What You Need to Know About Cheese
To be a true turophile (cheese connoisseur), here are five things you need to know
Relaxing over a luxuriously laden cheese platter is a wonderful way to while away an afternoon or evening. To be a true turophile – or cheese connoisseur – here's what you need to know.
What makes the perfect cheeseboard?
Really this come down to taste – however it's always beneficial to include two or three different styles and include both soft and hard rind cheeses, in a range of cow, goat and sheep milk. If you’re not sure how adventurous your guests are, include a crumbly aged cheddar.
Choose how you dress the plate, depending on your cheeses. Washed rind cheese works well with more savoury accompaniments such as spiced fruits. Nuts such as walnuts and hazelnuts with their skins on can be slightly bitter, bringing out the buttery creaminess of soft cheese. Blue cheese pairs well with rich fruits such as figs or prunes. Fresh fruit is ideal for cheese with a subtle flavour like brie or camembert.
Serve cheese with crackers that won’t overpower the taste of the cheese but add texture and crunch.
How to serve cheese
Warm cheese will have greater flavour – if it’s cold that taste will be suppressed and the cheese will be tight rather than unctuous. To serve at room temperature, get it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving in warmer weather, and 60 minutes prior in cooler conditions. That doesn’t mean you need to use the whole piece, you can cut a wedge (it's easier to cut when straight from the fridge) and have only that portion out.
Remember to provide a knife for each cheese. Open-bladed ‘skeleton’ knives help to prevent soft cheeses sticking to the blade. Raised, narrow-handled knives are good for harder cheeses, so your hand doesn’t get caught between the handle and the board as you use pressure to cut through.
How to store cheese
Don’t buy too much cheese - treat cheese purchases as you would fresh meat or flowers and buy only what you can consume within a week. Ask your cheesemonger for ripe cheese, or look in stores for cheese nearing its best before date for optimum flavour.
To ensure your cheese remains in perfect condition once open, wrap the cheese in baking paper and put it in an air-tight container or sealable bag. This will allow the cheese to breathe and protects it from drying out. You can reduce the risk of contamination by putting different cheese in individual air-tight containers.
If mould does form on the surface of hard cheeses, it can be trimmed off. To see how easy mould travels, put a piece of cut cheddar on a plate next to a piece of blue cheese and see how quickly the blue invades the cheddar.
What’s the difference between camembert and brie?
White moulded cheese originated in France. Traditionally brie is made in the Ile de France region and camembert is made in Normandy. Camembert is made as a small round of about 125-250g while brie is a much larger round disk of about 2.5 to 3kg that is cut into wedges. In New Zealand our cheesemakers have their own interpretation so don’t always stick to that tradition.
The difference in taste comes from different breeds of cow, different pastoral and climatic conditions and the cheese sizes. Camembert and brie made in different regions of New Zealand can also have different flavours.
One must mind one’s manners
Never mix cheese knives to avoid mixing flavours, and for those that don’t like blue. But did you know the correct way to eat your cheese is to take a slice or wedge that follows the line from rind to centre. The best part of the cheese is always in the centre, so it’s a real no-no to cut a piece across the sharpest point, leaving the rind end for others.
• The winners of the 2017 NZ Champions of Cheese Awards will be announced on March 14 at the Grand Millennium Hotel in Auckland. You can vote for your favourite cheese in the New World People's Choice category by voting at newworld.co.nz/cheese-awards
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