Ham is a flavorful and versatile meat that can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes, whether served cold or cooked. One of the best ways to enhance the rich flavors of ham is to pair it with cheese. However, with so many cheese options available, it can be difficult to know which ones go best with ham. In this article, we will explore the different types of cheese that pair well with ham, provide tips for selecting the right cheese for your ham sandwich, and offer some creative gourmet twists on this classic combination.
The Best Cheeses to Pair With Ham
When it comes to pairing ham and cheese, some cheese options stand out above the rest. One of the most classic pairings is ham and Swiss cheese. Swiss cheese is a mild, nutty cheese that complements the salty, savory flavor of ham. Another popular option is cheddar cheese, which comes in a variety of flavors and intensities. Mild cheddar adds a creamy richness to ham, while sharp cheddar provides a tangy bite that balances out the richness of the ham.
However, there are other cheese options that can also make for a delicious pairing with ham. Gouda cheese, for example, has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor that can complement the saltiness of ham. Its smooth texture also makes it a great melting cheese for a ham and cheese sandwich. Another option is blue cheese, which has a strong and pungent flavor that can add a bold kick to the ham. Blue cheese also pairs well with sweet and savory flavors, making it a great addition to a charcuterie board with ham and fruit.
When choosing a cheese to pair with ham, it’s important to consider the intensity of both flavors. A mild ham may be overwhelmed by a strong cheese, while a strong ham may overpower a mild cheese. It’s also important to consider the texture of the cheese, as a hard and crumbly cheese may not work as well in a sandwich as a soft and creamy cheese. Ultimately, the best cheese to pair with ham is a matter of personal preference, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try new combinations!
A Guide to Cheese and Ham Pairings
While Swiss and cheddar are the most common cheeses paired with ham, there are many other options that can take your ham sandwich or dish to the next level. Gouda is a creamy Dutch cheese that pairs well with ham, adding a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. Blue cheese, with its pungent and tangy taste, provides a bold contrast to the milder flavor of ham and makes for an exciting gourmet twist.
Another cheese that pairs well with ham is brie. This soft and buttery French cheese has a mild flavor that complements the saltiness of ham. It also adds a creamy texture to your sandwich or dish. For those who prefer a sharper taste, aged gouda is a great option. This cheese has a nutty and caramel-like flavor that intensifies with age, making it a perfect match for the rich flavor of ham.
When it comes to pairing cheese and ham, it’s important to consider the type of ham you’re using. For example, prosciutto, a thinly sliced Italian ham, pairs well with Parmesan cheese. The salty and nutty flavor of Parmesan complements the delicate and sweet flavor of prosciutto. On the other hand, smoked ham pairs well with smoked gouda, as the smoky flavors of both ingredients enhance each other.
Exploring the Flavors of Ham and Cheese Together
The key to finding the perfect cheese pairing for your ham is to experiment with different flavors and intensities. For example, a creamy brie or camembert cheese can add a decadent richness to ham, while a tangy goat cheese provides a refreshing contrast. You can also try mixing different cheese types to create a unique flavor profile that complements your ham dish.
Another factor to consider when pairing ham and cheese is the texture of the cheese. A soft cheese like feta or ricotta can create a creamy and smooth texture when paired with ham, while a hard cheese like parmesan or cheddar can add a crunchy texture to the dish. It’s important to experiment with different textures to find the perfect balance for your taste buds.
When it comes to serving ham and cheese together, there are many options to choose from. You can create a classic ham and cheese sandwich, or try a more sophisticated dish like a ham and cheese quiche or a croissant filled with ham and cheese. You can also serve ham and cheese as a snack or appetizer, by pairing sliced ham with cheese cubes or crackers.
The Classic Combination: Ham and Swiss Cheese
As mentioned earlier, ham and Swiss cheese is a classic pairing that has stood the test of time. Swiss cheese has a mild flavor that doesn’t overpower the ham, making it a great choice for sandwiches, quiches, and other savory dishes. One way to elevate this combination is to use a smoked Swiss cheese, which adds an extra layer of smokiness to the dish.
Another way to enjoy this classic combination is to add some fresh greens to your sandwich or wrap. Arugula, spinach, or lettuce can add a refreshing crunch and balance out the saltiness of the ham and cheese. You can also experiment with different types of bread, such as a crusty baguette or a soft brioche bun, to add some texture and flavor to your sandwich.
If you’re looking for a more substantial meal, try making a ham and Swiss cheese quiche. Simply mix diced ham and shredded Swiss cheese with eggs, milk, and your favorite herbs and spices, then bake in a pie crust until golden brown. This dish is perfect for brunch or a cozy dinner at home, and can be served hot or cold.
Beyond Swiss: Discovering New Cheese Options for Your Ham
If you’re feeling adventurous, there are plenty of other cheese options that can take your ham dish to the next level. For example, a nutty and slightly sweet Comte cheese is a great option for a ham and cheese omelet or quiche. Parmesan cheese, with its salty and nutty flavor, pairs well with glazed ham for a delicious flavor contrast.
Another cheese option to consider is Gouda, which has a creamy texture and a slightly nutty flavor. It pairs well with ham in a grilled cheese sandwich or melted on top of a ham and pineapple pizza. For a more bold and tangy flavor, try blue cheese with your ham. It’s a great addition to a charcuterie board or crumbled on top of a salad with ham and apples.
How to Build the Perfect Ham and Cheese Board
A ham and cheese board is a great way to showcase a variety of cheese options and allow guests to create their own unique flavor combinations. Start by selecting a variety of cheese types, including both hard and soft cheeses. Add some crackers or bread, sliced ham, and some fruits or nuts for a complete and satisfying spread.
When selecting your cheese options, consider the flavor profiles and textures of each cheese. For example, a sharp cheddar pairs well with a sweet fruit like grapes, while a creamy brie goes well with a tart fruit like apples. Additionally, try to include cheeses from different regions or countries to add some variety and interest to your board. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations and have fun with it!
Tips for Selecting the Right Cheese for Your Ham Sandwich
When it comes to making a ham sandwich, selecting the right cheese can make all the difference. Consider the flavors and intensity of your ham and choose a cheese that complements those flavors. For example, if you’re using honey-glazed ham, a sharp cheddar cheese can balance out the sweetness. If you’re using a spicy ham, like Cajun-style ham, a creamy and mild cheese like mozzarella can help cool things down.
Gourmet Twists on a Simple Ham and Cheese Sandwich
While a simple ham and cheese sandwich is always a classic favorite, there are plenty of ways to jazz it up and make it a gourmet delight. One option is to add some fresh arugula or mixed greens to the sandwich for a refreshing crunch. Another option is to use a flavored spread, like mustard or aioli, to add an extra layer of flavor. You can also experiment with different bread types, like sourdough or ciabatta, to give your sandwich a unique twist.
The Science of Flavor: Why Certain Cheeses Work Better With Ham
When it comes to pairing flavors in cooking, there is actually some science behind it. In general, flavors that are either similar or contrasting work well together. For example, the nutty flavor of Swiss cheese complements the salty flavor of ham, while the tangy flavor of blue cheese provides a contrasting flavor that enhances the overall taste experience.
However, it’s not just about the flavors themselves. The texture of the cheese also plays a role in how well it pairs with ham. Soft cheeses like brie or camembert can be overwhelmed by the strong flavor of ham, while harder cheeses like cheddar or parmesan can hold their own and provide a satisfying contrast in texture. Additionally, the age of the cheese can also affect the pairing. A younger, milder cheese may work better with a sweeter ham, while an aged, sharper cheese can stand up to a more savory ham.
From Mild to Bold: Finding the Right Cheese Intensity for Your Ham
The intensity of the cheese you choose can also play a role in how well it pairs with ham. Mild cheeses, like brie or feta, provide a subtle and delicate flavor that doesn’t overpower the ham. Medium intensity cheeses, like cheddar or Gouda, add a bit more complexity to the dish. Bold cheeses, like blue cheese or aged cheddar, provide a strong and pungent flavor that can be a great contrast to the rich flavor of ham.
Unexpected Cheese Pairings That Surprise and Delight with Ham
If you’re looking for some unexpected cheese pairings that work well with ham, consider trying a creamy and tangy goat cheese or a nutty and slightly sweet fontina cheese. These cheeses provide a unique flavor profile that can take your ham dish to new heights. You can also experiment with different cheese textures, like creamy or crumbly, to find the perfect pairing with your ham.
Whether you’re making a simple ham and cheese sandwich or creating a gourmet ham and cheese board, the key to a successful pairing is to balance and complement the flavors of the ham and cheese. With the many cheese options available, the possibilities are truly endless, so don’t be afraid to get creative and try something new.