Are you entertaining this holiday season? Or maybe bringing a dish to someone else’s dinner party? A good cheese plate is a good addition to any holiday party and you can make it more interesting by including Texas cheese makers.
While most Texas cheesemakers are near Dallas and in Hill Country, Houstonians can find these cheeses close to home at the Houston Dairymaids, a cheese shop in the Houston Heights that specializes in Texas artisan cheeses.
Dairymaid Shannon McCracken guided us through a Texas cheese tasting and gave us some pointers on how to put together a good Texas cheese board. Read on for her tips and cheese recommendations.
When putting together a cheese board …
Think about milks
“Obviously you don’t want to have all goat cheeses in there,” says McCracken. “Have a goat cheese, have a couple of different cow’s milk cheeses … ” In other words, look for variety.
Get as many cheesemakers on the board as possible
Don’t get all your cheese from the same cheesemaker. When McCracken puts together Texas cheese boards for tastings and events she tries to include five different Texas cheesemakers.
Offer flavor contrasts on your cheese board. If you pick a fresh goat cheese, for example, you may want to also include an aged goat cheese since the flavors are very different. Try to include a range of flavors from mild to stronger cheeses.
Avoid even numbers
When choosing how many cheeses to include on your cheese board, go for an odd number. McCracken suggests three to five.
Add some accompaniments
Crackers are always good but other options include honey, nuts (McCracken likes to use Oregon hazelnuts), cajeta (such as Blue Heron Farm’s Cajeta, which pairs well with milder cheeses), and mayhaw jelly.
Not familiar with Texas cheeses? Here are some recommendations to get you started.
Fresh Cheeses - Texas makes a lot of goat cheeses, according to McCracken. Try June Joy, a fresh goat cheese blended with honey, black pepper and thyme, by Pure Luck Farm & Dairy in Dripping Springs. Hoja Santa by the Mozzarella Company in Dallas is a fresh goat cheese wrapped in hoja santa leaves that not only looks pretty on the board, it tastes good, too.
Semi-Firm - Eagle Mountain Cheese raw milk cheeses in North Texas. Try their Birdville Reserve or the Tomme de Hood cheeses. Another raw tomme-style cheese to try is Manos de Dios from Caprino Royale dairy in Waco. The cheese, made from a mix of goat and cow’s milk, is tangy and smooth.
Aged - Santiago, a Manchego-style aged cheese from Caprino Royale in Waco, is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
Firm - If you’re a fan of cheddar, try the Veldhuizen Family Farm’s Texas Gold Cheddar. Their flagship cheese, it’s made with raw milk and aged yielding a complex flavor and slightly sharp finish.