Whether you’re planning to host a holiday party, plan a networking event, prepare for a wine tasting or even just get together a delicious afternoon snack, knowing the best way to pair different meats and cheeses is guaranteed to make a good impression. A platter of meats and cheeses can feed a hungry crowd, or maybe you’re thinking of sending a meat and cheese gift basket to a friend or loved one. Whatever the case may be, you’ll need to decide which cheeses & meats to serve, with an eye for proper proportions of each!
Before you get started, take a mental note of how many people you are serving. It is generally recommended you have at least 1-2 ounces of each type of cheese available for each person, with complimentary meats to match!
Choosing the Cheese
Your first step in preparing a meat and cheese platter is understanding the types of cheese you are working with. There are literally hundreds of unique types of cheese you can taste from around the world, too many to get into here! For our purposes and your own, you’ll want to consider how ‘hard’ the cheese is. This gives a good idea of a specific cheese’s moisture content, texture, and flavor.
Soft cheeses hold a lot of moisture and tend to have less flavor & aroma than their harder cousins. Some of the most popular “soft cheeses” include Havarti & Muenster.
Pro Tip: A soft, blended cheese spread is perfect for dipping veggies or spreading on gourmet crackers!
Medium-hard cheeses make up a broad category that has noticeably less moisture & more flavor. Popular styles such as Swiss, Gruyere, and Gouda fall into this category – each well known for a distinctive flavor and soft, almost creamy texture. Medium-hard cheeses are ideal for melting, and are excellent choices for paninis, grilled sandwiches, and toast.
Hard cheeses have the lowest moisture content of all three categories, and are often packed into molds or rinds and aged for a much longer period of time. The most famous in this family, Cheddar, is made right here in Wisconsin and a long time Figi’s Favorite. Some hard cheeses like Cheddar have a noticeable ‘bite’ or acidity to them, but not every member of the family is quite so sharp. Montery Jack & Colby, bot hard cheeses, have a softer, almost nutty flavor. The hardest cheeses in this category are typically reserved for grating (think Parmesan & Romano), and are not ideal for most cheese platters.
Now that we’re more familiar with our types of cheese, let’s dig into some pairing suggestions!
1. The Ham Sandwich
Perhaps the most classic lunchtime fare, the ham sandwich represents a natural partnership between the salty-sweet lunch meat and a number of delicious cheeses. The key to finding the best cheese to pair with ham is to choose one with complimentary flavor and texture. If your ham is smoked, toasted or particularly sweet, a softer cheese like Muenster or Swiss is an excellent choice. For ham that is more salty than smoky, a hard cheese with more acidity creates a great flavor balance. Try our Classic Aged Cheddar or a smooth Monterey Jack.
2. The Turkey Combo
Turkey is an easy favorite during the holidays for obvious reasons, but choosing which cheese to compliment your bird can be more of a challenge. While white meat is usually dry and less flavorful, the dark meat stands in stark contrast with both taste and texture. For white meat, we recommend a more flavorful cheese like Wisconsin Colby or Gouda. For dark turkey meat, cut the flavor with a spicy, Pepper Jack cheese or a soft, buttery Swiss.
3. With Roast Beast
Roast beef brings a lot of flavor to the table, so this combination will depend a great deal on your tastes. Choose a medium provolone or aged Swiss to compliment the flavor, or let the beef do more of the talking with a smooth Havarti.
4. Summer Sausages
Our Summer Sausages pair best with medium-hard to hard cheeses. The flaky texture of aged cheddar pairs perfectly with almost any slice of sausage. If you prefer a cheese that isn’t quite as sharp, try Brick cheese, Colby Jack, or American cheeses.
5. The Best Cheese for a Burger
This is the category with perhaps the most contention anywhere you look. Some people are die-hard cheddar-on-a-burger-or-nothing types, some prefer the intensity of Blue Cheese or Gorgonzola, while still others prefer everything from Swiss to Monterey Jack. Ultimately, it’s the chef’s choice, and we recommend you choose a soft to medium-hard cheese that will melt perfectly into your patty. Our favorite is Gruyere!
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