By now I’m sure you’ve seen the cheese advent calendars running around the internet. Those sure are fun but they really only give you a tiny amount of cheese and come on, most of us want a buffet of cheese! (Am I wrong here?!) In talking with a friend of mine about this advent calendar, I decided to write a series of posts that is in one way an advent calendar but also a treasure hunt. The best part about it though? You’ll have everything you need to create a magnificent grazing board for your Christmas celebrations whether they happen on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. (My family did the majority of celebrating on Christmas Eve, maybe that’s strange?)
This is how it’s going to work. I’m going to break down week by week what you should buy. You can look for these things each day if you want to go advent calendar style or you can just add these products on to your shopping lists to one stop shop. (It’s a hectic time of year, I get it!) I’m going to give some ideas of my favorite products but you should be able to find a comparison item no matter where you shop. Ideally, I would love for you to go to your local cheese shop because you will get the best service and quality but I understand that it isn’t a reality for a whole lot of people.
Are you ready for Week 1?!?
Also known as Membrillo, this paste is a given for any cheese platter. Quince has a higher amount of pectin so it creates a firm paste that is sweet and floral. It’s a natural complement to sheep’s milk cheeses but does really well with any assortment of cheese. Mostly, you’ll find this in a little plastic tub or glass jar somewhere near the cheese department in any store.
Jams and jellies are a great addition to any cheese plate because they break up the fattiness of the cheese and the fruit allows for other flavors to become present in the cheese. It adds texture, sweetness, and color to a board that may have varying notes of beige. Now, I will task you with finding flavors that you wouldn’t normally buy for your kids. Find one that maybe has less sugar in it (Sugar coats the palate and can diminish more subtle flavors) or that has a more interesting flavor profile. For example, don’t just buy a grape jam. Maybe find one that is a specific varietal like Cabernet Sauvignon. Now is the time to get a little bit fancy! (This will also help when you finish off the jar in January and need a dose of fancy since you’ll be coming down from the holiday festivities!)
Crackers will add some nice crunch to the board. I like something simple like 34 Degrees plain, or the La Panzanella plain Croccatini for just a great vehicle to bring cheese directly to your mouth. For something more fun, I like Raincoast Crisps or essentially anything from Rustic Bakery. They make an assortment of products that fit right in on a cheese plate. From sourdough crackers to ginger cookies, you can’t go wrong with anything in their line up. They tend to also have some fun shapes for the holidays which can make it look more festive!
Honey is a no brainer with things like blue cheese or goat cheese. The sweetness balances out the piquant flavors in the cheese and helps to draw out hidden flavors. Try to find one that is local to you or even better, a chunk of honeycomb. Once again, texture, sweetness, and variety make your cheeseboard more of an experience.
More snackable additions to the plate. I love dried white peaches or dried apricots. Any bulk section should have a plethora of options but try to think outside the box. Apple rings are great but maybe there is something special lurking within those bins that just might take your board to next level!
These Spanish almonds have been fried and salted basically making them the best things ever. Some places will pack them in containers themselves but I’ve also seen them prepackaged too. They are great for filling in space around the board and adding more crunch.
Hit up the olive bar if you want a variety of flavors but I would suggest doing that closer to the actually holiday. Now is the time to buy the jarred olives. If you like olives, this is a great way to think ahead and just have them on hand. I really like Castelvatrano olives because of their salty, butteriness but kalamatas are super popular and add a rich color to the board. There are about a million mixes out there to appease any flavor profiles you are in to so just put what you like out there!
Alright, there’s a great start to the board of your dreams! A lot of the items this week will actually accommodate more than one board so these are things that are great to keep on hand if you have lots of entertaining opportunities throughout the holidays. Hopefully, this will ease some of the stress of holiday entertaining!
A Certified Cheese Professional living the cheesy life.