Cheese is still one of the best appetizers you can serve. You can buy it in advance. It keeps well. It’s easy to serve. It requires little, if any, attention once served. It can stay out for hours. It requires no re-heating. And as if that’s not enough, cheese is still the best-tasting appetizer – in my unbiased opinion.
I just mentioned that you can buy cheese in advance. It seems that most perceive cheese as very perishable and therefore wait until the last minute to purchase. Rest assured that you really do not need to buy the day before. Try purchasing a week away and avoid the long lines. Cheeses cut fresh at time of sale will easily last much more than a week, providing they were cut fresh and wrapped properly at the outset. So, if you want to do a quality control check of your holiday cheese purchases before the party, just be sure to re-wrap properly. To do so, always use fresh cling wrap every time you open your cheese, as it only clings the first time. By using the same wrap, you allow the cheese to dry and mold before its time. Use a fresh piece to re-wrap; you will be happy you did.
Cheese Tray Serving Suggestions
Room temperature cheese is the key to a good tray. This requires taking all cheeses out of the refrigerator at least an hour before serving. Hold off on unwrapping, however, until you are ready to eat. You want the cheese to warm up, but not dry out.
It is always best not to cube cheese; this causes moisture loss and poor taste. In addition, a mess of dried-out cubes leaves little to salvage for another day, should any leftovers remain. Leave cheese in whole wedges, with enough rind removed to allow for easy access by your guests. If you are preparing the tray in advance avoid nestling crackers alongside the cheese. The crackers will absorb moisture and become soft and soggy. It is best to place them nearby in a bowl or a small basket. Open them just before serving.
I like to serve condiments with cheese trays. I prefer to place them on the tray, but not actually on the cheese. Not everyone will like the toppings. Poured directly on the cheese, toppings can become an unattractive mess with no chance of leftovers.
One of our best condiment lines, the very popular Dalmatia Fig spreads, comes from Croatia. Figs and cheese go hand-in-hand. We were very happy to see that Dalmatia increased their product line to add an assortment of new spread flavors such as Green Olive, Black Olive, Red Pepper, Apricot, Tangerine, Sour Cherry, Fig Cocoa, Strawberry and Orange Fig. They not only add great flavor to a tray but really create a beautiful appearance.
Christmas means fondue for me. At least once during the season I must have it. I prefer the traditional Swiss recipe of Emmenthal, Gruyere and a little Appenzeller melted in a dry white wine. Check out the recipe page of our website for my traditional, age-old recipe. Did you know that both the pre-cooked fondue mixture and the finished product freeze very well? We’ve done many tests and it is quite hard to tell the difference. So, you can always have a kit ready in your freezer when the mood strikes for Fondue.
Whether you are making a traditional Swiss Raclette (cheese, potatoes, cornichons) or the American version (which can also include shrimp, chicken, sausage, vegetables etc.), raclette is a great dish. All the elements are prepared in advance so you can enjoy the meal with friends and family. If a raclette grill is not counted among your kitchen gadgets, many retailers rent them. We enjoy raclette cookery all year long. You might find us grilling shrimp and scallops during a hot summer night, but it seems especially festive for the holidays.
Baked Brie or Camembert
The classic Baked Brie (or Baked Camembert) dish is still very relevant and festive for the holidays. The availability of porcelain bakers on the market has done much to grow its appeal and popularity in the last few years. With these bakers, you now have a neat, contained way of serving the appetizer with a superb ability to keep it warm, and even reheat and reuse another day. To add to the appeal, recipe variations are endless. You can invent all kind of flavor combinations using such delicacies as chutneys, preserves, nuts, honeys, herbs, spices, fruit and so on. Please remember that Brie and Camembert are basically the same cheese (the only difference being the region in France that each comes from). They share the same recipes, so don’t get caught up about the name. The degree of ripeness should be your most important consideration.
Gift Boxes and Baskets
“A gift of cheese is sure to please,” we always say. It’s an old saying for me, but still so very true. ‘Tis the season for company and friends getting together; what could be easier or more satisfying then an array of cheese? A useful gift indeed, cheese is.