that will ripen over time from processed cheeses, which will not.

If your market features a special cheese section, become familiar with the types it offers. Larger cities may have special cheese shops; and many cheeses are available through a wide range of mail-order sources.

Look for cheeses that are neatly sliced and wrapped, with appropriate signs of aging and ripeness. Some cheeses may be highly aromatic, even pungent, but they should not smell strongly of ammonia; that indicates that the cheese is well past its prime. There should be no signs of drying or cracking, evidence the cheese has not been handled properly.

Cheeses are relatively expensive, so once you purchase them, wrap them well and refrigerate. Fresh soft cheeses can last under home-storage conditions for three or four days. Semisoft, hard, and blue cheeses can last about two weeks.

Arrange the cheese and let come to room temperature about one to two hours before you plan to serve it. This process, known as aromatization, brings out the fullest flavor of the cheese. A cheese board is a traditional way to present cheese. Line the board decoratively with clean nontoxic leaves.

Serving platters, mirrors or marble pieces are also effective ways to present cheese.

If you are serving cheeses in blocks, be sure to provide knives. Use small tongs or forks for sliced cheeses.

Bread and crackers have a natural affinity with cheese. They can be subtly flavored or they may add some kick of their own. Sourdough, country style or peasant breads, rye, pumpernickel or crackers from strongly flavored grains such as rye or whole wheat or those with added flavors, including seeds, spices, peppercorns and cheese, can all be effective.

Add some fresh and dried fruits and nuts to the display, both for appearance and the refreshing counterpoint they add to the cheese experience.

Select the accompaniments with the same care you did the cheese.

Source: Culinary Institute of America
 

 



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