Wisconsin crafts more than 600 varieties, types, and styles of cheese. So be creative! A cheese course can follow many themes – from mild to strong selections to a "flight" that features different styles of a single cheese variety. Just be sure guests know which Wisconsin Cheese they're enjoying. A cheese name card is often helpful.
A cheese course as a mid-meal transition allows guests to slow down and savor the dining experience. Serve small cheese portions if you are following with a dessert. But remember, cheese paired with fresh fruit and a classic dessert wine is also the perfect end to a meal.
For most occasions, offer three to five different cheeses on a cheese plate. More than this is typically too many for guests to fully enjoy.
Mild and creamy soft cheeses such as Mascarpone, Ricotta, and Feta make ideal ingredients for spreads and dips.
Shred, Grate, Slice or Chunk?
Shredded and grated cheeses work better than slices and chunks in spreads and dips because smaller bits blend with other ingredients more readily. Use shredded, shaved, and grated cheeses promptly; once cut, cheese becomes drier and loses flavor more rapidly.
Pulse. Process. Puree. Don't be afraid to use a food processor to achieve the desired dip consistency.
Forming the Cheese Balls
To make cheese balls, allow cheese to reach room temperature to enable blending into a cohesive mass. After mixing, the base will be soft. Scrape onto parchment paper or plastic wrap, place in a small bowl to encourage a round shape, and chill in the fridge before forming the balls.
Make your cheese balls a day or so ahead of time to acheive the right firmness. The chilling time also allows the flavors to meld and mellow.
If coating your cheese balls with nuts, seeds, or herbs, roll and refrigerate them "uncoated" for up to 24 hours. Then roll the balls in the coating just prior to serving. This last-minute preparation prevents herb discoloration and preserves crunchy nuts and seeds.
To prevent curdling when melting a large quantity of cheese for fondue, always add a starch (such as flour) and an acid (such as juice or wine). Very soft and fresh cheeses, such as Feta and Mascarpone, require less liquid than their aged counterparts that are lower in moisture.
Grate, Shred or Crumble
Grate, shred, or crumble fondue cheeses into small pieces so they require less time to heat and melt. Add cheese little-by-little into the simmering fondue pot, stirring and melting each addition before adding the next. Great fondue requires some patience.
For traditional Swiss fondue, choose Wisconsin Alpine. This versatile and dense cheese is nutty, slightly fruity, and has a smooth texture — making it the classic choice for fondue. Emmentaler and Fontina are often used in Alpine fondues as well.