Create a Natural Cheese Display for Autumn Entertaining

Basket of select grape leaves and wax paper rollDecades ago I saw paper “grape leaves” advertised by Williams Sanoma to display cheeses. They were pretty—very French—but expensive! Once I got a grape arbor in my garden I saw what beautiful colors the leaves turn in fall. I thought back to a craft project from preschool where we ironed maple leaves between two sheets of waxed paper, then tapped the paper to the windows as decorations.

I decided to adapt the technique to make my own French cheese leaves.

First, I cut down some grape vines with the most colorful leaves—being careful not to tear them when I disentangled them from the others. I selected the nicest ones from the batch, trying for a variety of size and color. If you don’t have access to grape leaves, this method should work with any large autumn leaf.

Grape Leaves on a Table

Next, I cut the stem from most of them, as close to the leaf as possible. I left a few with 2–3 inches of stem, because I wanted to try using them in a wreath (I’ll save that project for another post).

Blotted grape leaves with nippers

Since I would be using the leaves as a base for food, I rinsed them in warm water and gently patted them dry with some soft dishtowels. They were ready for waxing!

Blotted leaves stacked and ready for waxing

I cut a length of wax paper to fit comfortably on my ironing board, then another the same size. Leaves were carefully arranged on the bottom layer so they didn’t touch each other. The second layer of paper was set on top.

Leaves arranged on the bottom layer of the wax paper

With the iron set at a medium setting, I pressed each leaf, working from the center out, then passed the iron over the entire sheet a few times to transfer the wax to the surface of the leaf. You can see the difference in the two stages. Flipping the sheets (now lightly fused together) over, I again passed the iron over them a few times.

Leaves being ironed to transfer the wax

Leaves fused between two layers of wax paper

I repeated the steps until I ran out of leaves without stems, then went through the process again with the stemmed leaves. It was a little trickier as I had to place the leaves more carefully, but it was doable.

Ironing leaves that still have some stem attached

The result was a stack of sheets with waxy leaves waiting to be used. The wax coating on the leaves will keep them supple and colorful for at least a month or more. Keeping them sandwiched in the paper helps make it easier to store them without damaging the leaves. This means, you can make them when they are at peak color—and use them at Thanksgiving! I don’t have a fancy studio with a flat storage cabinet, so I use our piano bench. You can cut the leaves apart (leaving the wax paper on) and store in a drawer or between the pages of a large book.

A stack of waxed leaves ready for storage

When you’re ready to entertain, just carefully peel the wax paper away from the leaves you want to use, and arrange them on your serving plate. Top with cheese and fruit and prepare to delight your guests.

Finished product: cheese plate with grape leaves set up for entertaining