First things first…
The cheesemaking process is all about removing moisture (you’ll typically want 10L of milk to make 1kg of cheddar) meaning that what remains is mostly fat, protein and the salt that’s added to most cheese as a preservative.
If you’re here, reading this, I’m pretty sure you love those complex, salty, umami kind of notes that beckon you back to the cheesy siren on the rocks. That desire is inescapable, which goes some way to explaining why cheese’s history dates back nearly 8,000 years – that’s around about the time of the first recorded wine making in Georgia.
I hopped into a time machine to find ou… I think not.
I haven’t got all day, Leo
Ok ok… I guess someone doesn’t need 1,000 words to optimise their SEO…
In short, it’s down to the science. With cheese being high in fat, that coats your mouth – meaning that flavours are retained for longer, scientists (yeah, “scientists”) have found that cheese improves how we perceive fruity flavours, reduces certain types of bitterness, and brings out more taste from white wine.
Over and above that, alcohol cuts through that fat and coats your palate – particularly when it comes to stronger spirits like gin or even vodka.
One of my favourite surprises was pairing a top-drawer cheddar with a good whiskey. Here, it’s down to science again. Single malts particularly, have a long finish – just like certain cheeses, and I’d highly recommend trying both separately – and then together.
Sometimes when you combine two great, individual elements – you can end up disappointed with the result. What you experience with a solid whiskey and a mature cheddar is a great exception to that.
The great news here is that you will always discover new pairings. Think of complementary combinations, get creative – and as always, please let me know your favourites!
Anything to avoid then?
While pairing fruit with cheese is a well-trodden path – and rightly so when it comes to grapes, pears with stilton, even delicious summer berries with a creamy soft cheese – I’ve yet to feel the urge to break out a lemon or some grapefruit to go on my cheeseboard. I’ve been wrong before, and doubtless I’ll be wrong again – but I think this one’s a fairly safe bet.
Overall though, it depends on the cheese. If you’ve got something that’s particularly delicate, you’re not going to want to overpower it with super-strong flavours that leave no room for the cheese.
That said, I’m an absolute fiend for chilli jam. If you’re wondering how I balance this with the sentence I’ve just written above – simple, just add more cheese 😉