A festive cheese platter can be assembled by serving three to six different cheese varieties or even just a single, carefully selected large cheese of premium quality and a perfect degree of ripeness.
Ideally, choose cheeses that differ from each other in taste, consistency and appearance.
The flavours of the cheeses chosen should vary from mild and moderately flavoured to more robust. They should include soft/fresh cheeses, semi-soft cheeses, firm cheeses and hard cheeses.
Rather than go to your local supermarket for some bulk cheese that has been stored too cold or has not had a chance to age properly, you should seek a specialist cheese vendor who stores each cheese brand at correct temperature and humidity, allowing it to mature naturally, until a suitable degree of ripeness is reached.
- When served at the start or end of a meal, or as a mid-course, provide a total amount of about 45 to 75 grams of cheese for each guest (for example three kinds of different cheeses).
- If the meal consists solely of cheeses, provide a total amount of about 150 to 300 grams of cheese for each guest (for example five kinds of different cheeses).
Calculating the amount of cheese depends also on the amount of other accompaniments that will be served with it.
Choose one to two cheeses from each category listed below.
Read more about Finnish cheeses here.
Fresh/unripened cheeses fromages à pâte fraîche:
cream cheeses plain or flavoured, sweet and/or savoury
Soft cheeses fromages à pâte molle:
Finnish egg cheese
Finnish oven cheese
etc . . .
Semi-soft cheeses fromages à pâte demi-molle:
soft goat cheese (chèvre)
etc . . .
Firm cheeses fromages à pâte pressée:
semi-soft goat cheese (chèvre)
etc . . .
blue cheeses fromages à pâte persillée: Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton, Danablu, Finnish Aura, etc . . .
Hard cheeses fromages à pâte dure:
Emmental (eg Finnish Mustaleima)
etc . . .
parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano)
Accompaniments to cheeses:
etc . . .
Bread, crackers and biscuits:
Fruit, berries, jams, etc:
whole wheat bread
dark, savoury rye bread
sweet rye malt bread
fruit or nut bread
savoury crackers, variously flavoured
gingerbread cookies *)
sweet oat snaps
etc . . .
Nuts and vegetables:
dates fresh or dried
various jams or marmalades: strawberry, lingonberry, rhubarb, rose-hip, fig, quince, etc . . .
etc . . .
shelled nuts: walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, etc . . .
red, yellow and green bell peppers
etc . . .
To enhance their flavour, most cheeses should be brought to room temperature before serving. However, this does not apply to fresh cheeses like cream cheese, ricotta, cottage cheese, egg cheese, quark, etc, because they spoil quickly.
About one or two hours prior to serving, unwrap the cheeses and arrange on the serving platter or plates. If you like, cut the cheeses into blocks, cubes or wedges of suitable sizes. Make sure that the different varieties do not touch each other.
Also, provide a different knife or other cutting device for each cheese. Cover the cheeses loosely with plastic wrap to prevent drying, removing it just before serving.
Instead of serving them in their cartons, tubs, etc, fresh cheeses should be transferred to presentable, clean serving dishes.
Cover the dishes tightly and store in refrigerator until the serving time.
When savouring the cheeses, start with the mildest and lightest varieties, ending with the more robust, strong-flavoured cheeses and blue cheeses.
Wine and cheese:
If you serve wine with the cheeses, there are a few things worth considering when matching the two together.
A rule of thumb is to serve milder cheeses with light wines and stronger cheeses with full-bodied wines.
When tasted together, a wine and cheese should produce a well-balanced, harmonic flavour, without the taste of either one being overly dominant.
One should focus on balancing the acidity and sweetness of wines with the tartness, saltiness and fattiness of cheeses. Also the alcohol content of a wine affects its aroma.
Salty or sour cheeses make wines high in tannins seem to taste sweeter and less acidic. They also make sweet wines taste sweeter. Highly acidic cheeses subdue the sourness of wines, making them taste mellower.
Note that pairing opposite flavours may sometimes produce an interesting taste combination as well. For example, the Scandinavian Christmas time mulled wine, glögg, goes especially well with blue cheese.
Before moving from one cheese or wine to the next one, "clean" your palate by eating a piece of white bread and taking a sip of water.
If you are serving a very diverse array of cheeses, it is best to serve only one type of wine, preferably medium-bodied, mellow red wine or ruby port.
For a non-alcoholic choice, serve 100 percent natural fruit juices, like red grape, apple or pear juice.
Citrus fruit juices are considered too acidic to be served with cheeses.
Besides other beverages, always serve chilled or iced water as well.
Listed below are a few tips for pairing different wine and cheese types:
- Fresh cheeses sparkling wines, champagne, some white and red wines
- Young soft cheeses light and fruity white or red wines
- Mature soft cheeses dry white or red wines
- Goat cheeses dry white wines, light red wines
- Mild semi-soft cheeses dry and light white, rosé or red wines
- Mature semi-soft cheeses full-bodied red wines
- Mild and medium-flavoured firm cheeses dry rosé wines, fruity red wines
- Mature firm cheeses full-bodied red wines, port, sherry
- Blue cheeses sweet white wine (Tokaji, Sauternes), icewine, port, berry wine, berry liqueur, white wine, red wine
- Hard cheeses very dry white wines, full-bodied red wines
Wine and fruits:
Most fresh, sweet or acidic fruits, berries or vegetables alter the taste sensation of wines, making them taste either bitterer, drier or sweeter. This is why many fruits, especially citrus fruits, apple and tomato, are not recommended to be served with wine.
However, many cheeses help to combine the flavour of wine with some fruits, berries and vegetables. Experiment with various wines and fruits to find out how they affect and alter each other's flavour.
*) Spicy-sweet gingerbread cookies form a delicious combination of opposite flavours when served with blue cheese. In addition, serve pieces of apple or pear, some sweet jam and walnuts.
Recipe source: recommendations and tips gained from Valio Ltd, Alko Inc., Les Producteurs laitiers du Canada, Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), and various other sources.