The Gift of Aged Cheese
If you’re looking for a unique host gift this holiday party season, here’s a suggestion: aged cheese.
Party hosts might receive a bottle of wine, so why not give them something to complement it?
Just like wine, cheese can be aged to perfection. Typically, the longer cheese is aged, the more unique and complex its flavor. Cheese ripening is a complex process as each variety of cheese is aged to a different degree.
Here are a few of my go-to cheeses for giving, but feel free to pick your favorite type of aged cheese. Present them on their own or together in a gift basket.
First, aged Cheddar is a great option, and one that’s been aged anywhere from one to 10 years or more is a good bet. It will be very sharp, and you can expect some bitterness the older it gets. For an even more unique option, consider a clothbound cheddar, which will have earthy or mushroom flavors on top of the sharp cheddar flavors. A clothbound cheddar is a wheel or block of cheddar that is, as the name implies, wrapped in cloth while it ages for few months to a few years. While the cheese ages, it loses moisture and a natural crusty or hard rind forms on the outside of the cheese giving it the earthy flavors.
Aged Gouda is another excellent example of aged cheese with its complex flavor and firm texture. Its flavor will be sweet and caramelly. If you get a little crunch, that is normal. As Gouda ages, crystals sometimes form as the cheese dries out a bit—and it’s all still perfectly edible and is a nice flavor and texture surprise.
Finally, another one I like to give is aged Parmesan for its versatility. It is crumbly with hints of fruity, almost pineapple-y flavors. There are a lot of great American-made Parmesans, and your local supermarket or cheese specialty store will have a selection.