Continuing our trend of starting fresh in 2015, we’ve decided to revive (and keep alive) our Cheese of the Month feature, in which we take four cheeses from Pennsylvania Macaroni Company and attempt to create the perfect charcuterie board with them. Each month, Penn Mac will be Fedex-ing a package of cheese to our doorstep; let’s see what came in January!
The featured cheeses this month didn’t carry a regional theme — they were just a grouping of the most often purchased cheeses at Penn Mac. Does the cheese-buying public have good taste? Let’s find out!
Voila, our board! In addition to the cheeses, which we’ll get to next, we gave ourselves plenty with which to pair — French baguette, baby dill pickles, locally produced thick-cut smoked bacon, and from Parma Sausage, we had sliced Salami Rustico, prosciutto, and hot capicola. For dipping we had olive oil with a dollop of praline-pecan balsamic vinegar from Robbins Family Farm, raw honey from Bedillion Honey Farm, strawberry jelly, and a variety of mustards: stone ground mustard, sweet beet-horseradish and garam masala mustards from Williamson Wines, and some honey dijon.
Now for the cheeses! We started with the Danish Saga Blue – it was a milder bleu cheese, and it paired well with a surprising variety of other flavors; basically, everything we had on the board. It went especially well with savory meats, like the bacon or salami rustico. We couldn’t believe how versatile this cheese was, though, and its creaminess made it great for spreading as well!
Next up we had 5 County Cheddar, which is a semi-sharp English cheese…or rather, five cheeses in one! The five layers of 5 County Cheddar are Cheddar (which I literally just learned is village in England), Cheshire, Derby, Double Gloucester, and Red Leicester. The cheese was very approachable and paired well with sweet dips; match it on a crostini with honey or your favorite sweet jelly and you’ll be in heaven.
We thought the Saga Blue was creamy…well, the D’Affinois was ridiculously creamy. It was almost like whipped butter! Our favorite pairing was with the dry red wine we were sipping. It was rich enough to stand up to a lot of other flavors, even the boldness of a Cabernet or Syrah.
Lastly, we have the sharp and dry Stella Fontinella from Italy. The cheese’s firmness made it very easy to slice and present nicely on the board. Like the 5 County Cheddar, it paired best with sweet flavors that cut the sharpness down. The garam masala mustard and the honey dijon also provided good complimentary flavors.
Needless to say, all of these cheeses were a hit with us. But the D’Affinois was probably our favorite — so much so that a couple times later in the month, we made mini-charcuterie plates with it for lunch. It melted wonderfully on slices of baguette when thrown in the oven for a couple minutes, and it worked with a wide variety of jellies, from strawberry to hot pepper jelly. If you can only get one of this pack from Penn Mac, go with the D’Affinois; you won’t regret it!