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Gifts with a taste of tradition: Christmas cheese hampers

A guide to selection, storage and pairing for a unique and delicious food and wine gift

Food and wine gifts are a trend which knows no decline and, indeed, have become increasingly popular in recent years. 

Often Christmas food hampers, both ready-made and DIY, feature a combination of various types of products. Among the most common are wines and sparkling wines, cold meats and sausages, pulses, jams and compotes, and cheeses.

But it is possible, for the truly passionate, to create single-product hampers, and, in this case, we can only mention cheese hampers!

How to choose cheeses

As with all agri-food products, the choice of cheeses to put in your Christmas basket will leave you with a great deal of undecidedness!

There are so many options, how do you select some products and automatically discard others?

Storage and expiry date

The first determinant is storage and expiry date. For Christmas hampers, it is best to exclude all fresh cheeses, i.e., cheeses that need to be consumed within a few days and cannot stay out of the fridge. So, no mozzarella or other fresh pulled-curd products, no cottage cheese or all those spreadable cheeses with a short shelf life.

This is not only because the time from packing the gift basket to its delivery could be ‘lethal’ for these products, but also because it is possible that once received, the cheeses will not be used immediately. Forcing those to whom the gift is offered to use up a product in a few days because it ‘expires’ is not a kind gesture. Especially at Christmas time, when we are all overcome by binge eating.

Therefore, it is better to provide products that can last at least a few weeks, if not longer.

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Hard and semi-hard cheeses

Green light to hard cheeses Not surprisingly, the undisputed kings of Christmas gift baskets are Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano. Both are PDO and are among the most appreciated cheeses. Hardly anyone will not like them, and they do not suffer the passing of time. Finally, they are both lactose-free, perfect even for those with such food intolerances. They are commercially available in packaging (even Christmas packaging) but can be simply vacuum-packed by your trusted shopkeeper. Consider also creating a gift basket only with Parmigiano Reggiano or just with Grana Padano, with different maturities, as if it were a ‘vertical tasting’. A gift that enthusiasts are sure to appreciate.

For the same reason of durability and preservation, all matured pecorino cheeses are good (Tuscan, Roman and Sicilian!), Castelmagno for those who love structured flavours, but also Fontina. This very year, the latter has ‘become three,’ and, in addition to the traditional one, now we have ‘alpeggio’ and the long-matured one.

Pairings

And if you would like to complete the Christmas cheese basket with other specialities, you could, depending on the person you are gifting it to, pair it with wines or beers, which could be selected according to the region of origin of the cheeses, for example. A good alternative are honeys or jams to go with the cheese whilst tasting. Or even cheese cutting tools or chopping boards, as well as dried fruit.

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