How to Serve Cheese

June 8, 2010

Some time ago, I purchased the Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins, published in 1996. I thought I would use it to improve my cheese variety knowledge, but each place has its own kinds of milk, recipes, molds in the air, and techniques that I was overwhelmed.

One thing I did learn from this book was how to serve cheese:

In France, often one, two, or three – rarely more – cheeses are offered as a separate course at dinner. An individual serving is cut from the larger piece, and then put on the diner’s plate, and eaten with a knife and fork. This cheese course is meant to be eaten accompanied by bread and any dinner wine that remains from the main course, or perhaps with a special dessert wine.

In Italy, cheese is often eaten as part of a meal with some form of [cured pork products] and fruit or vegetables, olives, nuts, bread, and wine. It is also frequently served as an appetizer before and evening meal. However, there is an argument in favor of offering cheese after a meal rather than before, as cheese is very filling and may dissipate the enjoyment of the course or courses that follow….

Always serve cheese at room temperature, not cold from the refrigerator. In order to ensure the emergence of its full flavor, always take the cheese out of the refrigerator early enough for it to come to room temperature. Depending on the harness of the cheese, this could take about an hour in cool weather, or in hot weather, as little as 30 minutes. Hard cheeses take longer to come to room temperature than soft ones. When you take it out, leave the cheese wrapped so that the exposed surfaces don’t dry out. Just before you serve the cheese, unwrap it and throw the wrapping away. Never use the same wrapping twice – it won’t reseal properly.

Jenkins goes on to say that he uses a flat surface like a cutting board to cut cheese, as a plate is sort of wobbly. He also recommends using just a good all purpose knife, as they are study and will not flex, though unflavored dental wax might do a better job at cutting fresh cheeses, though I have problems hitting my knuckles with that technique.

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