This is the second post in collaboration with Katie at Twin Stripe. All week long we are sharing recipes and tips for a perfect summer picnic. Be sure to check out Katie’s tips for planning the details of your picnic today!
A cheese plate is a fantastic appetizer to have at a picnic. You can have a smorgasbord of cheeses, jams, fruits, meats, crackers and breads and let people serve themselves. Cheese plates require hardly any preparation other than buying the ingredients. They also make for an impressive spread. At our picnic, it was so lovely to sit around and chat while munching on these yummy treats. When you’re designing your own cheese plate, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Pack a variety of cheeses. There are four categories of cheeses, and you should consider having at least three of them on your cheese plate: aged, soft, firm and blue. If you’re stuck, you can try going with a theme, like French cheeses, to help you reign it in. At our picnic, we had bleu cheese, cheddar cheese and gouda. It’s a good idea to have at least one familiar kind of cheese, as it’s easy to get carried away with fancier, foreign options. For a picnic, stay away from pungent cheeses so they don’t stink up everything in your basket.
Be aware of the temperature. Depending on your travel time to your picnic destination, you may want to keep your cheese chilled in a cooler. Let them sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving them to let the cheeses soften, which makes them easier to slice. Don’t let them sit in the heat for too long, or they will melt and get too soft. Consider covering the meats and cheeses with a cheese cloth to help keep bugs away.
Bring bread and crackers. A selection of crunchy crackers and soft breads make the perfect companions to different kinds of cheeses. It’s a good idea to get at least a sliced baguette and at least one kind of cracker. You can also peruse the bakery section of the grocery store for other kinds of bread, like those with fruit or nuts, Pumpernickel or breadsticks.
Have fun with accompaniments. A jar of sweet jam or local honey you already have in your cabinet would be a lovely addition to your cheese plate. A selection of cured meats, like salami or prosciutto would be welcome too. Slice them ahead of time to avoid bringing a sharp knife. Bring some fresh fruit, like apples, pears or grapes, as well as a combination of olives, nuts and dried fruit for a variety in your offerings.
Don’t forget the utensils. There’s nothing worse than showing up at a picnic without the proper tools. You might need a cutting board, a spoon for the jam and honey, a sharp knife for the hard cheeses and meats and a butter knife for the soft cheeses. A separate knife for each cheese is ideal.
The best part about cheese plates is that there aren’t really any hard and fast rules. Even though I’ve just laid out a lot of suggestions, they’re just things to keep in mind. Your cheese plate can be as simple or elaborate as you wish, but your fellow picnic-goers are sure to love the option to mix and match and try the different things you’ve brought. Be sure to check out Katie’s tips for planning the details of a picnic over at Twin Stripe today. Enjoy! // susannah