Cheese isn’t known for being the healthiest indulgence, but maybe that’s because it isn’t paired with fruit enough! This is a classic cheese pairing and also a great pairing for beginners. Whether you want a morning cheeseboard to go alongside brunch or you’re hosting a dinner party with friends, a pairings of fruit and cheese will almost always go over well.
For those of you who are already intimidated by whatever exotic fruit I’m going to pair with some obscure cheese, let me squelch your worries. Rory Stamp, a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Mass., explains that there’s no need to jump to the rare pairings.
“Start with foods that are really familiar to you for pairing. Fresh fruit is a great way to start, you know green apples and cheddar, things that are very approachable,” he said.
So let’s start with apples. What types of cheese can we pair with a simple sliced apple? The all-time favorite is a traditional yellow cheddar cheese. To step it up a notch, buy a sharp white cheddar cheese, like the Gold Creek Aged White Cheddar. It is a little less creamy than mild cheddar and has more bite, but the crisp, refreshing taste of the apple ensures it isn’t too intense.
For a milder combination, try a green salad with sliced apple and fontina cheese. Fontina is a pleasant cheese with shy, nutty notes that make it easy to eat. I love the simplicity of this cheese. On the flip side, pairing the spunkier Monterey Jack, like Face Rock Creamery’s offering, with sliced apple is equally enjoyable. Monterey Jack can be tart, but the sweet acidity of a sliced apple balances that out. I also enjoy pairing an apple with Pepper Jack cheese, which hits spicy and salty notes that mix well with the acidity of an apple.
Dried fruits are also excellent partners for cheese. Although they may not be bursting with juice, they still have a sweet inside to offer. Dates and raisins work particularly well for pairing—as Stamp notes, “There’s something about that slightly oxidative, nutty sweetness that lends itself so well to cheese, and part of the reason is because there are really concentrated natural sugars in those fruits.”
Blue cheeses shine with dates and raisins. Take, for instance, culture‘s recipe for Baby Blue Stuffed Dates, which make a great appetizer or afternoon snack. It might seem strange at first, but apply the sweet-and-salty logic. Why do salted pretzels and peanut butter or chocolate taste so good together? Sweet and salty make a delicious complementary pair—the same principles apply to blue cheese and dates.
My personal favorite for the dried fruit and cheese combination is cranberries and brie. Brie is a smooth, creamy cheese with a nutty, mushroomy taste. Pairing it with the tart, sweet taste of dried cranberries is an ingenious idea for any party. To bump up this combo, try a thinly sliced green apple on top of toast with brie and dried cranberries.
For those craving something both sweet and juicy, peaches and berries of any kind are always happy to be paired with ricotta cheese. Ricotta is mild in flavor, with a grainy texture and subtle sweetness. Put a spoonful on top of warmed peaches or a mixed berry bowl and you’ve got a healthy breakfast!
If you want something just as creamy as ricotta but with a tangy taste, try goat cheese and pair it with a melon slice. This follows the same sweet-and-salty principle we talked about before. If you want to be doubly fancy (and skip ahead a few blog posts) you can add prosciutto into the mix for a masterful pairing.
Feel confident about your fruit pairings yet? This is just the first post in an entire series about cheese pairings. Keep an eye out for the next cheese pairing blog post and slowly you’ll start to feel like an expert in no time.
Comment below with your own cheese + fruit pairing inspired by this blog post, and you could win a free issue of last year’s Cheese+ pairing issue!
Feature Photo Credit: Appetizer mix including cheese, grape, plum and apple by indukas | Shutterstock