Cheese boards are a seasonless delight, but I do especially love them in the fall. I love to entertain the most during this time of year, even more than I do in the summer. There is something very special about bringing things inside again, welcoming friends and family back into our home to gather around the kitchen island and share delicious wines and nibble on seasonal bites. It’s October now, and we are moving from cool drinks and light bites around the pool to warm ciders and heartier wines, comforting breads and seasonal cheeses. Harvest season is the time to reap the rewards of one’s hard work, and time to celebrate new beginnings and welcome a new season in nature. And to me, harvest season is the best time to gather around a cheese board. This Harvest Cheese Board celebrates the fall season in all its glory.
Building a Great Board
So what goes into the making of a great seasonal cheese board? First, find what’s in season (duh). I love using pomegranates, bosc pears and blood oranges, nutty cheeses and a variety of hearty textures for the accompaniments. Fig jam is an absolute must for this time of year, as are praline pecans. Hopefully you can find them. If you can’t, any kind of candied nut will be just fine. I like to include honey comb or plain raw honey on cheese boards any time of year. It’s a great companion to any aged or stinky cheese. And although apple butter and pumpkin butter are not pictured here, I’ll usually put some out for my guests to sample with various cheeses. Whatever you add to your cheese board, the main goal is to find a great supporting cast for the main event – which is, of course, the cheese.
For this Harvest Cheese Board, we are following the cardinal rule of combining hard, aged cheeses with more mild, softer cheeses. Let’s tackle the hard cheeses first. Public service announcement: You are now entering Cheese Nerd territory….
The Hard Cheeses
Mimolette is a true seasonal cheese. Its bright orange interior and rough rind appear in our local cheese shop every year around Halloween. It is the Big Guy’s absolute favorite, and he gets so happy every fall when Mimolette makes an appearance. Mimolette is a French cheese that most closely resembles the Dutch cheese Edam in flavor. It’s nutty and on the intense side with a firm, rich texture.
Aged gouda is up next, and it should never be confused with smoked gouda. I may not make any new friends by saying this, but I am not a fan of smoked gouda, or the weirdly brownish-red rind that it comes packaged in. In smoked gouda’s defense, I’m not a fan of any smoked cheese. But when you age gouda? Oh my goodness. It becomes one of my all-time favorites. Aged gouda is intense, pungent and has gorgeous salty crystals throughout that burst in your mouth like tiny fireworks of flavor. Paradiso Aged Gouda by Beemster is my most favorite brand, and there is nothing like a Paradiso-topped cracker with a drop of fig jam on top. Pure heaven.
And no Harvest Cheese Board would be complete with a very fine cheddar. Jasper Hill Farm makes an outrageous Cave-Aged Cheddar that puts most others to shame. Cheddar is a reliable cheese in that you pretty much always know that the longer it’s been aged, the better it’s going to be. And by better I mean a deeper, sharper, more complex flavor. Cave-aged cheeses are given the time and climate to mature into truly special cheeses. These cheeses melt beautifully, but please don’t hurt me by melting Cave-Aged Cheddar. You can find a much less expensive price point if you want to melt something. I would much rather have you place a slice of Cave-Aged Cheddar onto a buttery cracker with a small sliver of apple or pear and savor every morsel.
The Soft Cheeses
On the softer side of this Harvest Cheese Board, we have a honey goat cheese which is exactly what it sounds like. Mild, mellow and a little tangy, this goat cheese is infused with just a touch of sweet honey to make it even dreamier than it already is. I actually like to drizzle a bit more honey over top and, if I’m feeling fiesty, a few turns of fresh cracked pepper. Smear it onto a whole grain cracker and enjoy. It also goes great with seasonal crackers that are studded with cranberries or pomegranate seeds.
The same goes for a buttery brie, which simply begs for a sweet companion like any of the seasonal fruits on this Harvest Cheese Board. For this board in particular, I went with a Cremeux de Bourgogne which is my favorite triple creme brie. Any soft and mild brie will do, though. So choose your favorite and pair it a rosemary-infused flatbread and anything fruity.
The final soft cheese, but certainly not the meekest, is the Bayley Hazen Blue, which is my favorite blue cheese in the whole wide world. This isn’t the mild type of blue cheese that you crumble onto salads or into dips. Again, you can find a lower price point if that’s what you want to do. This blue cheese is for savoring. More specifically, this blue cheese is for spreading onto plain water crackers and drizzling with raw honey. Trust me when I tell you, it’s almost as good as dessert.
I built this Harvest Cheese Board with the intention of pairing it with all of the fun fall beverages. Hard ciders, stout beers and robust reds pair beautifully with everything on this board. Mix and match and have fun with all the flavor and texture combinations. I hope you’ll enjoy building your own board at home. Happy Fall!
How to Build a Harvest Cheese Board
- Anchor all of the cheeses onto the board first. Pre-slice some of them into shapes if desired.
- Fill in the negative space with fruits, breads, crackers and nuts.
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