Ever notice how guests seem to gather – or crowd – around a great cheese platter? Loved by guests, as well as the wise host, a cheese platter has become a staple appetizer at any party. Creating a great cheese platter can be intimidating with so many cheese options, not to mention pickles, jellies and cracker choices.

Here are 8 tips to help you build the perfect local cheese platter this season.

Tip #1: Think about variety.
Offer cheeses of different textures, colours, and with flavours ranging from mild to strong. A typical cheese platter offers an aged cheese, a soft cheese, a firm cheese, and a blue cheese. You could also consider offering cheeses of different categories based on their animal origin (e.g. cow, sheep, or goat). It’s best to have at least one cheese on your platter that is familiar to most people. 4-5 types of cheese is usually plenty for a standard party – you don’t want to overwhelm peoples’ palates and you want to be sure to leave enough space on the platter for complimentary items after all.

Tip #2: Be mindful of temperature.
Though cheese is typically stored in the refrigerator, it is actually served best when at room temperature. Allow your cheese to sit out for about an hour before serving so it is not too cold. Being at room temperature will help to better bring out the natural flavours in the cheese.

Tip #3: Leave Space.
When deciding on the placement of your cheese, keep in mind that that the flavours and smells of cheese can transfer over to one another. For this reason, it’s best not to place different types of cheese too close together and it is wise to place mild smelling cheese on the opposite side of the platter from stronger smelling options.

Tip #4: To Slice Or Not To Slice.
Some people feel it is best to cut up the cheese prior to serving to make it easier for guests, while others like to display the whole piece of cheese and let people slice it themselves. Consider the type of party you are having, and the visual elements you want incorporated to your cheese platter to decide what works best for you. Maybe you will slice up the firmer cheese, but not the soft one. If slicing ahead of time, do it just prior to serving to help maintain flavour. If offering full blocks of cheese, provide a different knife for each cheese so the flavours don’t transfer.

Tip #5: Choose pairings wisely.
Just as with the cheese, you’ll want to offer a variety of pairings but not so many that it takes away from the main attraction (the cheese!). As a general rule of thumb, have one pairing, maybe two if you have a larger group of people coming and are making a bigger platter, from each of the following categories;

  • Grains (crackers, breads, etc.)
  • Sweet (fruits, spreads, etc.)
  • Savory or Salty (meats, pickles, nuts, etc.)

When choosing your pairings, think about what types of things will pair well with not just one type of cheese but a variety, and remember to provide any necessary utensils.

Tip #6: Keep spreads separate.
Jams and chutneys are great choices for a sweet pairing and taste delicious on top of many cheeses, but steer clear of dumping an entire spread over the cheese before serving. It is usually best to put spreads in a separate bowl or jar on your cheese platter. This way, you avoid overpowering the cheese with the spread, and it gives guests more availability to mix and match their cheese and

Tip #7: Label the different cheeses on your platter.
Consider writing labels for the different types of cheese so people know what they are. You could write up little labels or purchasing a chalkboard style cheese platter where you can write the name of the cheese directly beside it on the board. Think of it as one way to show off your selection of local cheeses – That Dutchman’s, Ran-Cher Acres, Fox Hill Cheese House!

Tip #8: Remember to provide beverages.
Many drinks compliment cheese very well, so when you are at the farmers’ market picking up your cheese platter ingredients, be sure to pick up some local wines and craft beer as well. You could think about grabbing a bottle of red, a bottle of white, and both light and dark beers to compliment a variety of different cheese flavours – and to keep everyone’s taste buds happy!

The best part about building a great local cheese platter; you can pick up everything you need at the farmers’ markets all year round! Click here to find a market near you.

Written by: Laura Woodworth, St. Francis Xavier University Dietetic Intern

“If you buy from your neighbour, your neighbour can buy from you. And it is nice to know where your food comes from.”
– That Dutchman’s Cheese