Christmas without Stilton would be like a stocking without a Satsuma, but while this national treasure will always be a must-eat at Christmas, there are many more ways to enjoy cheese during the festive period. In fact, with over 700 named varieties of British cheese, the possibilities are endless.
Create the perfect cheeseboard
A cheeseboard at Christmas is one of those food traditions that many households would not be without. But this year, why not try something slightly different. British cheese is amongst the best in the world (in fact our Cheddar is the best in the world – we invented it!)
- For the ultimate Christmas cheeseboard, select between three and five cheeses of different types and textures, including hard (e.g. West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, Wensleydale or Cheshire), soft (e.g. Somerset Brie or Cornish Camembert) and blue (e.g. Stilton, Blue Lancashire, Shropshire Blue or Blue Wensleydale) cheeses. You could also include a blended cheese (e.g. White Stilton with Mango and Ginger), and local cheeses, too.
- Serve with natural ingredients - these traditionally include grapes, apples, tomatoes, parsley, celery or pickles, but don’t be afraid to unleash your imagination.
- Offer the cheese alongside biscuits or crackers that don’t taste too strong or salty. Or as suggested above, if you’re serving Wensleydale or Cheshire on your cheeseboard, why not offer some Christmas cake for a wonderfully festive combination.
- For some seasonal flair, spruce up your cheeseboard with some Christmas decorations.
Delicious cheese and wine combinations
- Every cheese has its perfect match, and a must-have at Christmas is pairing Stilton with port. If you fancy trying something more unusual, try eating Blue Stilton with Oloroso sherry. The scent of cinnamon and spices found in mulled wine also complement the strong undertones of the ‘King’ of British cheeses, as does a pudding wine.
- Why not encourage guests to try a dram of Talisker 18yr old whisky with their extra mature or West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, as the smoky and sweet flavours of the whisky balance out the slight saltiness of the cheese.
- If dry white is the tipple of choice, Farmhouse Red Leicester complements it perfectly. If you prefer the fullness of a red Pinot Noir, enjoy it with Blue Lancashire or mature West Country Farmhouse Cheddar.
- While pairing wine with cheese might be the traditional option, a well-matched beer can offset cheese deliciously. An oak-aged beer like Innis and Gunn goes superbly with a Farmhouse Red Leicester, and a fresh and fruity beer like Dark Star Sunburst tastes great with an Extra Mature Cheddar - perfect for a relaxed Boxing Day with friends.
- Cheese is best enjoyed fresh, although it can be stored in a cool environment for anything from a couple of days to several months, depending on the type of cheese.
- Buy softer cheeses such as Brie and Camembert in advance so that it has a chance to ripen.
- When storing cheese, either wrap it tightly in foil or cling film or keep in an airtight container in the bottom part of the fridge.
- To bring out its full flavour, cheese should always be served at room temperature. Therefore, to get the most out of your cheese this Christmas, remember to take it out of the fridge up to two hours before serving.
- Avoid using the same knife to cut different cheeses as this can lead to the flavours contaminating one another.
- If you’ve bought more cheese than you can eat this Christmas, it is possible to freeze certain open textured cheeses such as Stilton very effectively as the texture allows the ice crystals to form in the tiny gaps. Once defrosted in the fridge overnight, the texture and flavour is not affected.
- With hard cheese like Cheddar the dense nature of the cheese means the ice crystals force the hard cheese apart, so when hard cheese defrosts it becomes crumbly. You can solve this problem to a large extent by grating hard cheeses prior to freezing.
To tickly your taste buds we have a delicious tasty snack for you to try:
For more ideas about how to use cheese in Christmas recipes, visit www.britishcheese.com
Cheddar and Cranberry Croque Monsieur Triangles
This recipe is simplicity itself but truly festive and delicious. Great with a glass of spiced mulled wine.
Makes: 16 Croque Monsieur Triangles
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
8 Thick slices white bread, crusts removed
50g/2oz French lightly salted butter
225g/8oz West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, grated
4 tbsp Cranberry jelly
1. Spread bread with half the butter in the normal way. Top 4 slices with the grated cheese and spoon on cranberry jelly. Top with the remaining bread (butter side down) to make 4 sandwiches.
2. Gently fry the bread in the remaining butter until crisp and golden on both sides.
3. Cut into triangles and serve whilst warm.