For cheeseboards, a broad tip is to match hard cheese to hard meat, like cheddar to hard salami, and soft cheese to soft meat, such as brie to prosciutto. Of course, classic pepperoni is always a foolproof favorite for parties with children.

What if I told you one of the most popular dishes to bring to holiday parties is one you don’t have to bake, freeze, saute or anything else labor intensive and is practically impossible to mess up?
And you could even support local business to boot?
It’s not a Christmas miracle, rather, it is a cheeseboard.
To create the perfect cheese board, look at what other foods will be at your gathering.
For a potluck with several options, a board can be less elaborate than if it were to be set out for an afternoon snack to bridge the gap before a large holiday meal. That being said, two or three cheeses and two crackers or starches are a good start no matter the meal size.
For starches, crackers are a given, whether they be an ever-popular butter variety or some with seasoning. They aren’t the only option though, as you can also get creative with other crunchy goodness like crusty baguette slices, pretzel chips, or bagel and pita chips. If you can get your hands on some Maryland Beaten Biscuits, even better.
From there, should you choose to go from a cheese board to a full-fledged charcuterie board, which are really having their moment in the spotlight these days, give thought to matching your meat to your cheese.
A very broad tip is to match hard cheese to hard meat, like cheddar to hard salami, and soft cheese to soft meat, like brie to prosciutto. Of course, classic pepperoni is always a foolproof favorite for parties with children but don’t be afraid to pull out the deer or summer sausage to slice on there as well.
For charcuteries, many also choose to add extra elements of something salty and something sweet, which often add more color and texture both to the visual pallet and taste palette. Think simple, like a small bowl of roasted peanuts, almonds, or other nuts.
If it seems your board leans toward a theme, go with it, such as olives for a medditeranian theme or spicy nuts for Tex-Mex inspired.
For your sweets, add in some in-season fruit. Sliced apples, cranberries (sugar them for extra prettiness) and pears are all good bets for Christmas. Grapes are also a good add on, though not seasonal, of course. To add extra flavor, offer mustards, fruit dips, honey, jams or other dips on the board to bring out even more flavors.
Now, let’s cut back to the cheese! California may boast that they have “happy cows” but a few Eastern Shore farms have all the staples as well as a few specialties and wild cards sure to stand out on your cheese board.
For an Eastern Shore themed board, you can go with staples like pickles and cheese, a combination perfect whether it’s in the summer with crabs or in the winter by a Christmas tree. Kathy Myers of Dogwood Lane Dairy in Worton says, “When people ask about pairing, I can only tell from my experience. I grew up using slices of cheddar cheese, a bread and butter pickle on a salty cracker like Ritz.”
Speaking of crabs, another good addition to any board, is a crab-seasoned cheese. Dogwood offers a “Chesapeake Cheese” while Eve’s Cheese in Chestertown offers a “Chesapeake Colby.”
Another combination Myers has tried is marinating a block of cheddar cheese in red wine for about 24 hours, before washing it off and adding it to a fruit and cheese tray.
Dogwood Lane Dairy also offers a “butter box,” which includes four specially seasoned butters, made to please the palate and the eye, as they are molded into flowers.
You could also make it a true fiesta with Queso Fresco, from Chapel’s Country Creamery in Easton, and add some spicy nuts and tortilla or corn chips. Among more than a dozen different cheeses, Chapel’s features an Amber cheese, which is washed for a month with beer from Maryland’s Heavy Seas Brewery.
New for the holiday season, Chapel’s is offering a complete cheeseboard kit that can be delivered locally or shipped nationally to reach loved ones. Each kit contains a variety of Chapel’s cheeses, along with honey, crackers, and cured meat from Eastern Shore artisan producers.
“Our artisan cheese boxes are the perfect way to keep the gift giving tradition alive, even if you can’t get together with family and friends this year,” says Trisha Boyce, who owns and operates the creamery with her husband Jarred.
To put your board together, simply arrange your groupings on a large board or platter, starting with your largest items like wheels of soft cheese or blocks of hard cheese. Soft cheeses should have an accompanying cheese knife so guests can spread on their own while hard cheese you’ll need to either slice or crumble. Next tuck in your bowls of sweet and salty or other large elements. From there, add everything else, being sure any fruits are rinsed and dried.
Of course, though it is an unpopular theme, there is the underlying theme of COVID-19. If you are choosing to have a socially distanced gathering, mini platters with a bit of each item are still a fun way to sample cheeses without multiple hands touching the food. You could also put them in a shallow bowl so they are easily portable, with condiment cups for nuts or dips.
No matter what style you go with, label your types of cheese on the cheeseboard so your guests can put a name to their favorites.
Add a heart or star near your favorites or a spicy pepper or flame to denote a spicier cheese. Don’t forget to include the farm name if you decided to shop local.
If you happen to have cheese left, it’s a good problem to have. Try throwing it on pizzas, in omelets, in macaroni and cheese or more- you might find a new favorite combination!
Cheese and charcuterie boards are a perfect fit as your plus-one to a party, even if it’s a small family gathering. Your local farmers are ready to help make your board a success.
For more information on Maryland farm creameries, visit, or these individual creameries at, and