There is a reason bright, fresh California grapes are a quintessential addition to every cheese board. California grapes' flavors and textures balance the richness of cheese in a single bite. Fresh grapes also work as a perfect palate cleanser between bites.
And obviously, fresh grapes and cheese pair impossibly well with grapes' fermented cousins, wine.
In the United States, 99% of table grapes are grown in California, specifically the Coachella and San Joaquin valleys (yes, that Coachella). These two regions offer prime growing conditions for grapes: sunshine, nutrient-rich soil, and sparkly mountain waters. This translates into a natural source of antioxidants and other polyphenols, which are found in every part of the grape, including the skin, the flesh, and the seeds. According to Grapes from California, "research shows positive links between the consumption of grapes and brain health, colon health, skin health, immune health, and healthy aging."
You can support the California table grape farming community by looking specifically for and buying California grapes at the grocery store. If your grocery store doesn't carry California-grown grapes, make a point of asking a manager or mentioning it to your cashier. Use this guide on how to support California farmers.
Recipe/How-to for California Grapes Summer Cheese Board below. Tips and shopping resources follow.
CALIFORNIA GRAPES SUMMER CHEESE BOARD
This summer cheese board is heavy on California grapes, which are fresh in season right now! There are 80+ varieties of California grapes, which come in three colors, red, green and black. All of them are delicious.
designed for a 15x20-inch board
1 bunch red California grapes
1 bunch green California grapes
1 bunch black (dark purple) California grapes
additional seasonal fresh like strawberries, cherries, and nectarines in summer
2-3 sweet spreads like honey, fig jam, and homemade Pinot Prune Jam
1 savory spread like mustard and caramelized onions
olives and pickled onions
dried fruit like dried apricots, dates, and prunes
nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios
crackers to serve alongside
Clip bunches of grapes into small clusters of 4-5 grapes. Place grapes clusters on board.
Arrange cheese on board, followed by additional fresh fruit and small bowls or jars of spreads.
Fill in open spaces on board with dried fruit and nuts.
Serve crackers alongside board. You can serve crackers directly on the board, just make sure they are placed next to other items that are dry so they don't get soft.
Leftover grapes, if you have them, can be pulled off the stems and frozen! They are a refreshing little slushie snack in the summer. (And can also be used to chill your wine).
NOTES and RESOURCES
- Grapes: California grapes are in season from May through January. At the market, look for "Grown in California" on the packaging or on display signs. Even if labels don't specifically say "California," grapes labeled as grown in the United States are probably from California as 99% of table grapes in the US are grown in California!
- Cheeses: The cheeses I used on this particular board are a semi-firm sheep's milk cheese, a soft bloomy rind goat's milk cheese; and an aged cow's milk cheese. It's always a good strategy to include cheese made from different milks, as well as firmness/softness.
- Sweet Spreads: I used a simple, plain acacia honey and fig jam as sweet complements to the cheese.
- Savory Spread: I used sweet hot mustard, which pairs well with salty, aged cheeses like the San Joaquin Gold.
- Olives: If you're going all-California, use California-grown olives! On this board, I used Castelveltrano olives.
- Pickled Onions: I always have a jar of homemade pickled onions in the refrigerator.
- Dried Fruit: I used apricots, dates, and prunes.
- Nuts: I used roasted salted marcona almonds, raw walnuts, and pistachios.
- Crackers: I used a fig and olive-filled cracker, and usually have a very simple white cracker available, too.
This recipe and post are produced in partnership with Grapes from California. Please support the California table grape farming community of growers and farmworkers whose livelihoods depend on you choosing grapes from California when you shop. Data and health information about grapes provided by California Grapes.
You can see more of my fawning all over California and California-grown produce on these posts here.