While we love to wax on about all manner of exotic pairings for cheese in this magazine (doughnuts, caviar, seaweed!) there’s no shame in the simple and time-honored practice of serving your favorite wedge or wheel with a sweet or savory accompaniment packaged in a jar. Cheese paired with something from a jar has been around since at least the 1920s, when Brits began slathering their cheddar with Branston Pickle—actually a tangy chutney that includes cauliflower, apple, and rutabaga. Whether the combination is part of a ploughman’s lunch plate or in a sandwich, “cheese and pickle” is beloved in the UK and makes a fine pairing on any cheeseboard.
The no-brainer cheese + jar matchup is also an easy take-along to a gathering as a contribution to the menu, or plunked in a pretty bag with some tissue paper it can be a thank-you gift. If you want to get a little fancier and more generous, throw in a cheese knife and/or a small spoon (extra points for one that’s especially decorative or engraved with your host’s initial—check antique stores or thrift shops).
Ease aside, the pairing should still be thoughtfully considered. Honey and fruit preserves are two of the most obvious options and can go with almost any cheese, but there is a world of exotic and delicious products out there to explore at your favorite cheese or specialty food shop. Serving, however, couldn’t be easier: unwrap the cheese, open the jar, and it’s party time.
Portuguese Serpa (pronounced SUR-pah) is a special cheese on several levels. Soft and rich, but more buttery than creamy, it is made with raw milk from a single herd of sheep. Thistle rennet adds complexity to the mild flavor, however Serpa is an approachable crowd pleaser, and a two-pound, cloth-wrapped wheel is a ready-made cheeseboard centerpiece. Let it sit at room temperature for a few hours before slicing off the top and digging in with a spoon. Mitica’s Doce de Tomate, a traditional Portuguese tomato jam, lends a complementary sweet-spicy note.
Does the invite say “cocktail attire?” Like a Missoni dress, this sophisticated Italian duo will turn heads. With subtle blue-green veins and a mild, tangy flavor, Gorgonzola dolce is a natural with honey, but switching things up with white balsamic pearls is like ditching those everyday flats for the Bruno Magli party shoes. Terra del Tuono’s tiny orbs not only look elegant, they also add a layer of sweet-tart flavor and surprising texture to the smooth, spreadable cheese.
Cantal is one of the most ancient French cheeses, having been produced in the Auvergne region of south-central France since at least the first century, A.D. The jeune (young) and entre-deux (medium) versions are semi-firm, mild, and highly versatile, as good in a sandwich as they are as a less-expected, melty topping for French onion soup. Transfer the same savory flavor from a bowl to a bite with Blake Hill’s French Onion with Rosemary—from the Vermont company’s standout collection of sweet and savory jams for cheese.
This aromatic sheep’s milk cheese is one of the exceptional wheels produced at Finca Pascualete, a 13th-century Spanish estate where traditional cheesemaking was reintroduced at the urging of the American wife of the landowner, Count Romanones. Born Aline Griffith, Countess Romanones served as a spy during World War II, and would likely approve of the exotic accompaniment—a piquant chutney also made according to a traditional recipe on a family estate, Moulins Mahjoub in Tunisia.
Chocolate has its rightful place, but fora dessert to rival the most decadent truffle, pair this luscious pillow of Vermont Creamery goat cheese with Girl Meets Dirt’s caramel apple in a jar. Underneath Coupole’s wrinkled rind is an oozy creamline and a dense, fudgy center; the apple lends a fruity note to contrast with all that richness and a hint of sea salt tempers the sweetness of the caramel. To really gild the lily, start with a base of oatmeal cookie or shortbread.