In our series on Canadian Cheese, cheese expert Ashley Linkletter shares all the reasons why now's the time to get excited about Canadian cheese. Today Ashley showcases flavoured cheeses and gives you tips on flavour pairings for a summer cheese plate.
Cheese with “stuff” in it, also known as “Flavoured cheese (with particulate flavouring)” if you happen to be judging the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, is a sure-fire way to make a cheese tray interesting while still being accessible for everyone!
Why Are Flavoured Cheeses Perfect for Summer?
Summertime by the pool, backyard barbecues, and family picnics are all perfect opportunities to have fun with flavoured cheeses and their unique pairings for a few different reasons:
1. Flavoured Cheeses Have a Lighter Taste and Scent
Flavoured Canadian cheeses, in general, don’t have the same strong taste other cheeses might be guilty of. This is a particularly salient point if you're feeding young children this summer - although you’d be surprised, some kids love truly funky cheeses!
Flavoured Canadian cheeses are also, broadly speaking, mostly odourless which can be nice for keeping uninvited picnic guests like wasps at bay. Keeping the cheese out of direct sunlight or indoors will also help subdue strong-smelling cheeses.
Remember that washed-rind cheeses, with or without added flavouring, will have a more pungent smell than most other cheeses.
2. Flavoured Cheese Are Easy To Slice!
Flavoured Canadian cheeses can be easily pre-sliced without any special equipment and then arranged on a cheeseboard so that all anyone has to do is grab a piece and go (no hollowed-out brie husks and awkward cheese rinds for this summer cheese plate!)
For slicing cheese, I’m a big fan of using paring knives instead of specialty cheese knives as they tend to be sharper and make a cleaner cut.
PRO TIP: If you buy your cheese from a specialty cheese shop ask them if they don’t mind cutting the flavoured cheese with a wire (this will take them a couple of minutes and should be a complimentary service.)
3. Flavoured Cheese Are Fun To Pair!
Flavoured Canadian cheeses are really fun to pair with all kinds of exciting preserves, fresh fruit and vegetables, charcuterie, and any other store-bought or homemade accoutrement you can think of!
It's also the perfect season to pair flavoured cheeses with local produce that's in season like Okanagan peaches, prune plums, seasonal berries as well as cherry tomatoes, crisp pea pods - whatever you can pull out of the garden.
Four Pairing Guidelines for Flavoured Cheeses
Heat + Sweet
Spicy cheeses that have been flavoured with habanero, jalapeño, red chili flakes, and green peppercorns can pack a surprising amount of heat!
Pairing Ideas: Temper spicy cheeses like Bothwell's Habanero with Cracked Black Pepper or Bothwell's Jalapeño Monterey Jack or Red Hot Chili Pepper Jack with sweet accompaniments such as pineapple or mango salsa, caramelized onion chutney, slivered or whole almonds, and a big bowl of seasonal cherries!
Cheese conversation starter: Did you know that Bothwell's Habanero with Cracked Black Pepper won the Silver medal in the High Heat, Monterey Jack Category at the 2018 World Championship Cheese Contest?
Maple + Salty
Maple-flavoured cheeses or, “flavoured cheeses (without particulates)” are a popular choice for Canadian cheeseboards.
Pairing Ideas: To offset the sweet maple flavouring pair the cheese with classic charcuterie plate offerings such as sliced ham, cornichons, good quality mustard, and lightly pickled summer vegetables.
Truffle + Simple
Truffle-flavoured cheeses like Bothwell's Black Truffle have a very distinct, classic flavour and should be served with the bare minimum when it comes to accompaniments.
Pairing Ideas: Stick to the best baguette you can find (or bake!), paper-thin slices of prosciutto or serrano ham, plain Castelvetrano or Lucques olives, and dried apricots. Plus, a glass of bubbly is never a bad thing when it comes to truffles and cheese!
Smoky + Tangy
Smoked cheeses, whether it’s a cheddar, a gouda like Bothwell's Smoked Gouda, or Monterey Jack, have an appealing, assertive taste that can stand up to tangy and acidic pairings.
Pairing Ideas: Try serving smoked cheeses with in-season sliced or grape tomatoes (if you don’t have good tomatoes to serve raw try slow roasting plum tomatoes and topping them with Maldon salt and a balsamic reduction, serve at room temperature), thinly sliced preserved lemon, and a small bowl or ramekin with zucchini or corn relish.
Use these tips to create the perfect flavour combos for all your summer cheese plates whether they're for yourself or your guests!