How to arrange a cheese platter

 The idea of arranging a cheese board is to offer a proper sampling of cheeses to your guests: choose varieties of different taste and texture and colour and then pick the biscuits, meats and fruits accordingly to compliment the flavours. If you have a special drink you'd like to serve, you can ask your cheesemonger which cheese would go best with it. Cheesemonger can also cut the cheeses to the desired amount. Usually the prepacked versions at least here are huge. So buying those would make you end up with too much cheese, as you still want to select many different sorts. So unless you're not planning a feast for a big group, buy many smaller pieces rather than few bigger. (Scroll down for more precise tips...)

I love Christmas and its preparations, the festivity and the feel of waiting. How early do you start to preparing for your Christmas? This post is a part of my annual Christmas series on the blog! Check my Christmas Calendar, too!

Btw, Christmas is drawing nearer and nearer... Have you already made all the preparations, bought the presents, send your cards and done your grocery shopping? This year I'm actually well prepared, as normally I'm still hunting for presents on the 23rd. I have luckily bought all the gifts, baked the cookies, planned the menus, bought most of the groceries and even done the Christmas cleaning, after which I rewarded myself with the permit to decorate the house and bring the small spruce tree inside. Still, all fresh ingredients have to be bought and since we are going to spend the Christmas at the cottage, some more tidying up and decorating have to be done there too (but that's the fun part, right?)

How to arrange a cheese platter:

1) Pick your cheese board/platter:
You could go with marble, stone or wood, but a nice big ceramic plate will do, too. I like to contrast cheeses with a darker background, as they are usually quite pale themselves.

2) Pick your cheeses:
Choose soft and hard ones, mild and strong tasting ones and preferably with different colours. That way every guest will hopefully find some cheese to like. It's also nice if the cheeses are different in shape, too. The amount really depends on the occasion: is it a starter, main course, dessert and what are the other foods you're serving. The total amount can easily range from 50-150 g cheese per person.

My favorites are:
-Soft: Camembert or Brie (mild and creamy)
-Semi-soft: Morbier (strong aroma, rich and creamy flavour, with a slightly bitter aftertaste)
-Semi-Hard: Manchego, Emmental, Comté (mild and slightly sweet)
-Hard: Parmigiano or aged Pecorino
-and then the special stinky one: blue cheese (Roquefort, Stilton,...) (I like Aura best as it's not as acidic as the other ones)

3) Pick your biscuits and bread:
I like the not-very-salty ones, as cheeses are quite salty by themselves. Again offer some variety. There are special prepacked selections in stores.
-Finnish crispbread is also very good with cheeses.
-A good sourdough bread is a must if the cheese board is meant as a main course.
-I love good baguette with brie!
-Gingerbread cookies are a must with blue cheese during Christmas time!

4) Pick the salty foods: olives, meats, cornichons,...

5) Pick the fruits:
-Fresh: (apples, pears, grapes, figs, persimons, strawberries...)
-Dried: (apricots, figs, dates,...)
-Compotes and jams: (cherry compote, fig jam, apple jam,...)
You can try what you've already got in your pantry. I tried this time orange marmalade and it was really nice with blue cheese and with a semi-hard, strong cheese.

6) Pick other condiments: Honey, whole-grain mustard (suits the meats very well), nuts,...

7) Decorate your platter with something green (as the cheeses and crackers tend to be on the brown/yellow side, so a little green makes it all look better). I' d choose some sprigs of fresh herbs, like rosemary or thyme.

8) Final tip to help the cheeses stay nice-looking and to ensure that everyone gets to taste the good part of the cheese:
I'm very precise how cheese should be cut and it depends on the cheese and also its form (and the French, too. They have even guides to help you through). If you want to guide your guests (unverbally :D ) how to cut cheeses a certain way, so that they stay nice-looking and that everyone gets to taste the inner and outer parts, you can cut a few pieces of every cheese as an example. (Too bad I didn't make an example in these photos). Imagine if people would cut a pizza, pie or a cake similarly as some cut cheeses...

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