We asked Nigel White, cheese expert and secretary of the British Cheese Board for his tips on serving British cheese this Christmas.
Don’t overdo it
It might be tempting to dot your fridge with lots of wedges of various cheeses, so you can be sure everyone will like something.
Or, you might just choose varieties you personally like. Nigel suggests, for the perfect cheeseboard, buying between five and seven varieties of cheese. ‘This is the time of year not only to offer friends and family your favourite cheeses but also to try something different,’ he told Yahoo! Lifestyle. Aim for cheeses with different textures, colours and flavours and only buy as much as you need.
[Related: How to cook the perfect Christmas dinner]
‘If you do have some hard cheese left over,’ Nigel says, ‘then simply grate and freeze it.’ He adds that you can freeze Blue Stilton in 250g portions for up to 3 months, and then defrost slowly in the fridge, to avoid waste.
Also, don’t just serve cheese straight from the fridge - bringing it to room temperature allows the flavours and natural textures of the cheese to develop.
Try British Cheeses
Surprisingly, there are more than 700 named varieties of British cheese. Nigel suggests starting with your favourite Mature or Extra Mature Cheddar - ranging from the sweet and creamy Davidstow to a tangy and more complex West Country Farmhouse Cheddar. Also, try a ripe and soft Somerset, Cornish or Welsh Brie. As well as Blue Stilton, Nigel also suggests serving a soft goat’s cheese, ‘like Gevrik from Cornwall, Capricorn from Somerset or a soft, creamy goat’s cheese from Delamere Dairies.'
British goat’s cheese does have a more mellow, milder flavour than French goat’s cheese, so it’s worth trying, especially if you’ve tried Continental varieties before. Finally, Nigel recommends serving a blended cheese - ‘such as Wensleydale with Cranberries or White Stilton with Mango and Ginger.’
We always think of Stilton, British Brie or Cheddar when we think of British cheeses, but what about other, less well-known types? We have a huge range to choose from, including the nutty, Aged Red Leicester or creamy Lancashire cheese. Look out for artisan cheeses produced near where you live, or if you’re going out of town to visit friends or go shopping, why not stop at a deli and pick up a wedge of local cheese while you’re there? Try Wyfe of Bath, Hampshire Tunworth or a Yarg, which is either wrapped in nettle or wild garlic leaves.
All the trimmings
So you’ve got your cheese. But what do you serve with it? ‘Try crusty bread or plain biscuits that aren't too salty,’ Nigel suggests. ‘Accompaniments could include fresh or dried fruits, and celery as well as various sweet chutneys according to your preferences’. It’s also worth mentioning that sweet chilli jam or chilli jelly is excellent with cheese, especially soft Bries and creamy Cheddars.
Also, look out for membrillo, a quince paste which is traditionally eaten in Spain with Manchego, but makes an interesting accompaniment to any cheese. Some cheeses also pair well with nuts, for example blue cheese is often served with walnuts.
Don’t just crack open the port
Cheese and crackers is traditionally served with port, right? Not always. Nigel says that drinks are ‘very much a matter of personal preference’, but we don’t always need to reach just for the port. ‘Pudding wines seem to work particularly well with most cheeses’, he says. ‘For stronger cheeses a robust red wine will be a good partner, whilst for milder cheeses a fruity white wine will act as a nice complement’.
Nigel also suggests trying a small brandy with Brie or serving Blue Stilton with a shot of malt whisky with a little water. ‘And for the beer lovers’, he says, ‘the high alcohol special brews work a treat with many of the cheeses’.
Which are your favourite British cheeses? Which cheeses will you be serving this Christmas? Let us know over on Twitter with #YLifestyleChristmascheese