Dear Pepper Jack Lovers, let me bend your ear. I know that you get the fever this time of year – when the Crock-Pot comes out, you want your game-day dairy hotness. I’m only going to tell you this once: there are 3 spicy condiments that you can pair with sharp cheese, and they’re way better than pepperjack. Yeah, go ahead and breathe. It’s hard to hear.
My beef with pepper jack is this: you can’t taste the cheese. It’s like chewing spicy gum. If you want to enjoy cheese and spice together, the two should compliment each other. Teamwork, folks.
So here’s my solution: pick up your favorite hunk of sharp Cheddar or Provolone, and grab some apple-pepper jelly, Basque pepper honey, and spicy cured sausage. When Hurricane Sandy came through earlier this week, I put out this spread for Monsieur Fromage, and let’s just say it kept us real warm.
Of all the cheese boards I’ve made in 2012, this snack plate was Boyfriend’s favorite.
Here’s how to spice up your life:
This classic pairing for sharp cheese is especially good with clothbound Cheddar. Try Vermont’s Cabot Clothbound or, for a real British whammer, seek out Keen’s. The latter is made with raw milk, and it tastes sharply sweet and a little grassy, like wild hay. Keen’s will make your tongue prickle. A sweet-hot jelly tames the flames. Look for Tait Farm’s jellies and jams on the shelves of Di Bruno Bros.
Basque Pepper Honey
Cheesemonger Adam Balkovic turned me onto orange blossom honey spiked with Espelette peppers – a sweet-hot pepper native to the Basque region. If you can’t find Basque Pepper Honey (Di Bruno Bros. carries jars from K.L. Keller Imports in Oakland, CA), try making it yourself with a medium-colored honey and a sprinkle of ground Espelette peppers from a spice store. Try pairing this with Mahon Curado, a Spanish specialty cheese that tastes like toffee.
Made from corn-fed Iberian pigs, this spicy cured sausage is beyond beautiful. Have it sliced thin, then drape it over a baguette round with a spoonful of apple-pepper jelly (or honey) and a hunk of sharp Cheddar. The combination is just short of life changing: sweet, salty, sharp, and spicy.
For more evil thoughts, please visit Madame Fromage.