If you’ve ever wondered what cheese goes well with ham, you’re not alone. Cheese and ham are a classic pairing, and for good reason – the salty, savory flavors of the meat are perfectly complemented by the rich, creamy taste of cheese. But with so many types of cheese available, it can be tough to know where to begin. In this article, we’ll explore the science behind pairing cheese and ham, as well as offer some top suggestions for the best cheeses to pair with ham.
The Science Behind Pairing Cheese and Ham
Pairing cheese and ham isn’t just about personal preference – there is actually some science behind it. When selecting cheeses to pair with ham, consider matching the intensity of flavors. For example, a stronger, saltier ham (like prosciutto) pairs well with a stronger cheese, whereas a milder ham (like honey ham) is better paired with a milder cheese.
Another factor to consider is the texture. A softer cheese like brie will pair well with a firmer ham, creating a nice contrast in texture. On the other hand, a firmer cheese like cheddar will complement a softer ham like Virginia ham.
Top 10 Cheeses to Pair with Ham
Now that we’ve examined the science behind pairing cheese and ham, let’s take a look at some specific suggestions. Here are our top 10 cheeses to pair with ham:
- Blue Cheese
- Pepper Jack
Manchego is a hard, nutty cheese from Spain that pairs perfectly with salty, Spanish ham like serrano or ibérico.
Gouda is a mild, semi-hard cheese that pairs well with a variety of hams, but is particularly delicious with a classic honey ham.
Brie is a soft, creamy cheese with a mild flavor that pairs well with a firmer, saltier ham like prosciutto.
Swiss cheese is a milder cheese that pairs well with a variety of hams, particularly smoked ham.
Cheddar is a firmer cheese that goes well with a softer ham like Virginia ham, creating a nice textural contrast.
Feta is a salty, crumbly cheese that pairs well with a strong, salty ham like prosciutto or Black Forest ham.
Blue cheese is a bold, pungent cheese that pairs well with smoked ham, creating a powerful flavor combination.
Pepper Jack is a spicy, semi-hard cheese that pairs well with sweeter hams like honey ham.
Fontina is a semi-soft cheese that pairs well with prosciutto, creating a nice balance of flavors and textures.
Comté is a firm, nutty cheese from France that pairs well with ham, particularly a smoky ham like Black Forest.
When pairing cheese and ham, it’s important to consider the texture of both the cheese and the ham. For example, a soft cheese like brie may not pair well with a dry, hard ham like prosciutto. Instead, a firmer cheese like cheddar or manchego would be a better match.
Another factor to consider is the flavor intensity of both the cheese and the ham. If you’re pairing a strong, salty ham like prosciutto, you’ll want to choose a cheese that can stand up to that bold flavor, like blue cheese or feta.
A Beginner’s Guide to Pairing Cheese and Ham
If you’re new to pairing cheese and ham, don’t worry – it’s easy to get started. Begin by selecting a ham and cheese with similar textures and flavors, such as a soft brie with a thin-sliced Virginia ham. From there, experiment with different combinations, keeping in mind the intensity of flavors and textures.
Don’t be afraid to mix and match – some of the best pairings come from unexpected combinations. For example, try pairing a sharp cheddar with a sweet honey ham, or a nutty gouda with a smoky ham.
Another important factor to consider when pairing cheese and ham is the type of wine you’ll be serving. A full-bodied red wine, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon, pairs well with a strong, aged cheese and a salty ham. On the other hand, a light white wine, like a Pinot Grigio, complements a mild cheese and a delicate ham. Don’t forget to also consider the occasion – a casual gathering may call for a more relaxed pairing, while a formal event may require a more sophisticated combination.
How to Choose the Right Cheese for Your Ham Sandwich
A great ham sandwich starts with the right cheese. When selecting a cheese for your sandwich, consider the type of ham you’re using. For a classic honey ham sandwich, try a mild cheese like Swiss or Gouda. For a spicier ham sandwich, a pepper jack or aged cheddar may be a better choice.
Don’t forget to consider the other ingredients in your sandwich, too. For example, a ham and cheese sandwich with mustard may pair well with a sharp cheddar, while a ham and cheese sandwich with lettuce and tomato may be better suited for a milder cheese like provolone.
Another important factor to consider when choosing the right cheese for your ham sandwich is the texture of the cheese. A soft cheese like brie or camembert can add a creamy texture to your sandwich, while a harder cheese like parmesan or asiago can add a crunchy texture. Additionally, if you’re looking for a cheese that will melt well on your sandwich, consider using a cheese like mozzarella or Monterey jack.
The Best Cheeses for Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches
Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches are a classic comfort food, and selecting the right cheese is key. The best cheeses for grilled ham and cheese sandwiches are those that melt well, creating a gooey, cheesy texture. Some great options include cheddar, Swiss, provolone, and American cheese.
However, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try using brie, gouda, or even blue cheese for a unique twist on the classic sandwich. Brie adds a creamy, buttery flavor, while gouda provides a slightly smoky taste. Blue cheese, on the other hand, adds a tangy and bold flavor that pairs well with the saltiness of the ham. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different cheese combinations to find your perfect grilled ham and cheese sandwich!
Exploring Regional Pairings: The Best Cheeses for Italian Prosciutto di Parma
Italian prosciutto di Parma is a beloved cured ham with a distinctive flavor. When selecting cheeses to pair with prosciutto, consider the traditional Italian cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano. This nutty, hard cheese pairs perfectly with the salty, savory flavor of prosciutto. Other great options include gorgonzola (a blue cheese), Asiago, and pecorino romano.
Another great cheese to pair with prosciutto di Parma is Taleggio. This semi-soft cheese has a tangy, buttery flavor that complements the saltiness of the prosciutto. It also has a creamy texture that contrasts nicely with the chewy texture of the ham.
If you’re looking for a cheese that’s a bit more unusual, try pairing prosciutto di Parma with a goat cheese like Caprino. This cheese has a mild, tangy flavor that works well with the salty ham. It also has a slightly crumbly texture that adds a nice contrast to the chewy prosciutto.
The Perfect Wine and Cheese Pairings with Ham
When it comes to wine and cheese pairings, there are a few guidelines to follow. For ham and cheese pairings, consider a dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, which pair well with most cheeses. For a bold flavor combination, try pairing a strong, salty cheese with a bold red like Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir.
Another great option for ham and cheese pairings is a sparkling wine like Prosecco or Champagne. The effervescence of the wine helps to cut through the richness of the cheese and ham, while the acidity complements the flavors. For a more unique pairing, try a sweet dessert wine like Port or Sherry with a nutty cheese like Gouda or Parmesan. The sweetness of the wine balances out the saltiness of the cheese and enhances the flavors of the ham.
How to Create a Charcuterie Board with Ham and Cheese
A charcuterie board is the perfect way to showcase your love of ham and cheese. When creating a board, select a variety of cheeses, including both soft and hard varieties. Combine these with an assortment of cured meats, such as prosciutto, salami, and ham. Don’t forget to include some accompaniments, like crackers, fruits, and nuts.
The Art of Melting Cheese on Top of Baked Hams
Melting cheese on top of baked ham is an art form. To do it properly, select a cheese that melts well, such as cheddar or Monterey Jack. Slice the cheese thinly and place it on top of the ham towards the end of the cooking process. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, creating a delicious, cheesy crust on top of your ham.
Combining Sweet and Salty: The Best Cheeses for Honey-Glazed Hams
Honey-glazed hams are a favorite for many, and the sweetness of the glaze pairs perfectly with a salty, savory cheese. When selecting a cheese for your honey-glazed ham, consider a milder cheese like fontina or brie. These cheeses won’t overpower the sweetness of the glaze, creating a perfect balance of flavors.
Vegan Alternatives: The Best Plant-Based Cheeses for Vegan Ham Sandwiches
If you’re a vegan, you don’t have to miss out on the delicious combination of ham and cheese. There are many plant-based cheese alternatives available that pair well with vegan ham. Some great options include vegan cheddar, mozzarella, or feta.
A History of Cheese and Ham Pairings Around the World
Cheese and ham pairings have a long history around the world. In Italy, prosciutto is often paired with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, while in Spain, cured ham is paired with Manchego cheese. Even in the United States, ham and cheese are a classic combination – just think of grilled ham and cheese sandwiches or ham and cheese omelets.
How to Store Your Cheese and Ham to Keep Them Fresh
To keep your cheese and ham fresh, it’s important to store them properly. Cheese should be stored in the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or wax paper. Ham should also be stored in the refrigerator, either wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or in an airtight container. Both should be consumed within a few days of opening.
Tips for Experimenting with Uncommon Cheese Varieties with Your Ham
If you’re feeling adventurous, don’t be afraid to experiment with uncommon cheese varieties when pairing them with ham. Some great options to try include goat cheese, camembert, or even a smoky gouda. Keep in mind the intensity of flavors and textures when experimenting, and don’t be afraid to try something new.
In conclusion, cheese and ham are a delicious pairing that has stood the test of time. By following these guidelines and trying out some of our top suggestions, you’re sure to discover your own favorite cheese and ham pairings.