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TIP OF THE DAY: Valentine Cheese Plate

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, some cheese lovers make the traditional Coeur à la Crème—sweetened mascarpone cheese in a heart-shaped mold—for dessert.

It’s very rich, a kind of “French cheesecake.”

Others serve a cheese course with their favorite cheeses.

Still others assemble a plate of delicious heart-shaped cheeses. If you’d like to do the same, head to the best cheese stores in town. They’re certain to offer a few limited edition, heart-shaped delights for the big day.

You can find both domestic heart-shape cheeses like Amour from Coach Farm, a semisoft, bloomy-rinded goat cheese made in New York State; and imports like Godminster Cheddar from the U.K.

Others you may find include:

  • Capriole, a fresh goat cheese heart with pink peppercorns, made in Indiana.
  • Coeur de Bray, a heart-shaped Neufchâtel cheese from the Normandy region of France.
  • Coeur du Berry, a goat cheese from Fromagerie Jacquin in France, available in a plain heart or with an ash coating.
  •  
    Plus these three bloomy-rinded goat cheeses from Oregon’s River Edge Chèvre:

  • Petit Bonheur, studded with pink peppercorns (the name means “petite happiness”).
  • Heart’s Desire, coated with Spanish paprika for smoky flavor and reddish color.
  • Old Flame, a silky cheese without additional accents.
  •  
    THE HISTORY OF HEART-SHAPED CHEESE

    Heart-shaped cheeses are not a recent invention for Valentine’s Day (the history of Valentine’s Day). They originated more than 500 years ago in the little town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray, in the Haute Normandy region of France.

    Most of the maidens in town worked as milkmaids and cheese makers. When some fell in love with the occupying British soldiers during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), they started to produce heart shapes from the local soft cheese (Neufchâtel), to give as gifts to their sweethearts.

    Note that American Neufchatel is very different from its French namesake. In the U.S. it is a name given to a lower-fat type of cream cheese.
     
    THE VALENTINE CHEESE PLATE

    Decorate the plate with fresh raspberries and strawberries or a scattering of pomegranate arils.

       
    Valentine Cheese Plate

    Coeur de Bray Neufchatel Cheese

    Coach Farms Amour Cheese

    Top: This gorgeous cheese and charcuterie plate from Flora Artisanal Cheese in Charlottseville, Virginia has pink, purple and red color accents that are spot-on for Valentine’s Day. Center: An aged Coeur De Bray Neufchâtel Cheese from Cheeses Of Europe. Bottom: Amour, a soft goat’s milk cheese from Coach Farm, available at Dean & DeLuca.

     
    Or, take inspiration from the gorgeous cheese and charcuterie platter in the top photo, created by Flora Artisanal Cheese in Charlottesville, Virginia. There’s enough for a party, but you can scale it down to your needs.

    Flora has created the Valentine’s Day platter with:

  • Rose-colored salume
  • Pink ham, especially thin-sliced prosciutto or serrano
  • Red raspberries
  • Red grapes, plus green grapes for a bit of contrast
  • Purple olives with green gherkins
  • White cheeses
  • Marcona almonds
  • Fancy crackers
  •  

    Godminster Heart Shaped Cheddar

    Baby Beets
    Top: Godminster makes a heart-shaped
    British Cheddar for Valentine’s Day. Bottom:
    Pickled baby beets from Sainsbury.

      MORE IDEAS TO ACCENT YOUR VALENTINE CHEESE PLATE

    To decorate your cheese plate for Valentine’s Day, here are more pink, purple and red garnishes:

  • Dried cherries or cranberries
  • Pickled baby beets (we like Aunt Nellie’s, or you can pickle your own with the recipe below)
  • Pink dragonfruit and lychees
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Purple figs
  • Purple grapes
  • Radicchio
  • Red cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Red radishes
  • Strawberries
  •  
    RECIPE: PICKLED BABY BEETS

    This recipe saves time by using jarred or canned baby beets.

    Ingredients

  • 1½ cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ cups water
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons sugar*
  • 1 tablespoon pickling spices or juniper berries
  • 20 baby beets, drained
  •  
    Variations

    For a spiced beets profile, substitute for the pickling spices:

  • ½ cup sliced fresh ginger
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
  • 4-6 pieces star anise
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  •  
    Another variation we like: rice wine vinegar, coriander and cardamom. Let your palate be your guide.
     
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    *You can add sugar and or salt to the brine; but make a batch without them first. It’s healthier, and it will let the flavor of the spices shine through.In either recipe, you can substitute agave, honey, maple syrup or noncaloric sweetener for the sugar.
     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients, except the beets, in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool.

    2. ADD the beets to an airtight container and cover with the pickling liquid, which should cover the beets.
    beets. It will easily peel off with your fingers. Cut the beets in half or leave whole if they are very small.

    3. REFRIGERATE for one day to two weeks.
     
    WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CHEESE?

    Check out the different types of cheese in our picture-packed Cheese Glossary.

      




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