Many of us love cheese daily for its creaminess, richness, and flavor. On January 20th, take the opportunity to embrace this celebrated dairy product in honor of National Cheese Lover’s Day. Americans love cheese. The average adult consumes about 34 pounds of cheese a year. It is important to note that this nutrient dense dairy food can fit into most healthy eating plans. If concerned about the cholesterol, sodium, and saturated fat content of full-fat cheeses, consider using them as a condiment. Top off a soup, salad, vegetables, or grain dish with a freshly shredded tangy cheese. Crumble a small handful of feta or goat cheese onto raw or cooked vegetables. Add a dusting of shredded mozzarella to a homemade pizza. Lower fat cheeses are also an option.
- In general, an ounce of hard cheese, or a wedge about the size of a thumb, contains about 120 calories along with 8 grams of protein, 6 grams of saturated fat.
- A half-cup of soft cheese, like 4% full-fat cottage cheese has about 120 calories, 14 g protein, 3 g saturated fat.
- Because salt is a key ingredient in making cheese, most cheeses tend to be high in sodium with 300-450 mg per serving.
- Some cheeses like goat, whole-milk mozzarella, and Swiss are lower in sodium with only 50-100 mg per serving.
- Most cheeses are a good to excellent source of calcium.
- Cheese, especially harder cheese, tend to be better tolerated for those that are lactose intolerant.
Typically, the flavor of cheese is best at room temperature, whether a soft or hard cheese. In most cases, the rind on hard cheeses that forms during the ripening process is edible but may be removed if it is too tough or waxy. Softer rinds such as that with Brie are often enjoyed along with the creamy interior of the cheese.
To celebrate National Cheese Lover’s Day, enjoy beautiful specialty cheese along with a variety of condiments on a homemade cheese board:
- Start with a cutting board, serving plate, or any flat surface. Even a cooking sheet covered with foil will do.
- Select the cheeses. Try to include a variety of flavors or textures. Ask the cheese monger at McCaffrey’s for suggestions. Use cheese markers to label specialty cheeses.
- When placing cheese, face outward so it looks more inviting and easier to access with a knife.
- Adds some charcuterie if desired, like salami, prosciutto, or chorizo.
- Include some savory items in fun little dishes, like olives, artichokes, nuts, or roasted peppers.
- Complement cheese with sweet dried and fresh fruits, such as sliced apples, grapes, cherries, dates, figs, and apricots.
- A variety of breads and crackers to add flavor and interest.
- Don’t forget the serving utensils. Include multiple knives, spoons, and forks for different items. This will prevent the transferring or flavors and minimize the chances of mixing products together.
- Finish off your board with some fresh herbs, edible flowers, or seasonal decorations.
Have fun and get creative with your cheese board! When it is time to clean up, keep the following in mind:
- The length of time you can keep cheese differs by variety. In general, the harder the cheese, the longer it will last.
- Store cheese in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator, where the temperature is cold and stable.
- Different cheese needs to be stored a bit differently to maintain its freshness:
- Hard, aged cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano and aged Gouda: wrap in wax or parchment paper, then add a layer of plastic wrap.
- Blue cheeses like Gorgonzola and Roquefort: Wrap in plastic wrap.
- Semi-hard and hard cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss and Gruyere: Wrap in plastic wrap.
- Soft, semi-soft, and stinky cheeses like Goat, Camembert, Brie, and Limburger: Place in a resealable plastic container.
- Fresh cheeses in water like mozzarella or Feta: Leave the cheese in the original packaging, changing the water every couple of days.
- Experts recommend using a fresh piece of plastic wrap or wax paper to rewrap cheese after each use.
After some basic “cheese talk,” it is time to celebrate National Cheese Lover’s Day. Visit the cheese mongers at McCaffrey’s for some delicious cheese suggestions. Then, you might want to try these recipes for Mac and Cheese Bites or Spinach Feta Muffins, both great options for a healthy snack or quick lunch. And this Butternut Squash Dip with goat cheese offers a rich creamy dip that is perfect for a football – or any other type – gathering!