Entertaining: Thanksgiving Cheese Board with Figs

Thanksgiving_Entertaining Feature_WI Cheese

by Tenaya of Madame Fromage

Here’s a little secret about fall spices like nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon: they pair beautifully with cheese. It makes sense when you think about topping pumpkin pie with whipped cream, or grating nutmeg over a snifter of eggnog.

On a Thanksgiving cheese plate, it’s hard to go wrong with a variety of Cheddars, Alpines, and Blues. Add “Drunk Figs” slow-cooked in brandy, and you may have the whole clan sleeping over in the den.

Here are a few special Wisconsin cheeses that work well before or after a holiday meal. They’re versatile and interesting without alienating tender palates. Best of all, they provide a variety of textures and tastes that you will be hard pressed to find in cheeses from any other state.

Creamy and Mellow

Port Salue has a soft, creamy texture without much bite, making it a great entry point. Also try Les Frères or Petit Frère.

Sweet and Spiced

Aged Gouda with Cloves and Cumin tastes like a clove-studded caramel. It’s wonderful with slow-cooked figs and glazed pecans. Gouda with Cumin or Plain Gouda will also work well.

Sharp and Tangy

Virgin Pine Native Blue tastes a lot like sharp Cheddar,  but it’s actually a Blue without any veining – perfect for strong cheese lovers who fear mold. Dunbarton Blue is a fine substitute.

Bracing and Buttery
Tilston Point (pictured) is a Stilton-ish selection that will leave you mewling. Figs are its best friend. If you prefer something milder, try Ader Kase Reserve or Buttermilk Blue.

Complete your cheese board with Madame Fromage’s Maple Balsamic Pecans with Sea Salt. Recipe available at EatWisconsinCheese.com.

Drunk Figs

by Tenaya of Madame Fromage

Serves 8-10

1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup honey
2, 8-ounce bags of dried Black Mission figs, halved
2 tablespoons orange zest, julienned
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup brandy
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cloves

These are easiest to prepare in a slow cooker – they take 4 hours on high and make the house smell amazing. If you prepare them on the stove top, use a lidded saucepan and cook them for 3-4 hours at a low simmer.

In a slow cooker or sauce pan, combine boiling water and honey, stirring until blended.  Then add halved figs, orange zest, orange juice, brandy and spices. The figs will plump up as they cook and are best stored overnight in their juices before serving.