Looking for British cheeses and classic cheeses for your Christmas cheeseboard? Check out our tips and tricks to creating the perfect cheeseboard to serve friends and family over the Christmas season.
Plus award-winning cheesemonger Hero Hirsh, manager of Paxton & Whitfield’s flagship central London shop, gives us her picks for two cheeseboards, one classic and one contemporary, to enjoy this Christmas. Hero covers all cheese varieties for the festive season, from hard cheese to soft cheese, blue cheese to Cheddar.
Before you buy your cheese, read our expert guide on how to store cheese, how to cut cheese and how to buy the best cheese here. We’ve created the perfect charcuterie board too, from homemade beef jerky to cured duck ham and an easy bresaola recipe.
How to make an easy cheeseboard
Create your own impressive cheeseboard with our easy cheeseboard with chutney, nuts and crunchy crackers – the perfect way to end your Christmas feast.
- Space out the cheeses on a large board or platter, leaving plenty of room around them.
- Fill in smaller gaps with roasted cashews, pecans and smoked almonds.
- Chill goat’s cheese before cutting into discs.
- Slice block cheeses like cheddar and red Leicester into rectangles, then across diagonally to make smart wedges, or cut into little cubes.
- Add piles of different shaped biscuits, crackers and breadsticks.
- Use small bowls for chutney, mustard, olives and honey or chilli jam.
- Leave softer cheeses (such as brie and creamy or crumbly blue) whole.
- Pepper the platter with bunches of grapes, figs and apple slices.
Check out Hero Hirsh’s cheese varieties for the festive season, from hard cheese to soft cheese, blue cheese to Cheddar
The classic Christmas cheeseboard
Cornish Kern (££7/250g)
Over the years, British producers have perfected camembert, brie and blue cheeses but one cheese has always eluded them: the Alpine style. The French nail it with comte, with its complex flavours and moreish texture. It wasn’t until 2017 that something came along that could compete. Cornish Kern, made by Lynher Dairies, has an imposing, stark black rind and, once the cheese is cracked open, a burst of deep, sweet, nutty aromas is released. The interior is ivory yellow, the mouthfeel is firm and covers the tongue in a roux-like texture. Then there’s the taste – like a brazil nut rolling into a savoury, milky, almond finish. It’s no wonder it was voted the best in the world at the 2017 World Cheese Awards.
Recommended by Perry James Wakeman, Rennet & Rind.
Occasionally a cheese comes along that’s a game changer, and Stonebeck is just that. Based on a hilltop farm in a remote corner of the Yorkshire Dales, Andrew and Sally Hattan make Stonebeck seasonally (from spring to autumn when cows are out at pasture) with raw milk from the Northern Dairy Shorthorn, a native breed fed on diverse pasture and wildflower hay meadows. The result is a cheese that has a mellow, rich, long, complex and multi-layered flavour, with a pliant and crumbly texture. No wonder it’s becoming a talked-about cheese among those who know.
Recommended by Andy Swinscoe, The Courtyard Dairy.
Appleby’s Cheshire (£2.45/100g)
The Appleby family has consistently produced this historic British territorial for generations and it is imperative that they survive these trying times. Appleby’s Cheshire is fresh, lactic and crumbly with an intriguing earthiness that ties it to the fertile Cheshire Plain. I love cheshire at Christmas time as it’s a nostalgic cheese for me, and also plays a vital part in a Yuletide recipe in my family. Until adulthood, I believed ‘bubble and squeak’ to be roughly chopped left-over roast dinner placed in an oven dish with glugs of gravy and a healthy covering of grated cheshire cheese. At Christmas, the dish would be studded with jewels of cranberry sauce.
Recommended by Jay Hickson, Calder Cheesehouse.
Cote Hill Blue (£9/300g)
Cote Hill Farm is a small rural family business that employs two generations, making this cheese with raw milk from its own herd. Only a handful of raw-milk blue cheeses are made in this country, so we need to protect the few we have. Cote Hill Blue is truly unique – it’s much softer than most blue cheeses, with a more brie-like texture and a beautiful dove-grey rind.
Recommended by Danielle Bliss, Paxton & Whitfield.
Brefu Bach (Little Bleat) (£5.50 per cheese)
In the foothills of Snowdonia, cheesemaker Carrie Rimes collects raw ewe’s milk locally from one farmer on the Llŷn Peninsula. It’s all about being gentle and patient with this cheese – made using traditional thistle rennet in small batches and all by hand. The result is a cheese which is fresh and delicate with a decedent mousse-like texture. When young, it has hints of fresh cream. As it matures, it becomes more savoury and intense.
Recommended by Owen Davies, Ty Caws.
Mont D’Or (£14.50/500g, £19.50/800g)
(Unpasteurised, cow’s milk, traditional rennet)
This delicious soft cheese with a bloomy rind is made in the Jura Mountains that lie across the French/Swiss Alpine border. It’s an unusual cheese as it is made in the winter months from August through to March when weather conditions traditionally prevented farms from taking their milk to the local dairy for making Comte. The cheese is made in cloth-lined moulds and encircled by pieces of spruce bark that give the cheese a resinous flavour as it matures.
Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Mont D’Or can be eaten on its own with a spoon and some homemade bread or can be warmed gently in the oven to make your own individual fondue to add to the cheese board. Here’s how to make the perfect fondue…
Appleby’s Cheshire (£25.00/kg)
(Unpasteurised cow’s milk, vegetarian rennet)
This is an artisan cheese made in Shropshire using a traditional recipe, with milk from cows that have grazed on lush Cheshire/Shropshire pastures.
Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Appleby’s Cheshire is the best example of a classic, historic, territorial cheese for your Christmas cheese board that has a refreshing acidic tang with a hint of salt.
Montgomery’s Cheddar (£27.00)
(Unpasteurised cow’s milk, traditional rennet)
A mature Cheddar that has a long and complex flavour, made by Jamie Montgomery in North Cadbury near Yeovil. Montgomery’s Cheddar is full flavoured and develops a depth and complexity throughout its slow maturation period of 12-18 months. The texture is drier than that of many other traditional Cheddars, with a distinct crumbly and crunchy bite.
Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Montgomery’s Cheddar is a superb example of a West Country artisan Cheddar for your Christmas cheese board that has a flavour to die for!
Stilton PDO* (£26.00/kg)
(Pasteurised, cows’ milk, traditional rennet)
Stilton is the classic cheese to enjoy at Christmas, and Paxton & Whitfield’s award-winning Stilton is handmade by Cropwell Bishop Creamery in Nottinghamshire. Paxton’s Stilton is matured for about 12 weeks before it gets sold from the shops. As it matures the cheese gains a creamy and mellow flavour, with a buttery richness that melts in the mouth.
Stilton in prime condition should be creamy yellow with an even spread of blue-green veins. The strength of the flavour should not be overpowering but have a pleasant, herby tang. It is at its best during the winter months because it is made with lush summer milk.
Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Stilton is a must on a classic Christmas cheese board. If you only have Stilton once a year, make sure it’s at Christmas. Use any leftover crumbs to sprinkle onto our broccoli and blue cheese soup recipe.
Ossau Iraty PDO* (£46.00/kg)
(Pasteurised, sheep’s milk, traditional rennet)
This is a delicious hard sheep’s cheese from the Bearnais and Basque regions of France and is the only protected cheese from the Pyrenees (read our travel guide to the Pyrenees here). This cheese has a pinkish, light grey rind and the interior is compact, with a slightly elastic texture.
Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Ossau Iraty has a sweet, nutty and milky flavour that is perfect for a festive cheeseboard.
A contemporary British cheeseboard for Christmas:
Barwheys Cheese (£29.00/kg)
(Unpasteurised, cow’s milk, traditional rennet)
This relatively new Scottish cheese was first produced in 2005 in Ayrshire, West Scotland (here’s where to stay if you’re visiting). Barwheys Dairy, where the cheese is made, uses milk from its own herd of pedigree Ayrshire cattle. The milk is very rich and gives the cheese a full bodied, smooth and complex flavour. The cheese has the slightest hint of a crumble and has subtle notes of spice, caramel and nuts.
Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Barwheys cheese is a delicious alternative to the traditional Cheddar for a Christmas cheeseboard.
(Unpasteurised, cow’s milk, traditional rennet)
This new, luxurious, triple cream cheese is made at Nettlebed Creamery on Manor Farm, Nettlebed, Oxfordshire, by cheesemaker Rose Grimmonds. (Here’s where to stay if you’re visiting the creamery in Oxfordshire.)
When young, Bix has a rich ice cream like texture. As it matures, the typical mushroom aroma of the cheese comes through.
Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Bix has a distinct creamy texture that makes it an interesting British cheese for Christmas.
Cote Hill Blue (£30.00/kg)
(Unpasteurised, cow’s milk, vegetarian rennet)
Made in Lincolnshire, Cote Hill Blue is a creamy blue cheese with a buttery and satisfying flavour. Matured for over three months, it has a distinctive rind and a blue veined, soft, creamy texture that coats the mouth and leaves behind a buttery sweetness and a subtle kick.
Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Cote Hill Blue is a delicious alternative blue cheese for the Christmas cheeseboard.
Pavé Cobble (£9.75/200g)
(Thermised, sheep’s milk, vegetarian rennet)
A handmade fresh sheep’s milk cheese made by Whitelake Cheese in Somerset (here’s our guide to the area). With a mousse-like texture, this is a light and delicate lactic style ewe’s milk cheese.
This cheese is ashed and in the shape of a flat-topped pyramid. It has a creamy, slightly citrusy flavour and should show some surface ripening unless it is allowed to dry as it ages.
Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Pavé Cobble won Supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards 2017, so makes a great talking point for your Christmas cheese board.
(Pasteurised, cow’s milk, traditional rennet)
This is a relatively new British artisan cheese, first being produced in March 2015. It is the creation of David Jowett, a young British cheesemaker who used to work for Paxton & Whitfield in its Stratford-upon-Avon store.
David makes this cheese at King Stone Dairy in Little Rollright, Oxfordshire. The milk used to make the cheese comes from nine different breeds of cow from King Stone Farm. Rollright has a peachy coloured rind that complements the pale, unctuous inner paste. It has a full flavour that is savoury and meaty with hints of sweet buttery notes.
Why should this cheese be on your Christmas cheese board? Rollright is wrapped in strips of French spruce bark, the same bark that is used to wrap Mont d’Or, so it looks great on a Christmas cheese board.
All cheeses listed are available from Paxton & Whitfield and other good cheesemongers/counters.
* PDO – Protected Designation of Origin, for products that are produced, processed and prepared within a particular geographical area, and with features and characteristics that must be due to that area.