The holidays are here! Are you ready? Stressed about entertaining so many friends and relatives at your home? Well stop! There are so many easy ways to keep people happy, and to be able to spend time with them rather than finding yourself working double-time in the kitchen while everyones off caroling (though, personally, I’d rather be in the kitchen than subjecting others to my singing). Cheese is such a good way to spread some holiday happiness, get people an easy appetizer, and to keep yourself happy while you’re watching your rib roast cook away in the oven. I’ll be honest: there isn’t any cheese that doesn’t go with the holidays, but there are a few recommendations that I have that are exceptional this time of here.
Cheese is such a good way to spread some holiday happiness
The first, and most traditional, is stilton. Here at Via Umbria, we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a whole wheel of it from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London. We carry cheeses from our favorite affineurs across the pond year but the stilton that we buy for Christmas is my favorite part of this relationship. Stilton has been a part of English Christmas tradition for a long time. As such it pairs with so many of the foods that we eat, from spiced nuts to the big beef itself. Neal’s Yard’s stilton is made by one of the smallest producers: Colston Bassett, a co-op in Nottinghamshire where they take care to do everything by hand (something you won’t find at the factory that makes the stilton you’re buying at the supermarket).
I also really like the L’Amuse signature gouda for this time of year. It’s a cheese we are fortunate to have on hand year round, but when the days get shorter and colder, the cheese really stands out. This good gouda is not something soft and flabby, that requires smoke to mask it’s flavor. This gouda, traditionally made in the Netherlands, is colored with anatto and aged for over two years. If you ever hear someone talk about crystallization in cheese, this is the prime example, as it’s age makes almost crunchy. It’s flavor is an intense caramel that warms the soul – and pairs with some of your seasonal beers – the stouts and porters that good brewers release for the colder days.
My final cheese recommendation for the holidays is also the easiest to recommend, since it is only released this time of year: the Rush Creek Reserve. This is one of those now-trendy cheeses with washed rinds that are wrapped in spruce bark. But they’re trendy for a reason (they’re delicious) and they are perfect for entertaining. To eat them you slice off the top and open up to reveal a cheese so soft it’s ready for dipping. Of all these cheeses though, Rush Creek is the best. It’s producer: Uplands Cheese Company of Dodgeville, Wisconsin makes only two cheeses with their small herd. This cheese is made with milk that is produced in the autumn, when the cow’s diet has switched from the fresh summer grass to hay. It’s made with raw milk, making the beefy, brothy flavor so much more intense. It’s so good and honestly, hard to find and sells quickly (I’m not kidding people go crazy for this). If you’re entertaining for the holidays this is the cheese to get.