Have you ever wondered how to pair honey with cheese? It sounds good – but how does it work? Is there a method to the madness?
If you’re looking for an easy appetizer, this is it! Pair with cocktails and it’s the perfect start to a dinner party or an alfresco autumn evening with friends. A cheese board with honey and fruit would also be an easy appetizer at your holiday gatherings.
For cocktail hour on our patio, we decided to pair a goat cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Bay Blue with honey served alongside grapes. We paired that with Beekeeper cocktails using Hangar 1 Distillery’s Honeycomb Vodka, now available for the first time outside of the distillery, and garnished them with fresh honeycomb.
What’s lovely about the Honeycomb Vodka, is that Hangar 1 infuses the vodka with real honeycomb from Golden Harvest Bees in Redwood City, CA, which lends the vodka to both sweet and savory cocktails. It also has a lovely golden color and rich flavor, which balances out the acid in the Beekeeper nicely.
We sought out several cheese experts from around northern California and Italy to share some of their best ideas to help you pair honey and cheese.
James Ayers of Atelier in Yountville recommends pairing honey with cheeses that are salty, earthy, buttery, or acidic. Avoid sweet cheeses like Gouda. This gives you a good baseline to start with if you’re looking to try a new kind of cheese or have a lot of unfamiliar options at the cheese counter.
Gordon Edgar of Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco chooses dark or floral honey to pair with cheese. Italian cookbook author Emiko Davies also suggests floral honey, for example, an acacia or millefiori (thousand flowers) honey. She also suggests chestnut honey for stronger cheeses. Edgar suggested adding truffle to the mix, so we tried a little truffle salt on the Parmigiano-Reggiano and honey. It was heavenly!
Additional recommendations include:
James Ayers also suggests:
- Caprichio de Cabra (or fresh goat cheese like chèvre) — a perfect dessert when spread with honey on walnut bread or a baguette
- Malvarosa (or other semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese) — the salty and buttery-ness of this cheese works well with honey
- Roquefort (or another creamy blue cheese) — the honey will draw out the earthiness and mellow out the notes of the strong blue cheese
Gordon Edgar additionally suggests:
- Super fresh chèvre like the Harley Farms or Andante Dairy or more ripened like Humboldt Fog or Indiana’s Sofia are great combos. Combined with the Rustic Bakery sel gres crackers they are irresistible and a great holiday crowd-pleaser.
- Sheep cheeses also go great with honey. Though there are not many local options, any Basque sheep milk cheese tastes great with added honey and fall fruit like Gravenstein apples.
- Lastly, maybe my favorite combo is cutting a Parmigiano-Reggiano into sticks and dipping them into honey. Most people don’t think of Parmigiano Reggiano as a table cheese but this will change their minds.
“We like to pair honey with our Bay Blue. The natural sweetness of the Bay Blue along with the earthy umami notes pairs beautifully with the sweetness of honey. We also love it with nuts and dried fruits.”
-Jennifer Luttrell, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, Point Reyes, CA
“I love honey with our Cowpricious and Broncha with an apple or pear and figs drizzled over them. They are both aged goat and cows milk cheeses.“
-Donna Pacheco, Achadinha Cheese in Petaluma, CA
“We love pairing honey and Purple Haze, which is a fresh goat cheese with lavender and fennel pollen — both have floral and herbaceous notes and really elevate the pair. Honey is also incredible with our flagship cheese, Humboldt Fog — it’s a soft-ripened goat cheese with flavor notes of citrus and fresh cream, and it’s a fun textural and flavor contrast with honey.”
–Cypress Grove Cheese in Humboldt, CA