Retail sales of cheese are booming, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI. Over the 52 weeks ending Sept. 6, 2020 dollar sales for natural cheeses jumped 15.8% to $15,291 million, while unit sales catapulted 9.0% to 4,356.4 million. Even processed cheese saw a jump by 13.5% in retail dollar sales. In a topsy turvy world, DairyFoods magazine asserts that “The only thing that is clear right now is that this home-eating trend will include cheese.”
Enjoying cheese at home calls for the proper storage and serving techniques, which can be learned from a nation that prizes cheese. According to Charles Duque, Managing Director of the French Dairy Board for the Americas, “The French are very proud of their cheeses. In fact, they value them so highly that France is the only country in the world where there is a specific course entirely devoted to cheese.” The way cheese is sliced and served can enhance the overall tasting experience including the flavor and texture. Each cheese, from soft to hard to crumbly, needs a different type of knife, and depending on its shape, the cut will be different too.
Choosing your Knife
While any kind of knife can be used to cut cheese, there is a range of cheese knives that are specifically designed for the task. The right knife will effortlessly create the perfect slices, chips or chunks that maximize the flavors, textures, colors and aromas of cheese.
A wide, flat knife, known as a chisel knife, that is sharp at the top edge works well for crumbly cheeses like Roquefort, or semi-soft cheeses like provolone. A spreader is a soft-edged, round knife best used for soft spreadable options like goat cheese. A soft cheese knife, which is pronged with a thin, often-perforated blade helps prevent sticking with cheeses like Brie and Camembert.
For harder cheeses like Mimolette, try a cheese cleaver. Its wide, rectangular blade is great for cutting cheese into cubes. A narrow plane knife, also known as a trapezium knife due to its shape, is made for cutting cheese as well as chipping away at it from a larger block. It is rectangular in shape and features two sharp sides as opposed to one. For creating thinner slivers of cheese, the ideal tool is a cheese plane, which is spatula-like in shape, with an opening in the middle to slice cheese.
Getting it in Shape
Cheeses come in all shapes and sizes. The shapes are determined by the way the cheese is made. While impressive as a whole, most cheeses need to be sliced when served. Slicing the cheese correctly will provide the maximum pieces with the right amount of rind.
One of the most common shapes of cheese is the round like the Camembert or Brie. FROMAGE FROM EUROPE’s Charles Duque notes, “You should cut these cheeses like you would cut a pie, into triangle-shaped portions. Make an incision from the center outward.” If you’d like to cut this further once in a triangle shape, he recommends cutting the end piece off, then a diagonal slice, then a perpendicular one at the end of the rind so each end-slice has a bit of the rind on it. For slices from large wheels such as Beaufort or Comté, try laying it flat and cutting long slices parallel to the rind then stopping mid-cheese to cut perpendicular to the rind.
Moving on to atypical shapes, like a pyramid or cone-shaped cheese, like the Macconais or Valençay, should be broken up similar to a round cheese, cutting all the way through the height of the cheese into triangles, while square cheese should be cut like a cake, driving the knife diagonally from end-to-end, then cutting each triangle in half and so on until you’ve reach the size you prefer. And lastly, for the even more oddly shaped cheeses, Duque suggests you, “cut it like round cheeses. Intersect the middle in even-wedged, triangular slices.”
While these are the ideal ways to slice and dice your cheese, as long as you have one you enjoy, you can’t go wrong! For additional tips and tricks to curating a perfect cheeseboard and more visit fromagefromeurope.com.
About the FROMAGE FROM EUROPE
The FROMAGE FROM EUROPE Marketing Campaign, orchestrated by Cniel (The French Dairy Inter-Branch Organization) and funded in part by the European Union, was designed to create awareness for the variety of European cheeses available in the US market and to suggest ways that American consumers can incorporate those cheeses into their diets, recipes and lifestyles. The campaign’s goal is to increase the appeal of European cheeses and strengthen their competitive position in the growing specialty cheese category.
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THE CONTENT OF THIS ADVERTISEMENT REPRESENTS THE AUTHOR’S POINT OF VIEW ONLY AND IS THE SOLE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE AUTHOR. THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY USE THAT MAY BE MADE OF THE INFORMATION CONTAINED THEREIN.