You say gift hamper, I see cheese. Cheese and wine hampers are perhaps the most common gift hampers you’ll find. Many companies sell them, and I know only one person in my life who doesn’t like cheese but lots of people who love it, so it makes a great gift for many.
Cheese hampers are a great idea for cheese board lovers. It gives someone everything they need to make their own cheese board, and hopefully introduces them to some new flavours to enjoy. Done right, it can also be done on a budget.
If you wish you can buy a ready-made hamper. Many companies sell them, and with a quick google search you will find plenty to choose from. We may also have some great deals for you to take advantage of.
If you’re looking to make your gift hamper a little more personal, and in my opinion much more fun to put together, building your own is a great way to go, and here we’ll try to help you pick what you need to add to your hamper.
Picking your basket is a great place to start but its entirely up to you. You can either pick a basket you love at the beginning, and buy enough goods to fill it, or buy what you want to add and pick a basket the right size for your goods.
Choosing The Right Cheese
Let’s start with the most important, and most obvious product. You’re cheese hamper is certainly going to need cheese.
Cheddar cheese is one of the most popular cheeses there is, so adding this to your hamper is, in my view an absolute must. Not every cheese board lover is a hard-core cheese connoisseur, many people simply love a cheese board, but know very little about the different types of cheese available or are simply not a fan of the smelly cheese.
In my experience, a cheddar cheese is one almost all cheese lovers can eat, so it is likely a safe option for adding to your hamper.
Blue cheese is much stronger, and in my experience is both loved and hated. That said, it is a staple and for true cheese board connoisseurs it is a must for adding a depth of flavour that can not be achieved with lighter flavoured cheese.
Unless you’re aware your loved one doesn’t like blue cheese, I would certainly consider adding one to your hamper.
Soft cheese is much lighter and the perfect contrast to a blue cheese. Soft cheeses include Brie, goat’s cheese, camembert and much more. Camembert is also a cheese which can be cooked in the oven and used to dip breads into, making it a little different and could add a new experience to your hamper.
Selecting Complementary Meats
Unless your gift is for a vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian, meats make a great addition to your hamper. Meat and cheese pared together on a cracker or a slice of bread taste wonderful together. If you’re building a hamper, you may wish to select a meat that complements the cheese you’ve chosen but also ones which can survive living inside your hamper, unrefrigerated, for at least 24 hours.
Here are some of the most common meats that you will find.
Prosciutto, also referred to a Palma ham, is a dry-cured salty Italian meat that is typically made from the hind legs of a pig which are salted and left to dry for several months, once the meat has cured for long enough it is sliced into thin strips ready for eating.
It is commonly found in the supermarkets, however for something a little special, and for something that you can add to a hamper for a while and not immediately start to go off, it is also possible to buy a leg which you can slice yourself.
Salami is another Italian meat that comes in a variety of flavours, such as fennel, garlic, and pepper. Typically made from ground pork and spices and aged for several week or months for the flavours to develop.
Salami can be purchased both in slices and as a salami sausage, which is much more ideal for a hamper.
Chorizo is a Spanish cured sausage which is most commonly made from pork but can also be made from beef or lamb. It is seasoned with various spices, including paprika and chilli, giving Chorizo its red colouring and spicy flavours.
Serrano is a Spanish cured ham which is made from the hind leg of a white pig only. The pigs are fed a diet of acorns to give the ham its distinctive flavour and the legs are salted cured for several months before eaten.
Like Prosciutto, Serrano ham can also be purchased as a leg.
Crackers & Breads
Water Crackers: They’re simple and perfect for those who want to enjoy the flavours from their cheese and meets without overpowering extras.
Crackers with herbs: To add a lovely savoury flavour which might complement certain cheeses perfectly.
Pepper crackers: Taste exactly as they sound. Crackers which have been seasoned with pepper will add a lovely peppery flavour to the overall taste.
Crackers with fruit: If you do not wish to add fresh fruit to your hamper, crackers baked with fruit could be the perfect alternative.
Baguettes: Perhaps not the most practical product for a hamper since it can quickly go stale, but if you’re able to pick one up the morning you gift your hamper it could make a lovely addition.
Chutneys, Jams & Pickled Treats
Let’s face it, cheese and biscuits are incomplete if they don’t have at least one side to sweeten the deal. If I’m doing a simple cheese night at home, I quite often buy fruit – mainly grapes – to add to my cracker. That said, fruit does go off quickly and is perhaps not the best option for a hamper.
Delicious condiments such as chutneys, jams and picked treats can be stored for long periods of time and are a great way to preserve fruits, produce delicious new flavours and generally experiment with new options.
A couple of years ago, I had some leftover pumpkins which, truth be told, isn’t my favourite fruit. I hate waste, so decided to turn it into a pickle and gift it to the family. I made this pumpkin pickle recipe from BBC Good Food and it turned out absolutely delicious and was a massive win not only with me but with all of the cheese board lovers in my family.
This year I made a plum and bay jelly, which was a lot sweeter and went absolutely lovely with the soft, lighter cheeses. My mother-in-law made some delicious miniature scones over Christmas, which she sliced in half with a sliver of brie and this plum and bay jelly on top, they worked perfectly together.
You don’t have to make your own, there are lots of places where you can buy delicious condiments from. A quick google search will give you lots of options and dont forget to check for hidden gems next time you go to TK Maxx.
Some typical options for condiments are mango chutneys, fig chutneys and tomato chutneys. Options which almost every cheese board lover has likely heard of.
Wines, Ports & Other Complementary Drinks
If you’re anything like me, a cheese night quite often turns into a cheese and wine night, but wine is not the only alcoholic beverage that you can pair with cheese. Here are a few options to consider:
Wine: If you wish to stick with wine, then there are a few simple tips and tricks to help you select the right wine to go with your chosen cheeses. You might wish to balance out salty cheeses with a slightly sweeter wine. Harder and aged cheeses tend to pair well with fuller-bodied red wines. Softer, creamier cheeses pair well with white wines or sparkling wines. Fruity wines go well with soft goat’s cheese and nutty wines complement stronger blue cheese.
Beer: Whilst beer doesn’t necessarily go with all cheese, a hoppy IPA or a malty brown ale can pair lovely with sharp cheddar, while a fruitier Belgian-style beer can complement a softer cheese like brie.
Cider: A lovely choice if you’re serving a variety of cheeses that are on the milder side. Look for a cider that has a good balance of sweetness and acidity.
Port: A rich, sweet port wine can pair well with strong and salty cheese. Like a sharp cheddar or a blue cheese like Roquefort or Stilton.
Sherry: Similar to port, sherry is a wine that is made in a sweet and rich style. It’s a delicious choice for pairing with a milder cheese.
Brandy: A smooth, rich brandy can pair well with soft and creamy cheese like a brie or camembert-style cheese.
Snacks & Other Delicious Sides
Olives: Both red and green go lovely with cheese and meats.
Nuts: will add a new texture and a little crunch to the feast.
Extra virgin olive oil and Balsamic vinegar: Poured into a dish together they are the perfect combination for dipping bread into.