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Pump Up the Jam (and Cheese)

In the tradition of foods that hit that harmonious spot between sweet and salty comes an idea so easy, so elegant, yet based on two staples most Americans have on hand: cheese and jam. This may sound like an unlikely duet, but after you sample a few of these pairings you might just change your tune.

These combinations work for an elegant cheese plate, served with crackers or slices of baguette, but some pairings are also nice for a jazzed-up grilled cheese sandwich. While most jams and jellies are made with fruits, savory preserves like pepper jelly, tomato jam and red onion marmalade are also excellent natural pairs for a variety of cheeses. Look for these specialty items in the jams and jellies aisle, but be sure to check out the cheese department for unique spreads as well.

A Strong Combination

Generally speaking, strongly-flavored cheeses pair well with assertively-flavored jams, and the opposite is also true: mild cheeses marry well with delicately-flavored jams. If you neglect this rule, you run the risk of one flavor dominating, thus losing some of that magic that happens when good flavors complement each other. Try these assertive combinations:

  • Blue cheese with black currant, peach or red onion jam
  • Aged cheddar cheese with apple jelly, apple butter, huckleberry or tomato jam
  • Gouda with orange marmalade or plum jam
  • Parmesan cheese with apricot jam
  • Manchego cheese with blueberry jam or its traditional Spanish pairing, quince jelly (membrillo)

Go for the Goat

Fresh goat cheese, or chevre, seems like it was made for jam – a spreadable, smooth cheese with just enough tang to keep it on the savory side. In a pinch, nearly all jams pair with goat cheese, but here are a few favorites:

  • Goat cheese and fig jam (add caramelized onions and you’ve got the makings of a sandwich)
  • Goat cheese with cranberry sauce or jelly (excellent on a turkey sandwich)
  • Goat cheese and marmalade (orange, lemon or grapefruit)

Easy, Breezy Brie

Similar to goat cheese, the mild flavor and luxurious mouthfeel of brie cheese pairs well with nearly any sweet or savory jam. When in doubt, go with red fruits:

  • Brie and strawberry jam (a perennial favorite with or without a glass of champagne)
  • Brie with cherry preserves (try them baked together in puff pastry)
  • Brie with red currant jelly (perfect on a fresh baguette)

Cheesy Dessert Ideas

Mascarpone, a rich and smooth fresh Italian cheese is delicious with just about any jam. It’s less tangy and more spreadable than cream cheese and has a mild, creamy flavor. Here are some suggestions for pairing this delectable cheese:

  • Mascarpone with strawberry jam and shortbread cookies
  • Mascarpone with lemon curd and oat crackers
  • Mascarpone with raspberry jam and fresh baguette or brioche buns

You can experiment with new combinations using whatever cheeses and preserves you have on hand at home until you find the combo that hits all the right notes.