Unlike soft cheeses, hard cheeses are ripened or aged. Made by coagulating milk proteins with enzymes and cultured acids, these cheeses are ripened with bacteria or mold. Common favorites that are ripened by bacteria include cheddar, Swiss, Colby and Parmesan and favorite mold-ripened varieties include blue cheese, hard brie and Roquefort.
Hard cheeses are drier and have a significantly longer shelf life than soft cheeses. When stored properly in the refrigerator, blocks of hard cheese can be kept for up to six months.
One of the huge benefits to buying and serving hard cheeses is their versatility. You can eat them hard, melt them for dips or sauces, or serve them sliced, cubed, crumbled or whole. Because hard cheeses take time to ripen and mature, they tend to have strong, distinct flavor (think about the last time you bit into a hunk of blue cheese!), which makes pairing them with charcuterie a little trickier than with the mild tendencies of soft cheeses. Smoked meats pair better than cured or dried because they are less salty. Try cooked ham or turkey with cheddar, smoked roast beef with Colby, salami with parmesan or chicken with blue cheese. No matter what you pair, charcuterie with your favorite bold hard cheese makes for a delectable dish!
Charcuterie lovers tend to be food gurus, so if you’re not one to shy away from bold flavors, try these ideas for powerful pairings:
Bresaola (air-dried, salt-cured beef aged for three months) and
Shaved Parmesan Mortadella (Six month cured combination of ham, pork sausage and pork fat) and blue cheese Bratwurst and cheddar