Beautiful, Seasonal, On Trend, Unlimited, Anytime
Charcuterie is not a new thing but recently,
Charcuterie Boards have become a huge trend in America.
Historically, charcuterie is the French art of preparing cured or smoked meats. A charcutier is a person who prepares charcuterie and while the term is loosely translated in English to “pork butcher”, any kind of meat can be used.
However, the practice of salting and smoking meats to preserve them dates back about 6,000 years to ancient Rome. Charcuterie is rooted in the belief that NOTHING from the animal should be wasted.
The word is now used loosely to mean an appetizer, snack or party spread of meats, cheeses, fruits, nuts and more, laid out on a board, platter, tray or other surface.
- A charcuterie board most often consists of a variety of meats and cheeses and fruits or nuts, brines, breads or crackers, and dips, condiments or sauces.
- The board should look full; don’t be afraid to pile and stack foods while thinking about varying the different items, textures and colors throughout.
- Most of the items can be prepared, washed and/or sliced ahead of time and quickly assembled just before serving.
- Making a small board for just a couple of people, or trying to maintain a small budget? Check the salad bar or deli at your local grocery store to purchase interesting items in very small portions.
- Dessert boards, Breakfast boards, and themed Holiday boards can be fun, too.
Before you Begin
- Choose your board (may we suggest handmade-on-Hatteras wooden serving boards from Windy Island Designs). You can use multiple boards or trays or, for a larger gathering, use parchment or butcher paper on your countertop.
- Decide whether or not to use a color and/or holiday theme. For example, you could hollow out a mini pumpkin to hold a Thanksgiving/Fall dip, and choose items that are fall colors, like purples, greens, reds and oranges.
- Choose your ingredients (scroll down for lists and suggestions). This is where I often get into trouble – I want a little of everything, but a simple list of items that go well together works better than tiny piles of too many things.
- IMPORTANT: Make sure you are aware of any and all allergies your guests may have.
1 – Place largest items on the board first: bowls (for sauces, dips, condiments or brined items), larger chunks of cheese, baked cheese, and/or grapes in a bunch
2 – Add the rest of the cheeses – sliced, chunked, crumbled, small triangles (Setting the cheeses out first also helps serve the cheese optimally, with the chill taken off.)
3 – Add the meats – slices, rolls, triangles, or loose bunches
4 – Fill in gaps with crackers and bread.
5 – Add nuts, fruits, brines, and serving utensils if needed and any garnish
This is obviously not a complete list, but I wanted to offer a few options…sometimes it’s overwhelming to make all the decisions! Click the tabs below for more information.
- Brined or Pickled Foods
- Sauces, Condiments, Dips
- Crudité or Garnish
Estimate 3-6 slices, or about 2oz, of meat per person, with at least three different options. Note: Limit yourself to one smoked meat option per board; smoke has a strong flavor that can easily overwhelm delicate flavors.
- Salami (ground meat mixed with spices, and usually wine, encased in sausage casings, and then dried). Some variations are Italy’s soppresatta, chorizo from Spain, and saucisson sec from France. Also, hard salami and Genoa salami are favorites and easy to find
- Prosciutto (fatty, salty meat that works well rolled alone or with mozzarella, or wrapped around fruit)
- Thin sliced and thoughtfully piled pork (capicola, smoked ham, pork tenderloin) or beef (roast beef, corned beef)
- Summer sausage
- Bacon, especially thick slices
- Pate or Mousse
- Seafood (like steamed shrimp or smoked salmon)
This is all about preference. There should be at least three different flavors (mellow/strong/sharp) and textures (creamy/semi-soft/semi-hard/hard).
- Brie or camembert or Delice de Bourgogne
- Goat cheese
- Burrata or fresh mozzarella
- Gorgonzola or blue cheese
- Cream Cheese or Neufchâtel
- Pimento cheese
- Baked brie (with toppings)
- Gouda (Dutch; aged gouda can be semi-hard) or Edam
- Swiss or Emmental or Jarlsberg (can be semi-hard)
- Butterkase (mild and spreadable)
- Pepper Jack (spicy)
- Monterey Jack or Havarti or Muenster
semi-hard and hard
- Aged Cheddar
- Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino or Asiago or Grana Padano
Use about the same number of choices as you have cheeses. Include a range of crunchy (like toasted baguettes or pita chips) and soft (like buttery crackers). Don’t forget about fun treats like pumpkin/banana/zucchini bread.
If any of your guest are gluten free, make sure you know about it!
Fresh, dried, pickled and cooked fruits will all add color and flavor. Pick a variety of colors for a beautiful board.
- Berries (Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries)
- Dried Apricots or Dates
- Apples (Red/Green) or Pears
- Sundried Tomatoes
- Pomegranate Seeds
- Cranberries (dried or cooked)
Nuts and Seeds should be shelled and salted or seasoned. Avoid these if any of your guests have nut allergies.
You only need one or two choices for a small board, but these are great for filling in small gaps to fill your board.
- Macadamia nuts
- Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
- Pecans or Candied Pecans
- Walnuts or Candied Walnuts
Usually pickles or olives, brines add saltiness, a punch of flavor, and sometimes a crunch.
- Pickles (Dill, Sweet)
- Gherkin pickles
- “Sweety Drop” peppers
- Banana Peppers, Pickled Jalapenos or Pepperoncini
- Other pickled vegetables, like mushrooms, okra or onions
- Jellies and Jams (Hot Pepper Jelly is great on top of Cream Cheese; Fig Jam pairs well with prosciutto)
- Mustards (grainy, stone ground, hot, or flavored mustards)
- Salad Dip/Dressing: Ranch, Blue Cheese, Honey Mustard
- Salsas or Chutneys
- Olive Oil (with seasonings, like Tuscan or Za’ Atar)
- Honey or Fresh Honeycomb
- Caramel Dip (For fruit or dessert items)
- Pumpkin Dip
- Fresh Herbs
- Leafy Greens
- Sliced radishes
- Roasted Garlic
The final step is to include serving utensils, spreader knives, spoons, toothpicks and food picks, etc., as needed. Step back and make sure you are happy with the placement, take a photo to share on social media (if that’s your thing), and ENJOY! Feel free to share photos on this post as well.
To compliment salty or spicy items, try some honey!
Try mixing one of these amazing spice blends into olive oil for a quick and delicious dipping sauce.
Windy Island Designs also makes amazing wooden bowl and spoon sets.