You don’t need us to explain why cheese and cider are so great together (so great, in fact, that some cheese makers have even begun washing their cheeses with cider). But, that’s not to say that all cheese and cider pairings are created equal, because they’re not. Playing with texture, flavor, acidity and sweetness, you can take a pairing from tasty to transcendent with a few well-played moves.
Here are our tips for creating an awesome cheese board, and a few ciders to think about sipping along with it!
- Pony up those pennies: When it comes to choosing your cheese, as with most specialty foods, go for the best quality you can afford. When it comes to a cheese board, quality should outweigh quantity; instead of a giant hunk of cheese, choose smaller pieces that will really deliver on amazing flavor.
- Ask for help: A market or shop with cheese-mongers on staff is the right place to start. A well-informed monger can help guide your choices and provide you with samples to try before buying.
- Curate your curds: Create depth and interest in the cheese board by choosing a few different textures and flavors of cheese. Go for a stinky soft ripened cheese with a sharp, hard aged cheese, or a pungent mold-veined sheep’s milk blue with a mild, buttery cow’s milk melter. A cheese-monger can also help you choose cheeses that will complement each other without being redundant.
- Stay seasonal: The heat of summer might not be the right time for overly rich, decadent cheeses. Go for light, clean cheeses, made from the rich milk of animals who’ve enjoyed a few months of grazing on spring grasses. In colder temps, reach for dank, creamy rounds and bold, salty aged wedges for decadent cozy vibes. Or, mix and match your favorites no matter the time of year!
A Sample Cheese Board
Goat: We live for bloomy, soft-ripened goat cheeses like Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog. This creamy, dreamy handcrafted cheese features a distinctive ribbon of edible vegetable ash throughout. Tasting notes include floral, herbaceous and clean citrus.
Cow: A smoky, complex blue like Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue, adds a meaty, assertive note to the board. Rogue’s Caveman manages to be rugged and sweet and fruity at the same time, with slight vanilla tones and a buttery texture. Cave-aged for at least six months, this bodacious blue tastes of sweet, fresh buttermilk with tasting notes of beef, bacon, tropical fruit, grass and hay.
Sheep: A firm, slightly grainy sheep’s milk cheese rounds out the board. Look for something like the Berkswell from Neal’s Yard or Malvarosa from Murray’s in NYC. A nice Manchego works well, too.
Accompaniments: Fresh fruit is a must — think berries, grapes, sliced apples, pears, oranges, etc. — as is wildflower honey (local, if possible) and a sourdough baguette. For a more substantial plate, add in mild, buttery olives, like Castelvetrano, and a not-too-spicy cured meat, like saucisson sec — we like this one from Olympia Provisions.
Cider Pairings: For happy hour snacky times, rosé cider is always a winner. This style can pair very well with cheese, but avoid ciders that are too sweet or with a large list of adjunct flavors. A little funk is welcome, too, so something wild-fermented is preferable, like Pinot N’arlet from Ploughman Ciders or any kind of naturally sparkling pét-nat cider. If you like ciders with fruit, reach for something like Virtue Cider’s Michigan Cherry, Two Broads Ciderworks‘ Kumquat May, or Reverend Nat’s Hallelujah Hopricot. Want to stick with more serious ciders? Try something bright, citrusy, and maybe a little wild, like South Hill Cider’s 2019 Sparkling Packbasket, made from wild foraged seedling apple and pear trees. Or, if pure apple-iness is what you crave, pop something a bit more straightforward like Albemarle CiderWorks’ Red Hill or Milk & Honey Cider’s 2019 Estate.
Inspired to use more cider in the kitchen? Check out our cider recipes, and our series of cider and food pairings!
- Photos: Dish Works