Top 10 ingredients for creating the perfect Christmas cheeseboard

A cheeseboard at Christmas is one of those food traditions that many households would not be without. But this year, why not try something slightly different, and make sure your cheeseboard is made up of a delicious variety of unusual British cheeses?

With more than 700 named cheeses of outstanding quality currently being made in the UK, you’ll be spoilt for choice. British cheese is amongst the best in the world (in fact our Cheddar is the best in the world – we invented it!) so make sure you check the label when you’re stocking up on festive cheeses, to ensure the cheese you’re buying is British.

For the ultimate Christmas cheeseboard the British Cheese Board recommends selecting between three and five cheeses of different types, colours and textures:

1) A hard cheese
Keen’s West Country Farmhouse Cheddar – for those who enjoy a strong, mature and farmy flavoured cheddar
West Country Farmhouse Cheddar is a Protected Designation of Origin and can only be made in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset or Dorset from local milk. Keen’s cheddar is made from raw milk produced by the Keen’s own cows, grazing the lush pastures on the edge of the Blackmore Vale. Great attention is given to the cows, their feed, and the milk they produce. As the cheese matures all the sweet creamy flavours in the milk create a rich complex array of tastes which wake up the taste buds. Flavours will vary throughout the year.

Or Belton’s Cheshire cheese – for those who enjoy a milder, young cheese with a fresh taste
Young Cheshire is a slightly crumbly and silky textured cheese with fresh milky flavour.
As Cheshire matures so it becomes firmer in texture and slightly darker in colour. The flavours become more complex but the cheese remains clean tasting; the crumbly texture remains but the cheese has a drier mouth feel

Or an Extra Mature Creamery Cheddar – like Davidstow, Tickler, Lake District, Colliers or Seriously Strong – These cheeses are typically matured for between 9 and 18 months
-extra mature for extra flavour and a long lasting finish.

2) A soft cheese
The Lubborn Creamery’s Somerset Ripening Brie
Somerset Brie is creamy with a mild, fresh flavour and a soft edible white rind. It is made with milk from local farms and traditionally ripened. The curd is the colour of straw, and as it ripens from the outside in, it becomes softer, richer and with a fuller flavour.

Cornish Country Larder’s Cornish Camembert
Handmade at the Cornish creamery, this Camembert has been carefully developed to give a delicious full bodied flavour one would normally only expect from an un-pasteurised cheese. It has a melting, smooth texture and a wonderfully complex and tangy flavour.

3) A blue cheese
Blue Stilton – for those who enjoy a strong flavoured blue cheese, with a soft and creamy texture
Blue Stilton is honoured with a certification trademark and Protected Designation of Origin status, meaning it can only be made in the counties of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire to a specified recipe. There are just 6 dairies in the world allowed to use the name on their cheese. It is smooth and creamy with a slightly acidic flavour when young. As it matures so the texture becomes softer and creamier with a mellow flavour. A remarkable cheese for melting or crumbling over salads – definitely not just for the cheeseboard. For a more mellow flavor look for cheeses labeled as “Creamy” or “Mature” – this means they have been matured for a few weeks longer and tend to have a more mellow, less sharp flavour.

Blue Wensleydale – for newcomers to blue cheese, who may be looking for a blue cheese with a delicate and mellow flavour
A creamy blue cheese, Wensleydale Blue from the Wensleydale Creamery has a mellow, yet full flavour, which will appeal to newcomers to blue cheese & connoisseurs alike. This cheese was awarded Supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards in 2012.

Cornish Blue – for those who prefer a milder, creamy blue cheese
Designed to be eaten as a young cheese, Cornish Blue is a very different product from traditional English blue cheeses. It is soft and moist when young and similar in flavour to some continental blues; As it matures further for up to 12 weeks it develops a fuller, slightly tangy flavour and firmer, drier texture.

4) A blended cheese
Wensleydale with Cranberries – for those who enjoy a clean, mild, slightly sweet flavour
Creamy Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese carefully combined with the delicate, fruity succulence of sweetened cranberries. An original creation from The Wensleydale Creamery, the cheese displays an amazing complement of flavours, with superb visual experience.
White Stilton with Mango and Ginger
White Stilton is a perfect base cheese for blending with sweet fruits. White Stilton is made in the same way as Blue Stilton, but without the addition of the blue mould. This creates a wonderfully creamy yet crumbly young cheese that is fantastic on its own, but transformed by the addition of fruits. The most popular fruits to be added are apricot or cranberry, closely followed by mango and ginger.

5) A local/new cheese
Top tip – if you’re able to, always try and include a local cheese or a more unusual variety as well to wow your guests with.
The cheese flavour map (http://apps.facebook.com/cheese-flavour-map/) is designed to help people discover something new, as it guides people through the different flavours of many of the top British cheeses, and offers suggestions of new cheeses to try out.

6) Dress your cheeseboard with fresh fruits, such as grapes, pears or apples but also consider dried fruits such as dates, figs or sultanas

7) Pickles and chutneys
Always help to spice up a cheeseboard. Sweet pickles work especially well, particularly with blue cheeses – try mango chutney with your Stilton for a change.

8] Offer the cheese alongside biscuits or crackers that don’t taste too strong or salty, so that they don’t overpower the flavours of the cheese.

9) If you’re serving Wensleydale or Cheshire on your cheeseboard, why not offer some Christmas cake for a wonderfully festive combination.

10) Finally, for some seasonal flair, spruce up your cheeseboard with some Christmas decorations, such as a sprig or two of holly!

What should you drink with your cheese?

Well whatever you fancy – there are no rules. But whereas traditionally wine experts recommended red wine, today there seems to be a growing belief that fresh, fruity and sweet wines go even better with most cheeses. The tannins in some red wines often clash with the creaminess of the cheese. For a change why not try a pudding wine? And with a strong Cheddar, red wine will generally work well – but equally a high alcohol beer or cider seems to be what the locals in the West Country home of Cheddar seem to prefer.

The British Cheese Board

The British Cheese Board (BCB) is a promotional and educational body for cheese and aims to increase awareness of cheese in the UK, and cheese made by its members in particular, as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

The British Cheese Board was formed in 1995 and its members account for a significant proportion of cheese produced in the UK. The work of the BCB is also supported by associate members who are involved in the cheese supply chain.

To find out more about the Members, and for more ideas about how to use cheese in your cooking, visit www.britishcheese.com.

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