If you haven’t noticed, charcuterie boards are all the rage! But charcuterie is nothing new. It’s just recently gained in popularity through the power of Instagram and Pinterest.
“Charcuterie” is French meaning, “cooked flesh”. It’s a word that described the 15th Century pork butcher shops in France that sold pork products that were salted and smoked to preserve the meat.
Today, “charcuterie” has taken on a life of its own. People have adapted these delicious boards to make them beautiful, edible works of art. And, it’s not just about the meats anymore. Today, charcuterie includes cheese, crackers, fruits, vegetables, dips and desserts. It’s no longer your 15th Century butcher shop board. We’ve evolved.
For those of you who are intimidated by making these beautiful boards, I’m here to save the day. I’m going to walk you through the easy steps of wowing your guests with a beautiful display that will leave everyone happy and satisfied. So, let’s go!
Selecting the board
The first step to a fabulous charcuterie board is choosing the board, of course. Before making your decision, you will want to consider the size of the group you’re entertaining. I have made boards for one (which are so adorable, by the way) and boards for a party of 50. You can even turn a whole dining table into one large board. The options are endless.
You can take that old wooden cutting board you’ve been using for years and turn it into a makeshift serving board. Don’t worry about the scratches. Simply run a little mineral oil over the top and it will look good as new!
I always choose wooden boards. But marble and granite boards are beautiful too. And fun shapes are always great to work with. No need to spend lots on your board either. Many local retail stores like Home Goods and Target always have beautiful selections, at a great price.
Plan of Action
Okay, so you’ve chosen your board to fit the size of the group. What’s next? My suggestion is…don’t overthink it, but have a plan before heading to Reasor's to pick up your supplies. Look online for inspiration. Pinterest is perfect for providing tons of ideas. Simply find a board you like visually and try to recreate it. Your board will be your own work of edible art, just with a starting point for inspiration.
My favorite boards consist of a little bit of everything. A variety of cheeses, brightly colored crisp vegetables, dips, fruits, nuts, crackers, olives, smoked meats, spreadable jams, and maybe something a little sweet. I like to draw it out on a piece of paper to understand what I need before heading to the store. It’s really easy to overbuy when creating these boards. And, it can get expensive. So my advice? Plan ahead!
It’s all about the cheese!
After I have my plan in place and I’ve drawn out how I want to build my board, I go to the store with my list in hand. Reasor’s is my number one go-to for charcuterie supplies. Why? They have the most amazing cheese selection, unique gourmet crackers, hard-to-find nuts, and a variety of amazing marinated olives. I can find everything I need in one location.
My first stop in store is the cheese section. My number one tip, if you are going to splurge anywhere on your board…do it with cheese. I typically like to use a plain Aged Cheddar, a Smoked Gouda, Havarti with Dill, a creamy/spreadable goat cheese log like La Bonne Vie Garlic & Herb (so great with honey drizzled over the top), and a mix of fruity cheeses. Reasor’s carries some really delicious flavors like, Henning’s Blueberry & Cobbler and Simply Strawberry Cheddar Cheese. Clawson also makes a wonderful Crimson Wensleydale with Dried Sweetened Cranberries. So delish!
It’s only right to pay homage to its real “charcuterie” origins and include some delicious meats and cold cuts on your board. I typically purchase the largest party meat package I can find like Busseto Classico Salami Collection. Using this package will allow you to make a beautiful “salami rose” to go right in the center of your board. It’s such an interesting and beautiful feature. Simply layer your salami cuts all the way around the top of a wine glass in 5 to 6 layers, turning as you go. The end result will be a beautiful rose when you turn it upside down and lay it flat on your board. Genius!
I also like to add thin cuts of Dietz & Watson Prosciutto and pile in groups around the board. A variety of cured meats is always a plus.
Now that you have the main features selected, let’s move on to what I call, “The Filler”. This is where you get creative. Just keep in mind, as long as it’s colorful and makes sense on your board, you simply can’t lose. So again…don’t overthink it.
Remember that plan I discussed earlier? This is where that will come into play. If you have a photo or if you have drawn it out, you know that you want crackers, a variety of nuts, fruits, veggies and olives. And maybe something a little sweet.
For the crackers, I like to go with fancy crackers. I love the La Panzanella brand. They have a Rosemary Artisan Cracker that is wonderful. I also love unique cracker shapes. Pepperidge Farm has a Cracker Trio box that contains the cutest butterfly, buttery crackers. They are adorable and tasty too. Win-win! My all-time favorite tasting cracker is the Breton Multigrain. It’s hearty and can stand up to the heavier cheeses. The Esprit De Liberte Mini Toasts are so great with a spread of goat cheese and a touch of fig jam. I also always like to add a little height to my board with taller breadsticks like John WM. Macy’s Cheese Sticks. These look fantastic popped inside a short wine glass.
Filler: Fruits and Vegetables
There’s really no easier way to give your board pop of color then with fruits and vegetables. It’s nature’s rainbow. Here’s some of my favorites:
Filler: Nuts and Olives
I love to use a variety of nuts on my boards. My all-time favorite nut is the Marcona almond. You can find flavored Marcona almonds as well. The best ones in my opinion are rosemary. So good! I also like to use pistachios in the shells for an interesting touch. The white shell with the pop of green inside is really pretty. For the rest, Reasor’s carries a Mixed Nut variety that is simply perfect!
Where olives are concerned, any kind will do. But, I like to bring in different colors. Green, black, purple. Anything to make the board burst with color. And, I typically choose marinated olives. They just taste better to me. A firm and fruity Kalamata Olive is just perfect. And Sicilian Village Marinated Green Olives are probably my most favorite. They are the most beautiful color of green and have a wonderful mild flavor. I also like to pop the olives in little, white bowls to add interest to my board. It also keeps the marinade away from the crackers. Nobody likes a soggy cracker.
Filler: A few sweet treats
Adding something sweet to your board is so great for that salty-sweet we all crave. Beautiful yogurt dipped pretzels really stand out on the board. And Milano cookies are so good. I like the Raspberry and Chocolate flavored ones because they add a little splash of pink. And, probably one of the most important elements is honey. I like to keep a tiny honey jar on the board or kicked off to the side. Honey and goat cheese are my weakness. Such a perfect combo! Another nice touch is Divina’s Fig Spread. It goes great with all spreadable cheeses on a cracker.
Filler: That final touch
For that final touch, add a pop of fresh flowers. You can make it simple by going out to your garden and cutting off a few small buds. Just make sure to only cut the flower part. No need to add the stem to your board. I always like to wash the base of the flower as well since they will touch the edible items. Pansies are beautiful on a board. Daisies work well too. Just use your imagination. Reasor’s has a beautiful flower selection. If you don’t have flowers in your yard, simply purchase an inexpensive bouquet and snip off the flower. Easy.
Well, that about covers it. With a little planning, you too can create the most beautiful, edible work of art in your charcuterie board. It serves a ton and everyone leaves happy and satisfied. Happy planning and here’s to good charcuterie. Cheers!