6 quintessential things you need on a Wisconsin cheeseboard

Start cheeseboarding like a pro
6 quintessential things you need on a Wisconsin cheeseboard
Patrick Stutz

A lot of thought goes into one of Liz Dueland’s cheeseboards. “I approach every cheese both from what it pairs with as well as what is the best way to cut it and show it,” she says.

This leads to infinite possibilities, she says, as cheese can be compared to the terroir of a wine, or its sense of origin relating to climate, terrain and tradition.

Dueland, who used to head Metro Market’s cheese shop and goes by @madisoncheesemonger on social media, is the marketing director of Yahara Bay Distillers and co-owner of Culture, a cheese catering firm. Before she was introduced to the world of cheese, Dueland’s experience was in wine.

“I had worked in California in the wine industry, and now in the cheese industry in Wisconsin. Like, how lucky am I?” says Dueland.

After years of working jobs that helped promote food products, Dueland decided she wanted to be the one creating the flavors. “I started cooking and I started discovering that this was really what I’m good at,” she says.

With a few hundred cheeseboard curations under her belt, Dueland was asked by Madison Magazine to tell us what items should be on the ultimate Wisconsin cheeseboard.

Here are a few elements she said are musts:

1. Hometown Heroes
Wave your hometown banner by folding in Madison-based gems between your meat and cheeses. On this board are Quince & Apple’s Pear with Honey and Ginger preserves, Nutkrack’s caramelized pecans, Potter’s Crackers and Gentle Breeze Honey’s honeycomb.

2. Show-Stoppers
Cheese is the star of this show, so make sure it’s Wisconsin-made. Look for stunning shapes, textures and colors that can be conversation starters. Pictured here (from top to bottom) are a wedge of Glacier Wildfire Blue Cheese by Carr Valley Cheese, a wheel of Monroe by Emmi Roth USA and slices of Roelli Cheese Haus’ Red Rock Cheese.

3. Local Meat
Charcuterie can seem (and sound) expensive. But a $5 investment at Underground Butcher can get you a few pieces of thinly shaved Prussian ham and beef prosciutto that you can fold into rose-shaped wheels for wow factor.

4. A Bacon Braid
If you put bacon on your board, you’ll likely earn some points with the meat-eaters at the table. Double those points by serving that bacon in a braid and candied.

RECIPE: 3rd Gear Bacon Candy

1 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon ground dry ginger
1 tablespoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon 3rd Gear Brandy Old Fashioned
1 pound Nueske’s extra thick cut bacon

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl together well.
Coat each slice of bacon in the mixture and place on the tray, make sure to not overlap.
Cook for 10 min and rotate pan, then cook eight more minutes.
Increase oven to 425 degrees and cook for 5 to 10 more minutes (depends on how crispy you want it).
The edges of the bacon will blacken slightly and that is desirable. When done, remove from oven. Take care to handle bacon when it is hot.

Recipe by Yahara Bay Distiller’s chef Josh Pleasnick

5. Add a Bit of Beer
Ask any Wisconsinite – beer and cheese are a match made in heaven. So if you’re not serving up bottles of New Glarus to go along with your board, work it into a beer cheese dip on your spread.

RECIPE: Weizenbock Beer Cheese Dip

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 Cup heavy cream
1/2 Cup Giant Jones Dark Weizenbock beer
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 Cups Hooks Baby Swiss (Shredded)
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon minced black garlic
2 Tablespoons YB Kirschwasser
Optional: add 2 ounces spreadable salami from Underground Butcher

Melt butter over medium heat in sauce pot and add flour.
Stir regularly until golden brown.
Add heavy cream slowly and whisk until incorporated.
Add beer and Kirschwasser and bring to a soft simmer.
Add mustard, cayenne, salt, and garlic and stir.
Add cheese 1/2 cup at a time and stir until incorporated. Blend until smooth. Add spreadable salami if desired. Can keep refrigerated up to three weeks.

Recipe by Yahara Bay Distiller’s chef Josh Pleasnick

6. Simple Beauty
OK, you’ve likely already won over your crowd with your rose-shaped charcuterie and braided candied bacon. So opt to add some simplicity to your board with a clove of roasted garlic and quick pickled red onions.