Cheese and Preserves for July 4
Part 3: In choosing cheeses for this week’s July 4 picnic with Foodinjars, I wanted to use cheeses that would be broadly available across America. So, I trolled the cheese case of Trader Joe’s in search of the best selections. Typically, I purchase fresh cut cheeses at a cheese shop so I know that it’s fresh, but Trader Joe’s has high turn-over, especially in this city, so I felt okay about plucking shrink-wrapped morsels from the grab’n go case.
For my 3 cheeses, I sought to vary milk type and texture. I avoided the rainbow of “flavored” cheese — not my thing (flavors often override the taste of the cheese) and nabbed these three beauties:
- Goat Brie
- Mini Basque
- Cave-aged blue
The combination offers a good range of flavors, too, from mild Brie to sharp Blue.
Pairing the Cheeses
GOAT BRIE – mild and grassy, this is a great cheese to pair with fresh berries and a drizzle of honey, or it’s a dream canvas for a spiced chutney, like Marisa’s Sweet Cherry Chutney. No time to make this at home? Try this: use a quality store-bought chutney, or top this Brie with really good strawberry preserves and a few cranks of black pepper. For a stunning presentation, set out the whole wheel on a saucer, spread a thin layer of jam on top, and sprinkle on black pepper. (That peppery bite mirrors the slightly pepperiness in the rind of the cheese.) Garnish with a few sprigs of mint around the edges or some finely chopped mint on top of the round. Gorgeous. Serve with cocktails, rosé, or bubbly.
MINI BASQUE – the mild taste of brown butter makes this cheese a good match for a slightly sweet cracker, like the homemade honey graham crackers from 101 Cookbooks I made for this picnic. You can also buy really good graham crackers at Trader Joe’s or use Effie’s Oatcakes — one of my pantry staples. To me, this tastes like a very young Petit Basque, a cheese I wrote about in 2010 for a picnic feature on my old blog (before the redesign). It’s made from sheep’s milk and is wonderful with red wine and anything with cherries. For a perfect bite, slice this cheese onto a sweet cracker, and top it with cherry preserves or chutney. You can also shave it onto a summery green salad studded with blueberries and toasted almonds.
CAVE-AGED BLUE – this is a cheese with voltage — it’s salty and sharp, a good cheese for a picnic on the beach amid salt spray and cocktails. To me, this tastes a lot like Maytag Blue, great in dressings or served with a sharp complement like chutney or spiced blueberries.
Phew! It’s been a flurry of posts this week. Next up: the last post in my series with Foodinjars. I’ll talk cheese party prep and give an overview of links to all the recipes on our July 4 Cheese Picnic series.