Every December is a bit different, especially over the past few years.
One thing that remains constant is that everybody has their holiday favourites. Food traditions are an essential part of the holiday season. When we get together with our friends and family over the month, there is something comforting and familiar in having our old favourites close at hand.
Just like the smell of gingerbread baking might be delicious for some people, many people I know prefer the wonderful aroma of a heavily laden cheese plate for their holiday get-togethers.
In no particular order, these are some family favourites that many people can’t be without during this festive time:
1. Saint Agur – this rich, buttery cow’s milk blue from the south of France is a favourite of so many people that it would be hard to count them all! Great flavour, medium strength, and a slight kick of salt at the end make it a delicious blue to add to your festivities.
2. Vacherin Mont d’Or – is an amazingly soft, seasonal cheese from France. This grassy beauty arrives just in time for your holiday entertaining (or entertaining just for you if you like)! It can be heated and served as a very upscale fondue or just enjoyed as it is, but its unique flavour and aroma make it seem like Christmas to me.
3. Manchego – this classic Spanish sheep’s cheese is firm, nutty, and just a tiny bit fruity. It’s a great introduction to sheep’s milk cheese if you have a cheese novice in your family, and it is ideally served with Quince paste or salami and a nice glass of Sherry.
4. Delice de Bourgogne (pictured) – is a lush and flavourful triple cream from Burgundy. There are a lot of triple creams from Burgundy, and they are all tasty, but this is perhaps the strongest and most popular.
5. White Fox – is a tasty, aged Leicester from the UK. Its unique balance of sharp and sweet tastes makes it a fun choice as a cheddar option for your gathering.
6. Fromager d’Affinois – this double cream from France has a mild flavour and a lush texture that runs towards scoopable.
7. Stilton – this classic blue from the UK is always a Christmas favourite and is revered at many people’s holiday tables.
8. Tomme de Savoie – is a rustic semi-firm cows milk cheese from the eastern mountainous area of France. It is slightly earthy and milky with a natural rind. Many of our French clients love a big chunk of this tome for a taste of home.
9. Cave Aged Gruyere – this Swiss beauty is aged for an entire year and has all of the flavours that implies. Sharp, nutty, and crystalline, it’s a great addition to a board or even your favourite holiday potato recipe.
10. Comté Montagne – this much-loved mountain cheese from France is a fabulous addition to your cheese board, whether it’s a classic for your family or you’re introducing a new tradition. Made by several companies and for ages, there’s one to suit everyone.
There is no rule about holiday pairing with cheese, but it’s a fun time of year to have those richer accompaniments that might be a little odd in the warmer months. Chutneys with Christmas spices, cranberry compote, dried figs and dates, and toasted nuts all come to mind. A nibble or two of cheese and perhaps a chutney, plus a glass of Port sounds like the perfect end to a winter day.
Here are some wines that would work with a wide variety of cheeses, recently reveiwed by the GOW team: