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Great 28: Cheese + Herbs

cheese and herbs

If landscaping your front yard translates to curb appeal, then combining herbs and cheese must equal curd appeal. Cheese is valuable real estate after all, and employing the beauty, aromatics, and complex flavors of herbs can increase the aesthetic and sensorial value of many cheeses.

Traditionally, herbs are used by cheesemakers as a preservative, protective barrier, and an agent for infusing cheeses with flavor. The chosen herbs often reflect terroir: The wild plants animals munch are later used to coat the cheese made from their milk. In this way, herbs can be a willful enhancement of what’s already subtly present in the cheese.

In the supermarket we find Boursin and a plethora of herbed goat cheeses. In cheese shops we may find Brin d’Amour, a sheep’s milk wheel crusted in rosemary, savory, thyme, and juniper, and Alp Blossom, a cow’s milk round coated with an array of herbs and flowers indigenous to the Alpine pastures that sustain the herd.

But we can also take matters into our own hands, covering cheeses with herbs ourselves or serving herb-infused accompaniments. The truth is, any cheese can become an herbal indulgence if we want it to.

Fried Herbs

We all know how wonderful fresh herbs are with young cheeses like chèvre and ricotta, but fried cheese and fried herbs have their own flair. Cheeses like queso frier, bread cheese, and paneer transform when cooked and paired with fried herbs—which require little more than a dip in batter made of equal parts flour and a carbonated beverage (seltzer, beer, or prosecco are good choices) and a quick fry in hot oil.

Recommended Pairings 
Amul Paneer
+ lemon-garlic fried dill
Goat Lady Dairy Smokey Mountain Round + fried parsley, rosemary, and sage

Herbed Popcorn

Everybody likes popcorn, but when it’s paired with cheese it’s pop stardom. As is, herb-dusted popcorn is a fine match for milder soft and semi-firm cheeses, but plain popcorn tossed with crumbled queso fresco, chopped fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime is divine.

Recommended Pairings
Heber Valley Queso Fresco + cilantro-lime popcorn
Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs + Little Lad’s Lemon Herbal Popcorn

Herbal Honey

Get your herb on with the sweet flow of monofloral or single-varietal herbal honeys, which take on the flavor attributes of the plant nectar the bees sip to make their liquid gold. Try pairing an herbed cheese with a mono-floral honey made from the nectar of the same plant.

Recommended Pairings
Sennerei Huban Alp Blossom + Bee Raw California Wild Black Sage Honey
Murray’s Cavemaster Reserve Hudson Flower + Marcelli Formaggi Eucalyptus Blossom Honey

ON THE MENU: Boqueria, Washington, D.C.
“Ensalada romana with Idiazábal and mint. The Idiazábal cheese adds a nice smoky flavor to the dressing and hazelnuts. The mint provides a touch of brightness and freshness.”  — Simone Careaga, director of marketing

Photography by viki2win/shutterstock.com

The Great 28 is featured in our annual Cheese Pairings issue

Tia Keenan

Tia Keenan is a New York–based writer, cook, and cheese specialist. She’s also the author of The Art of the Cheese Plate (Rizzoli, 2016).

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