Katja Wulfers: Around The Table


How To Store And Serve Cheese Like A Pro!


There are some who will tell you that cheese should be reserved for special occasions. Those people are probably well meaning and also misinformed. Cheese is perfect any time, but if you need a reason then the Winter Olympics are coming up soon and cheese is good fuel for watching Canadian athletes kick butt.

I’m not going to lie, there’s a right way and a wrong way to serve and store cheese. Anyone who tells you differently is either lying or eating low fat cheese and we won’t discuss that here or ever. Cheese has come a long way in recent years. There are new and talented Canadian cheese makers in every province and our access to imported products makes a cheese lover’s heart melt. Many supermarkets now provide impressive varieties to choose from, and are willing to bring in different ones based on customer requests.

Before you head into the local cheesemonger, consider what you’ll need. The list is short and practical, so no need to worry that you’ll be spending a fortune on things you’ll rarely use.

  1. An airtight plastic container with a built-in air filter. This is invaluable if you keep a steady supply of cheese on hand. There are different brands available, but the goal is to have the cheese exposed to air without letting the odours invade the fridge.
  2. If the airtight containers are not available in a store close to home, wrapping the opened cheese in parchment paper before sealing it in plastic wrap or aluminum foil is the next best option. Don’t use plastic wrap directly on cheese or you’ll kill the flavour, and isn’t that why you bought it for in the first place?
  3. Once the cheese is purchased and the invitations are sent, it’s time to pull out a simple wood cutting board. Stay away from plastic and metal. Wood works best for cheese and is much prettier. Pretty counts. Etsy has a great selection of wooden boards, as does HomeSense and Chapters-Indigo.
  4. There are cheese experts who will propose a list of cutting tools to use depending on the type of cheese. They’re not wrong, but who has time for that? A sharp knife does the trick. As a long-time cheese eater, I recommend wiping the knife clean on a hunk of bread—preferably your own—when switching from a soft to a hard cheese.

Top 5 cheese picks for entertaining or to savour alone:

  1. Brieit’s a favourite, and you have the option of purchasing a wheel or smaller wedge, depending on the number of guests expected or your appetite.
  2. Aged Cheddar or Asiagothe older it is, the crumblier it becomes. You can’t go wrong choosing Canadian cheddars from small producers.
  3. A Full-Flavoured Goat CheeseChabichou is a favourite with my daughter and I can’t keep it long enough to gauge if the flavour is as good after 6 weeks as the experts claim.
  4. Although another hard cheeseEmmentalis one that always goes over well, and is simple to store on the off chance you or your guests haven’t finished off the cheese board by the time everyone calls it a night.
  5. Don’t forget a blue-type cheeseRoquefort is the traditional go-to, but I like Cambozola, which comes from Germany, or Saint-Agur from France.

I’d make another list on how to serve the cheese, but I think it’s enough to respect a few basic rules. Any resemblance to a list is purely coincidental.

Keep the cutting board uncluttered and uncrowded. It’s best to buy 5 great cheeses (like the ones mentioned above) than to build a mountain and risk the flavours mingling­. Likewise when decorating with fruitalthough grapes are a great accompaniment, keep bunches small and to a minimum. We’re all here for the cheese anyway.

Serve cheese at room temperature.

Respect the form. That means cheese should be cut to retain its original shape. Round cheese—Brie, for example—is always cut in wedges, as are pyramid or cone-shaped cheeses. Rectangular cheeses, such as cheddars, should resemble rectangles as long as possible. Basically, serving cheese is like geometry class with less crying and more eating.

And on that note, never ever pre-cut cheese.

Be respectful and take your rinds with you. This point is directed at the cheese eating guests and is applicable if they are rind cutters.

Buying, eating, and serving cheese should not be intimidating despite these lists and rules. Eating cheese might be serious business, but there’s no need to be earnest about it. With a few gadgets and a simple shopping list, you’ll easily get into the groove.