Christmas is not in tinsel and lights and outward show. The secret lies in an inner glow. It’s lighting a fire inside the heart. Good will and joy a vital part. It’s higher thought and a greater plan. It’s glorious dream in the soul of man. – Wilferd Peterson
Photo by BOSKA
During the holidays we look forward to indulging in foods we don’t normally eat during less festive months of the year. That is why at Herma’s Cheese Shop, during the month of December, we make available an abundance of special, hard-to-find cheeses that will allow you and your friends to make merry in the very best of ways.
If you live in and around Northumberland County, you are just a hop, skip and a jump away from all sorts of lovely artisan cheeses – cheeses that are usually only available in sophisticated parts of large, thriving metropolises.
Below are some guidelines for entertaining with cheese this holiday season we thought might be helpful.
Creating a Stunning Cheese Platter for the Holidays
Follow these 10 suggestions for creating a stunning cheese tray this holiday season.
1. How many cheeses?
Serve 3 or 5 types of cheeses. The French feel that placing objects in odd numbers is aesthetically pleasing, therefore they have a tradition of serving cheese only in odd numbers of three, five or seven.
2. How much of each cheese should you purchase?
2-3 ounces of each variety per person is a good rule to follow.
3. What types of cheeses should you include on your tray?
Variety is key. Consider texture, how hard or soft the cheese is and try not to have two of the same type. Think maybe Brie, Blue, Cheddar, Gouda, Gorgonzola or Parmesan.
4. How should you arrange cheeses on your tray?
Some say you should arrange your cheeses in a clockwise direction from mild to strong. This, of course, is up to you. There is no reason to be that precise. But do consider spreading them out in a pleasing manner and place whatever compliments each cheese near and around it.
5. Add height to your tray.
If you can add one or two items that will have food seen at different levels, it will make your tray more interesting. Consider these ideas…a glass of prosciutto-wrapped bread sticks or Herma’s Signature Marinated Goat Cheese Rounds in a long-stemmed glass.
Our featured photo from the Grapevine Magazine.
6. Bring cheese to room temperature.
Make sure to get your cheeses out of the fridge early so that they are not cold when guests arrive.
One suggestion is to place your cheese on a nice wooden board and cover with damp tea towel for two hours. This will not only bring the cheese to room temperature but will offer just the right amount of humidity as well.
7. Don’t forget cheese knives.
Never mix and mingle utensils. Each cheese, preserve and meat should have their own knife, spreader, spoon or fork. We suggest using BOSKA’s cheese knives.
8. Nuts make great palate cleansers.
When you are taste-testing cheeses, a few nuts between tastings will help cleanse your palate so that you are ready to sample another cheese. Therefore, be sure to keep a bowl of walnuts or pecans on the cheese tray or nearby.
9. Pairing crackers with your cheese.
Pair hard cheeses with crisp crackers and soft, runny cheeses with baguette or our homemade crostini.
10. Charcuterie Choices
At Herma’s we carry a lovely selection of Prosciutto, Fennel Salami and Porchetta from Italy. Have them cut to your liking. We also carry encased salamis like Artisanal Salami from the Great Canadian Meat Company – a crowd favourite and Sopresetta – our favourite .
Just choose one or two meats. – We suggest a cured meat that may be sliced thin, along with an encased salami. – Lay cured meat in pretty folds on the tray. Slice encased salami so that they make circles and fan out like dominos here and there on tray.
Also try serving Herma’s Liver Pate – another crowd favourite!
To take entertaining a step further consider serving the Village Grocer’s Flank Steak sliced thin along side a blue cheese. Mmm…delicious.
Twelve Cheeses of Christmas
Most of the decadent cheeses we love to enjoy over the holidays are soft and sometimes runny. Keep in mind, however, that we also carry hardy Cheddars, Goudas along with crumbly Parmesan to contrast this soft textured group of cheeses below.
As you read on, you will find that we have listed 12 showstopper cheeses that are available in our Cheese Shop – special for the holidays.
1. Truffle Brie is decadent and sure to be the star of any holiday party as it combines two of our favourite foods. Absolute heaven when paired with champagne.
2. Torta Paradiso Gorgonzola with walnuts is unique and special for the holidays. This rich, soft Gorgonzola is covered with walnuts and oh what a treat. Only available over the holidays!
3. P’tit Basque is a raw sheep’s milk cheese produced in the Basque region of the Pyrenees Mountains. Its flavour is creamy and sweet with a nutty finish, texture is smooth and it gives off an aroma similar to that of Crème Brule. Its cylindric shape looks nice amongst other cheeses.
4. Epoisses produced in Burgundy, France is pungent in odour with a lovely, mild flavour. It is intensely creamy and comes in a round crate-like container. It is so runny one could just dip a piece of baguette into it, however a knife for spreading will do just fine if you please. This rust-colored, cow’s milk cheese is said to have been a favourite of Napoleon.
5. Frutta e Grappa di Moscato from Beppino Occelli is made from sheep’s and cow’s milk and is left to age for a minimum of 12 months. This is a beautiful Italian cheese that is topped decoratively with dried fruits soaked in Muscat Grappa. The paste is dense with a moist yet slightly crumbling texture. Lovely addition to your tray for holiday entertaining.
6. Potted Blue Stilton from Clawson not only makes a lovely gift it is also a unique way to serve Stilton at your party. Of course, we also carry the award-winning Colston Bassett Stilton. No matter which one you choose, you will make Stilton lovers very happy.
7. Moro’s Cocktail Collection, as we mentioned last week, are lovely blue cheeses infused with cocktails – Manhattan, Martini, Cosmopolitan and Negroni. A real conversation piece and fun to taste. The colors of cocktails running through the blue-veined cheeses are quite pretty. These blues would be nice served in groups so as to compare the different flavours and their relationship with the blue cheese.
8. Bleu d’Elizabeth from Quebec has a perfect salt balance. Creamy and smooth – just a hint of hazelnuts. An award-winning favourite for traditionalists who like their blues just the way they are.
9. Tete de Moine, literally meaning monk’s head, has been produced for 8 centuries in Switzerland. This cheese is made of cow’s milk and develops its scented flavours only when scraped. Use BOSKA’s Cheese Curler (girolle) to scrape or curl this cheese into pretty rosettes.
Photo by BOSKA
10. Brugge is a prize-winning cheese from Belgium made of cow’s milk. It has a unique and velvety soft taste. Lovely with Champagne.
11. Grey Owl is a surface-ripened goat’s milk cheese produced in Quebec. The dark ash rind contrasts beautifully with its snow-white paste which oozes at the edges. As it melts in your mouth, the smooth, silky texture offers sharp, lemony flavours.
12. Valencay’s interesting truncated pyramidal shape will certainly stand out on a cheese tray. This is a special goat from Berry in central France. It is said that it got its shape from Napoleon who cut the tip of the pyramid shaped cheese off with his sword after returning from an unsuccessful expedition to Egypt. The cheese has kept the shape ever since.
Decorating for the Holidays
Set the stage for your holiday cheese tray with a little evergreen or pine along with a few pinecones in tow. Branches with red berries would also be pretty. Be sure to place just a few of them artfully around but not in the tray. Ha!
Candles add ambience too, but try to keep the fragrance of candles to a minimum as you don’t want them to compete with the aroma of wine and cheese – an important aspect of the tasting experience.
That is all for now!
Go to the following link for our Cheese Tray Ideas for the Holidays part 2. There is more to read about pairing fruits and wine with cheese along with a list of other special cheeses we offer this holiday season…
Savings at Herma’s
20% off ALL Nachtmann
This provides you savings on all their beautiful glassware, vases, bowls, pitchers and more.
Global Knives 3 Piece Set Regularly $420 is NOW $295 while quantities last.
Holiday Food Orders
Order by noon on Wednesday, December 18th to receive turkeys, capons, hams, stuffing , cranberries and gravy for Christmas dinner. Earliest pick up of these foods are Friday, December 20th.
Call 905-885-9250 to order.
We hope to see you in coming days. Best to you and yours as you celebrate this holiday season.
Herma’s Fine Foods & Gifts