3 Cheeses for a Thanksgiving-Worthy Cheese Plate
As a feasting celebration, Thanksgiving hardly needs to introduce new dishes, as table space is already at a premium with the array of turkey and sides that occupy the menu. That being said, there are myriad reasons why you should consider cheese a worthy addition to whatever you’re already planning to prepare.
Of primary importance, cheese offers high value with low effort — a welcome departure from a majority of Thanksgiving’s signature dishes.
When you’re spending all day in the kitchen for a meal that will take 30 minutes or less to consume, any new items up for consideration must be low maintenance. Of course, you can go all out with a seasonal, decorative, holiday-themed cheese board, but it isn’t required. A few excellent cheeses served whole with some crackers or baguette slices will still provide a wow factor for your family and guests. Plus, cheese is easy to pull out for snacking on if you're getting the turkey to the table later than anticipated.
If you are considering cheese for your Thanksgiving celebration, you can still keep it on theme. Here are three cheeses that are especially good for crafting a Thanksgiving-worthy cheese plate.
Rush Creek Reserve
Rush Creek Reserve is especially apropos as a holiday cheese because it is only produced around the holidays. Cheese has seasonality for a number of reasons, but the diet of grazing animals is one of the most important ways that the calendar affects cheesemaking. Modeled after France’s Vacherin Mont d’Or, Rush Creek Reserve is made by Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, and is only produced when cattle switch from grazing on fresh grass to grazing on hay. (Vacherin Mont d’Or is also a worthy selection here, but it did seem important to have at least one American-made cheese for Thanksgiving.)
Related Reading: Cheese Seasonality
What happens when cows switch from grass to hay is that their milk gets richer, resulting in a decadent, oozy cheese that is akin to custard. A spruce bark also keeps it seasonally-themed and imparts a slight woodsy flavor. Ten minutes in the oven along with the turkey or sweet potatoes — a possibility since the cheese needs minimal real estate — turns the cheese into a one-step fondue.
If there’s one thing besides the turkey that summarizes the aroma of Thanksgiving as a whole, it’s herbs. Whether tucked under the turkey skin with some butter or folded into stuffing, herbs are one of the defining characteristics of our Thanksgiving celebrations. You can also easily incorporate them into your Thanksgiving cheese plate, and you needn’t stop with just garnish. Many excellent cheeses are either rolled or coated in various herbs or incorporated into the paste.
Related Reading: Understanding Goat Cheese
Any number of herby cheeses would be fine fellows on your Thanksgiving cheese board, but my vote is for Cabra Romero. In addition to its especially seasonal flavor, the blanket of rosemary provides a dramatic look appropriate for celebrations. Cabra Romero is a Spanish goat’s milk cheese that has the same basic properties as wine-soaked Drunken Goat. (Another potential thematic entry.) A sweet, smooth and gently tangy paste gets a generous coating of rosemary for the perfect sweet and savory balance.
White Stilton with Cranberries
If the term “Stilton” typically conjures up images of blue cheese: you’re not wrong. Classically speaking, Stilton is a very traditional, English blue cheese that can only be made by six producers in the United Kingdom. All six producers are also licensed to make White Stilton, which is essentially how Stilton looks in its early days before it develops its blue veining. Blue cheeses aren’t injected with blue mold, rather they are inoculated with blue mold cultures before they are formed into wheels, and then the wheels are pricked with needles in the aging facility to let oxygen in and allow the blue veining to grow.
Related Reading: Understanding Blue Cheese
Without the necessary cultures and needle-pricking, White Stilton remains white, but still develops a slightly fudgy texture, with a slightly sweet, naturally fruity flavor. Replacing the blue veins with cranberries makes it not only Thanksgiving-appropriate, but family-friendly.