Cheese, The Perfect Gift

If you’re not sure what to get for a last minute Christmas gift to bring to your upcoming New Year’s celebrations think Cheese.  Cheese isn’t just for getting your kids to smile during family portraits anymore.  Growing up in Wisconsin, it’s hard to believe that the United States of America only ranks 13th in world cheese consumption per-capita (as of 2008 records, go here for more Wisconsin cheese facts and figures).   Even though we might not eat as much cheese as say someone in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Finland, Norway or Greece, the United States eats on average about 30 pounds of cheese per person/year.  Most of our cheese is made in Wisconsin (about 25.4%) followed closely by California which comes in at 21.3% as of 2008.  That being said, if you’re from Wisconsin you can claim to know your cheese and it makes the perfect gift for any occasion.

As you’re probably aware, there are hundreds if not thousands of different varieties, types, textures, and flavors of this fabulous milk based product.  Explore Wisconsin promotes Wisconsin cheese as one of the many fine reasons to visit our State.  To help you search for the perfect cheese we’ve created an information page dedicated to our Wisconsin Cheese Shops or you can simply browse the spotlight pages of the Cheese Shops in our directory. (click here to search/buy cheese)

If you decide to load up on your own supply or buy cheese as a gift for someone else don’t forget these helpful tips to make serving cheese even easier:

Make it Pretty – One of the most often overlooked aspects of serving food is the presentation.  Try serving cheeses on a marble slab, a wooden board, a straw mat, or flat wicker basket.  Don’t overcrowd the serving tray and balance the board out with garnishments.  Fruits such as pears, apples, strawberries, fresh figs, melon, and grapes along with any manner of condiments, cakes, or nuts will help give you a balanced and appealing platter.

Serve a Selection – Although it’s fine to serve only one type of cheese, with hundreds of  types, varieties, and styles of Wisconsin Cheese it’s always better to serve more than one kind.  You can set up flavor contrasts or pair the cheese with other foods and/or wine.  Always be sure to either label or inform your guests of exactly what type of cheese they’re enjoying.  The American Cheese Society recommends not serving more than 5 different cheeses at a time, but this is Wisconsin we’re talking about.

Serve at Room Temperature – Always set out your cheese 45 minutes to 1 hour if it’s been in your refrigerator so it can slowly get to room temperature.  Cheese tastes the best at room temperature because its flavor will be at its peak.  Temperature will also effect texture elements of the cheese, for example curds at room temperature will tend to produce the desired “squeekiness” in addition to the improved flavor profile.

Trim Mold Before Serving – Some cheeses have mold that is part of the active culture and it’s meant to be there, but others require trimming of the mold before serving.

Serve Bite Sized – After removing the mold it helps to have bite sized pieces for your guests to enjoy.  Cut the cheese into sticks, squares, or cubes to make serving easy.  If you prefer to have your guests cut the cheese as part of the experience remember to include a separate knife for each cheese.

Taking care to follow these simple tips will add value to the overall cheese experience.   Be sure to make note of which cheese(s) your guests enjoyed more than others so you can be set up with happy guests and more gift ideas for next year.

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