Whether you are heading out for an early evening of trick-or-treating with some tiny humans or staying in to hand out candy, Halloween is an excellent night for a cheese platter. And no, it’s not too late to throw something together, even if you are at work during all of the daylight hours.
After all, you don’t want to only eat all the candy you are handing out—that’s the fast track to stomach-ache central right there, plus you will be rewarded with all of the leftover candy tomorrow anyway (so keep the good stuff on the bottom of the bowl, and put the crappy candy on top for the trick-or-treaters).
Plus, if you are headed out for a stroll around the neighborhood with some pillow cases and plastic pumpkin heads, surely you will work up an appetite by the time you come home with your loot. Cheese is an excellent source of protein. Need I say more?
Perhaps you’re having friends over to drink copious amounts of alcohol and watch “Hocus Pocus” and “What We Do in the Shadows,” weekday night be damned. Movie night is nothing without cheese, you know.
In honor of the Great Pumpkin, I have created a shortlist of the cheeses you must have on your platter this All Hallows Eve. Plus, with a simple formula to use to throw something together, there’s no way you won’t be able to put out a little snick-snack that’s so good, it’s scary.
The basic formula you’ll want to follow goes something like this:
- Soft-ripened (brie-style) cheese
- Soft goat
You can obviously have more than one hard cheese, or multiple bries, or a hard and a soft goat, or all goats. It’s up to you; but if it helps to have a formula, there you are.
If you are only serving two to four people, and you’re not up for a cheese coma, stick to maybe three cheeses. If you’re a group of five to eight, go as big as you want. And if it’s just little old you, eat a sampling of whatever you damn well please. It’s Halloween!
So what are the spookiest cheeses around, short of serving up some Casu Marzu and making your guests shield their eyes from jumping maggot larvae?
If you can get your hands on some of Mystic Cheese Co.’s Sea Change, then you must. This gorgeous robiola-style cheese has a green rind, and would be perfectly majestic on a Halloween cheese board. Mystic just opened themselves up to countrywide distribution, so there’s a good chance your local cheese shop may have it!
If you can’t get Sea Change, shoot for Jasper Hill’s Harbison. The spruce bark wrapped around the little guy is a nice Halloween-y green, and dipping breadsticks into the gooey center is like the cheese-eating equivalent of stirring a witch’s cauldron.
Of course, you can always go for the triple cream or brie of your choice (Fromage d’Affinois or Delice de Bourgogne, anyone?). If you do a small round of brie or camembert, you can dump red pepper jelly or sour cherry relish over the top of it like blood splatters. Scary!
On Halloween night, why not go for a snow-white goat cheese with a nice black rind or rub? I’m thinking of Pave de Jadis, that soft brick of chèvre that is coated in black ash. Or, if you want to go the hard-cheese route with your goat, you can have Cypress Grove’s Midnight Moon, with its beautiful black wax coating.
Another classic choice would be Humboldt Fog. Because what’s creepier on Halloween night than a thick, heavy fog falling upon the land (or onto your happy little tongue)?
If you can get it, River’s Edge Chevre’s Samhain is as Halloween-y as they come, with a black bloomy rind and a bright orange paste. We shall call it the Jack-o-Lantern of cheeses.
Or you can spill some brains all over your board by including little wrinkly rounds of Vermont Creamery’s Bonne Bouche or Coupole, or Capriole’s Wabash Cannon Ball.
I didn’t mention sheep’s milk cheeses in the formula, but they are not to be forgotten. If you want a nice, bloody splotch on your cheese board, a wedge of Caseifico Busti’s Marzolino al Chianti is a nice addition.
For a total flavor bomb, so good it’s scary, you can include Occelli al Malto D’Orzo e Whiskey, a crumbly sheep’s milk cheese that’s been soaked in whiskey and malted barley. Holy hell!
But then there’s also room to take things down a milder patch by including some P’tit Basque or Ossau Iraty, and then bringing the flavor game with some nice, red globs of tomato jam on the side.
I don’t know how all my cheese categories became diminutive with the -ies, but just come with me on this.
The possibilities for washed-rinds—as with the possibilities for all of the categories, let’s face it—are endless. But you can make a mean cheese mummy out of Jasper Hill’s distinctly lined Willoughby; all you need to do is add some pimento- or pepper-stuffed green olives, and suddenly it has eyes!
And how could you fail to include a cheese named Red Hawk on Halloween night? A cheesemaking experiment gone wrong-but-oh-so-right, a real Frankenstein’s cheese-monster. OH yeah.
Can’t find either Red Hawk or Willoughby? Taleggio’s rind is scary enough, disguising the cheese’s silky, mild paste.
Colston Bassett’s Shropshire Blue is another prime candidate for the Halloween cheese board, thanks to its bright orange paste, mottled with blue veins.
If you are going for flavor over looks, a Roquefort is the obvious number to round out your platter, with a flavor so strong it will scare the undead back to their graves at the end of a long night of haunting. Although, if you don’t want the end to be so sudden and scary, you can do any blue of your choosing—whether that be a mild and creamy St. Agur or Cambozola Black Label (complete with an eerie gray rind!), or a nice, organic Rogue Oregon Blue or Fourme d’Ambert.
As for other pairings, you can really dress things up with some Dardiman’s California Crisps—think blood orange for color—chocolate cookie crisps, ginger snaps, and blackberry or blueberry jam. Sure, that’s a lot of sweets. But they’re certainly better for you than most of the stuff given out for Trick-or-Treaters.