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Today, I’m finally sharing my “process” for making pretty cheese boards. I have gotten so many requests for this post, so I’m excited to show y’all how to make the cheese board of your dreams, because I’m not the only one who dreams about amazing cheese boards, right? …Right?!
First things first, you need the perfect dish. I have three that I rotate pretty consistently- this slate one (or the smaller version if I’m serving fewer people), this white one with a raised edge, and this fun marble one. I currently have my eye on this white and rose gold one.
Next, I pick my cheeses and arrange them on the board. When I make a cheese board, I like to include at least one cheese that everyone loves, like cheddar. Super sharp cheddars are my favorite, but if I’m serving a crowd, I try to stick with a mild or regular sharp cheddar.
Some of my favorite cheeses to include are Cotswold (Gloucester cheese with chives in it, sooo good), Sartori Montamoré (everyone that tries this loves it and asks me what it is and where to buy it!), Red Dragon (cheddar with whole grain mustard in it), Sartori Espresso BellaVitano (their classic BellaVitano cheese with an espresso-rubbed rind), and Cabot or Tillamook cheddar. I also like to add a bleu cheese like Salemville Amish Gorgonzola crumbles or Stilton, but I’m usually the only one that eats it around here.
Next, I add the meats. I do not pretend to be a cured meat expert. I usually just go to the store and buy what looks good or is on sale. That being said, I know I like hard salami like the one in the top left that you can neatly slice and place on the board, and a thinly sliced one that you can fold or roll and arrange in a fun way on the board. I also think prosciutto looks so pretty on the board when you just haphazardly drape and fold the slices into little piles.
Next, I add the crackers. I love using a mix of different shapes and flavors, though I usually try to stick to more neutral flavors so the crackers don’t overpower the taste of the cheese. I typically pick up a box or two each of water crackers, buttery crackers, and those long, thin bread sticks (which my store was out of when I went shopping for this shoot). When in doubt, everybody loves Ritz crackers! Typically, I would try to vary my cracker shapes a little more than I did in this post, but I totally thought we had a box of square ones at home. Grocery shopping fail! You can also use thin slices of fresh bread, though I tend to prefer the crunch of a cracker.
The key to a cheese board, especially with the crackers I think, is to make it look kind of messy. When I first started attempting to make cheese boards years ago, I would neatly stack everything and try to make it symmetrical. The result? My boards looked bare and BORING! The most appealing cheese boards are the ones where you can’t really see any of the actual plate because there is yummy goodness tucked into every nook and cranny.
Next, I add some fruit. The meats and cheeses we’ve already added tend to be salty, tangy, and savory. Adding fruit, fresh or dried, helps to round out the flavors of the board by adding some sweetness. Also, this is your chance to add some color to the board!
Clemetines and fresh or dried apricots are two of my favorites to use because the orange color really pops against everything else on the board. Plus, clementines are easily segmented, making eating easier. Grapes, dried cranberries, plums (halved or sliced), and fresh or dried cherries are also great options. Apple and pear slices pair nicely with cheese but tend to turn brown quickly, so I usually try to avoid using them in cheese boards that will sit out for a while.
Next up, sauces, spreads, and other little extras. Here I included a mini jar of a fruit spread and a little container that had a mustardy-sauce in it. Sometimes I will add another container or two filled with baby pickles, olives, or banana peppers. Other good condiment options are mini jars of jam/jelly/preserves, pesto, any kind of mustard, honey, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, or really anything else you think would pair nicely with the cheeses you’ve chosen. When I hosted friendsgiving in the fall, I included a little jar of a pumpkin butter from Trader Joe’s.
If you’re really lacking ideas, I recommend just strolling the condiment aisles of your grocery store to see what catches your eye. The “European foods” section of our grocery store always has little bottles and jars of interesting condiments like pepper jelly, savory jams, fig spreads, bruschetta, etc.
Time to fill in the holes! In this step, I add various kinds of nuts to fill in the larger holes, scooting and adjusting things here and there as I go. The crunchy, salty nuts seem to be everybody’s favorite part once they’ve had their fill of cheese. Plus, this step really helps pull the whole board together.
My tip is to buy more than you think you need so you can really fill every nook and cranny of your board. My favorites are almonds, pistachios and cashews. You can buy raw or roasted, salted or unsalted, flavored or unflavored- whatever you think your guests will enjoy the most (though I recommend salted, because who doesn’t love some salty goodness!).
Lastly, I like to add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. Not only do they smell great, but they’re an excellent way to fill in any leftover gaps after
you’ve run out of nuts you’ve added everything else. If you did a better job than I did of filling in all the gaps, then you can just lay the rosemary on top of the cheeses or wherever else you think it looks pretty. To me, this last step is the one that really gives your board that extra something that takes it from “cheese board” to “Instagram-worthy cheese board.”