How To Make a Cheese Board

  • Making a beautiful cheese board to entertain guests and friends!  Here are some quick step by step guides to creating beautiful and well-balanced cheese board that everyone will remember! 

    Cheese Board with olives, crackers, salami and grapes.

    When you host a party, one of the easiest appetizers that you can put together is a cheese board.  You can prepare and set ahead of time, and it’s the perfect treat to welcome and greet your guests.  A full stock cheese board will keep your guests entertained and delighted while you’re in the kitchen preparing the main meal.

    Cheese Board with olives, crackers, salami and grapes.

    Step-by-Step Tutorials on How To Make a Cheese Board

    The purpose of my tutorial is meant for beginners.  With this tutorial, anyone should be able to make a pretty good cheese board.

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    wooden board, Marble board and Slate board.

    Step 1: Pick a cheese board

    I’ve been using different shapes of cutting boards for my cheese board in the past, but this time I enjoyed making a cheese board with this beautiful large cheese slate board.  I received it as a gift from Slate Plate.  I always wanted to get a slate board, so this partnership worked out perfectly and I had so much fun creating the largest cheese board (size: 12″ x 24″) I had ever made.

    Here is my quick feedback on my first time using a slate board.

    • Nice contrast: Dark color of slate board gives a really nice contrast to the light color cheese and crackers.  Much more enticing than compared to wooden cutting board or marble cheese board that have a similar light color.
    • Can be drawn on: With a slate board, you can easily use a white chalk to write messages, name of food, and doodle artwork.
    • Easy to clean and lightweight: It’s easy to clean and lighter than wooden or marble cheese boards in case you plan to cheese board to a party.  You can even put the finished cheese board in the refrigerator as it doesn’t take up much space compared to the wooden or marble cheese board.

    Cheese board choices

    • Slate board (I used this 12″ x 24″ – great for a big party.  This size is nice too.)
    • Wooden cutting board
    • Serving platter
    • Baking sheet

    Cheese on the board.

    Step 2: Add cheese 

    The important key for a good cheese board is to have different types of MILK SOURCES, TEXTURES, FLAVORS, COLORS, and SHAPES.  Display the cheese in clockwise direction, from soft to firm, and end with blue cheese.

    Milk Sources: cow, sheep, goat, combination, etc.

    Textures: Cheese comes in different textures – soft, semi-soft, semi-hard, hard, crumbly.

    • Fresh cheese: moist, creamy, and mild. Examples: Burrata, Chèvre (goat), Feta, Mozzarella
    • Bloomy-rind soft cheese: buttery, creamy, and mushroomy. Examples: Camembert, Champignon, Brillat-Savarin, La Tur, double/triple-creme Brie, Humboldt Fog (goat)
    • Semi-soft cheese: pliable, mellow, and earthy. Examples: Fontina, Midnight moon (goat), Morbier, Pyrenees Brebis
    • Semi-hard cheese: firm, mild, delicate. Examples: Emmental, Gruyère, Manchego, Mimolette, P’tit Basque (sheep)
    • Aged/Firm cheese: dry, savory, and caramel-y. Examples: aged Gouda, clothbound Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Piave
    • Blue cheese: pungent. Examples: Cambozola, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton

    Flavors: similarly, cheese comes in different strength – from mild to stinky.

    Colors: Majority of the cheese is pale yellow but there are some orange cheese, and some with other ingredients like mushrooms inside the cheese.

    Shapes: Round, rectangular, triangle etc – it adds character to the cheese board.

    For this cheese board, I used: Organic Mt. Tam Triple Creme Cowgirl Creamery (CA, USA), Truffle Gouda by KLare Melk (Netherlands), Midnight Moon Aged Goat Gouda Cypress Grove (CA, USA), P’tit Basque Istara (France), Bella Vistano Rum Runner Sartori, (WI, USA), Piave Lattlebursche (Italy), and Cambozola Black Label Champignon (Germany).

    How much cheese is enough?

    Different sources say different things… but in general 3-4 oz (85-113 g) per person seems like a good number.  You can always wrap the leftover cheese with wax paper or parchment paper (here’s how) and store it in the fridge.

    Do & Don’t

    • Do buy a whole block of cheese.  Looks prettier and more functional (some people might want just a little piece).  Pre-sliced cheese looks like they came from the deli.
    • Don’t be scared.  Go to a big supermarket with a cheese counter, and ask the cheesemonger with your questions.  If you’re not sure what to get, try samples and ask for recommendations.  Sure, cheese is really up to each person’s preference, but the cheesemonger can at least give suggestions based on your preference rather than you blindly pick some cheese (that can some times be fun though).

    Cheese Board with olive, cheese and sliced meat.

    Step 3: Add salty foods

    I usually put 3 types of salty foods.

    Charcuterie: You can actually write an entire post dedicated on how to build a Charcuterie.  But for this cheese board, we just need a few samples.  My recommendation includes prosciutto, coppa, Jamón ibérico, mortadella, salami, soppressata, speck, and pâté or terrine.

    Olives: We love Castelvetrano olives, Cerignola olives, and stuffed olives.  Since olives are wet, keep them in a small bowl so that it can be saved for later.  I’m not an olive expert, so check out this well-written guide.

    Nuts: Nuts for crunch!  Marcona almonds, candied walnuts/pecans are excellent (I know, these are sweet and should be in next section).  My family’s current favorite is Trader Joe’s Salt & Pepper Pistachios.

    Cheese Board with olives, crackers, salami and grapes.

    Step 4: Add sweet foods

    To have a little break between flavorful and rich cheese and salty foods, it’s nice to have sweet foods.  For this section, I usually put fresh and dried fruits.

    Fresh fruits: I always go for grapes, preferably 2 to 3 types of grapes with different colors and size.  If you use fruits that oxidize like apples and pears, soak in salted water and drain completely before serving (p.s. in Japan we use salted water instead of lemon juice) so they won’t turn dark sitting on the board.

    Dried fruits: Dried apricots are a must.  Look at the color it brings to the cheese board – it’s like a jewel.  It also goes well with some of the cheese!  I also like to add cranberries.  The best part about dried fruits is that they are available all year round.

    Cheese Board with olives, crackers, salami and grapes.

    Step 5: Add some crackers & bread

    It’s nice to have a few varieties of crackers and bread for guests to choose from.  It’s very interesting to try different carbs with various combination of cheese.

    My favorite cracker choices are La Panzanella Mini Croccantini crackers (love all 3 – original, rosemary, and roasted garlic!), and Brioche toasts and Raisin Rosemary Crisps from Trader Joe’s.  My kids love breadsticks and I sometimes serve baguettes.

    You can pile your choice of crackers and bread on the cheese board where there are openings, and you can add more when the stack is low.

    Cheese Board with olives, crackers, salami and grapes.

    Step 6: Add some spreads/condiments

    You can totally go without spreads/condiments.  BUT some of them I listed here might be in your kitchen.  Plus, it’s more fun with contrasting flavors and textures.

    • Cornichons – great with meats.
    • Fig jam – goes well with both sweet and savory.
    • Honey – drizzle on blue cheese and goat cheese.
    • Preserves – anything you like or you have in the back of your pantry.
    • Tapenade – adds nice saltiness!
    • Whole grain mustard – great with sausages and meats.

    I wished that I had these mini stainless steel cups for condiments at the time of shooting (now I have them).  They are great for saving some space.

    Cheese Board with olives, crackers, salami and grapes.

    Step 7: Pick some wines

    Aia Vecchia Wine Review

    wine bottles.

    What goes with cheese and cured meats?  Wine!  Recently we had the chance to try Vermentino and Sor Ugo from Aia Vecchia Winery by Pellegrini family.  The winery is located in the Bolgheri wine region on the Tuscan coast.  The Sor Ugo is a red wine blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.  The Vermentino is 95% Vermentino and 5% Viognier.  Both wines were super delicious and worked really well with the cheese plate.

    The Vermentino had the sweet aroma of honey and honeydew and smelled refreshing.  As your drink, you taste flavorful sweet summer fruits.  The texture is creamy and ends with a white peppery spice.  Sor Ugo was completely different, instead of playful and fun, it was mature and rich.  It smelled of vineyards, berries, and oak.  As you drink, you taste blackberries, licorice, herbs, and also had a peppery dry finish.  The texture was very velvety, yet clear and crisp.

    We shared the wines with our friends as we enjoyed the cheese board and everyone loved the two wines from Aia Vecchia.

    Cheese Board with olives, crackers, salami and grapes.

    Final Tips for Your Beautiful Cheese Board

    • Serve with cheese knives and spreaders.
    • Cheese is best served at room temperature.  Remove cheeses from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.
    • Display some of the cheesees as whole, and cut some in different shapes like wedges, cubes, spears, pies.

    Cheese Board with olives, crackers, salami and grapes.

    Interesting Facts about Japan and Cheese

    Growing up in Japan, the common cheese was “process(ed) cheese” (プロセスチーズ).  After the WWII, food companies tried to bring in American cheese to Japan.  However, a block shape of cheese reminded the Japanese of the soap and the flavors were way too strong for Japanese’s taste.

    The processed cheese made in Japan use gouda and cheddar cheese which were more mild to eat.  Then companies like Kraft started to sell sliced cheese and “pizza cheese” using the processed cheese.

    Various imported cheese is gaining popularity in recent years, and you can visit department store basements and international supermarkets for a decent selection.  What I’ve noticed in the past few years is even in the regular local supermarkets the cheese sections seem to be slightly expanding.
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    I hope you enjoy making a beautiful cheese board for your next party!  If you make one, snap a picture and hashtag it #JustOneCookbook. I love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter! Thank you so much for reading and till next time!

    If you want to check out other appetizer ideas, read 10 Easy Holiday Appetizers, Salads, & Desserts.

    Don’t want to miss a recipe? Sign up for the FREE Just One Cookbook newsletter delivered to your inbox! And stay in touch with me on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram for all the latest updates.

    Disclaimer: We received no compensation for the wine review.  We received 3 different wines from Jarvis Communications free of charge to use in exchange for an honest review.  We also received the slate board that I used in this post from Slate Plate.  Thoughts and opinions stated are my own.

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