If stinky cheeses are the irritable, spinster aunt only a select few take a liking to, then Havarti is everyone’s favorite uncle. Of all the cheeses, Havarti might be my favorite. Its rich-yet-mild buttery flavor and creamy texture is welcome in any setting – such as a simple wine and cheese get-together of twenty 20-somethings in a cramped New York City apartment.
This versatile, semi-firm Danish cow’s milk cheese can be sliced, grilled, or melted. Washed curds give it a pleasing subtle flavor and a buttery aroma. Its lovely cream to yellow color lends itself to being a canvas for other brightly pigmented accompaniments such as jewel-toned jams, deeply-colored vegetable greens, and fiery-red sauces. Unlike perfectly smooth, level cheeses, Havarti has small, irregular openings, or “eyes.” I like that – ultra-smoothness or perfection (in anything) can make me squeamish. It’s quite popular as a dessert cheese, and great served with fruit and wine.
Thank goodness Havarti softens quickly at room temperature – I’d only just begun slicing and plating my cheese board as guests were arriving. It can truly be the final touch to your dinner party, wine and cheese gathering, or simply wedged between two slices of bread or crackers for a simple, instantaneous snack.
While I opted for plain, aged Havarti, Havarti is also produced with extra cream or seasonings, like dill and other herbs, spices, jalapeño peppers, or caraway seeds. Havarti matches classically well with sugary fruits like figs, raisins, walnuts, hearty, rustic bread, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and light-bodied Pinot Noir wine. But because it is so mild, nearly anything goes – such as layering it with hummus and tahini, lingonberry jam and golden honey, or salty capers and a drizzle of sriracha atop a whole-grain cracker.
- 1 package Havarti cheese
- 1 box of your favorite thick, rustic grain crackers
- 1 jar lingonberry jam
- Floral honey (optional)
- Plain or herbed tahini
- 1 jar capers
- Sriracha sauce
- For lingonberry and honey Havarti cheese bites, slice Havarti into ¼-inch thick slices. Evenly spread each cracker with ¾ teaspoon of lingonberry jam. Top with Havarti slice. Lightly drizzle with honey and serve.
- For hummus, tahini, and Havarti appetizer, slice Havarti into ¼-inch thick slices. Evenly spread cracker with 1 teaspoon hummus. Top with Havarti slice. Lightly drizzle with tahini and serve.
- For sriracha, Havarti, and capers on whole wheat crisps, slice Havarti into ¼-inch thick slices. Press capers into cracker or cheese to keep from falling, or mash capers in a bowl with a fork and spread ½teaspoon mashed capers on cracker. Top with Havarti slice. Lightly drizzle with sriracha and serve.
- For a hot take on these cool appetizers, broil Havarti for 1 to 2 minutes under a broiler before adding the final drizzles and serving.