The account you are about to read is a true representation of the question that can strike fear into the life of even the most seasoned cheesemonger and savvy cheese consumer.
For simplicity’s sake — and to add a little drama — we will simply call it: The Question.
It was a day like any other day. I was cutting down a drum of cheese. I remember it was this really nice cheese from Jamesport, Mo., called Flory’s Truckle.
It’s one of my current favorites. It is a bandage wrapped artisanal farmhouse cheddar made with pure, raw Jersey cow’s milk. Aged for about a year, it develops a great savory flavor with a slightly sweet finish.
Oh, but I’m getting sidetracked here. Back to The Question. I had just finished breaking down a couple nice-size pieces when she walked in.
She was looking for some cheese for a gathering she was having. Then all at once, it happened. I heard it. The Question consists of these words, which she uttered next:
“How much do I need?
This is the question that can strike fear into the heart of your cheesemonger. It’s just so subjective. At this point — upon facing the question myself — my mind starts to race.
“What if I suggest too much?”
“Is she going to come in with a half-eaten hunk and want her money back.” (Yep, that does happen.)
“If I guess too little will she ever trust my advice again?”
“And really what’s worse then a party with not enough cheese?”
“Gees, who wants to be the guy who ruins the party!”
Okay, admittedly at this point, I’ve gone a bit far in my freak out. But this question really does provide me with a gigantic modest amount of stress.
This is one of the most common questions people buying cheese ask. Especially when they are buying for a crowed.
There is no magic equation, but you can give it an educated guess and be pretty confident on the day of the event, that you have enough cheese.
Common sense definitely comes into play. This customer was serving cheese before a large meal. If you are serving cheese as an appetizer you will definitely need less then if you are serving it as the star of the show as a main course.
An after dinner cheese plate is going to need more then just a cheese tasting get together.
The amount also depends on how many cheeses you are choosing to serve.
Maybe you are choosing one really good cheese to stand on its own for an appetizer. Then obviously you need more per person of that one cheese then you would need if you were serving three or five cheese.
In this case, she wanted one cheese for 8 to 10 people before dinner. She made a good choice because serving several different cheeses before dinner can, many times, overwhelm the guest’s pallets for the dinner to come.
She settled on the Flory’s Truckle and she left with a good hunk weighing in at just under a pound at .93 lbs. That is about 1 ½ oz. of cheese per person. How did we come to that conclusion?
Well, first I metaphorically breathed into a paper sack until my breathing was nice and steady again. Just kidding. Kinda.
Then I helped her walk through the multiple questions and answers that would lead to the answer of how much cheese she would need.
First, she was serving several other appetizers and second she knew several of her guests to be very health conscious. So I multiplied the amount per person of cheese I estimated by the number of guest at the dinner party.
That loos like: 1-1/2 ounces or 0.09 pounds X 10 people = .90 pounds.
Always remember in a case like this some guests won’t even touch the stuff. Crazy I know!
For those who do eat the cheese some will eat more then 1-1/2 ounces and others will eat less. See what I mean? She’s asking me to be a mind reader.
However, it’s my experience that it tends to even out. The chart below is what I use to help me out.
Remember it is total cheese per person. So if there is more then one cheese served you divide the ounces by how many cheeses you want to serve.
This chart is the Happy Place that I recede to when the panic of The Question pervades my otherwise peaceful morning.How Much per Person
For a sampling/tasting: 4 to 10 ounces.
For an appetizer: 1 to 5 ounces.
For the main course: 4 to 15 ounces.
For after dinner: 4 to 8 ounces.
Lincoln Broadbooks loves cheese. He is one of the first cheesemongers in the United States and Canada to become an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional. He is the manager and buyer for The Better Cheddar in Prairie Village. You can check out his monthly Cheese Wiz column in Tastebud Magazine and find him on Twitter @LincolnBbook and on Instagram @lincycheese.