Charcuterie boards - what are they? To put it simply, they are spreads of cured meats and cheese, usually accompanied by a variety of crackers, fruits, nuts, and jams.
The thought of them is simple, but these boards are more complex than just cheese and meats. There is such art and craft behind them. With the layers of meats and cheese strategically layered on top of each other paired with complimentary crackers and fruits, your eyes can’t help but widen when you see one.
What’s special about charcuterie boards is that no two boards are the same - it’s like going to a painting class and no two paintings turn out the same. So how do you possibly figure out which meats go well with which cheese? Not to mention the crackers and fruit selection - it gets overwhelming! With so many routes you could go when crafting a charcuterie board, we’ve narrowed down some tips to guide you to your ideal board.
- First, start with your base. What do you want to serve your masterpiece on? It’s like choosing a canvas before you start slathering paint onto it. You can determine the size of your charcuterie spread based on your board - people usually pick some type of wooden cutting board, serving plate or tray, or anything flat they can delicately lay their food on.
- This is the most crucial part of the process- picking the ingredients! Not only do you have to make sure your ingredients compliment each other taste-wise but they also need to aesthetically highlight one another.
Meats and Cheeses - the stars of the show! This is where your creativity comes into play. The cheese could be cubed, sliced, or even placed as wedges on the board. A mix of soft (e.g., brie) and more solidified cheese (e.g., cheddar) is a popular move. Alternatively, the meat are sliced (no one likes to play butcher and cut their own meat when they’re enjoying a charcuterie board!).
Crackers and Bread: It is important to pick ingredients with contrasting textures to keep it lively (think, soft white baguette vs. Triscuits). Contrasting flavors are ideal as well, pick sweet and savory options, add the salty butter crackers AND the sweet graham crackers - there are no rules!
Fruits: This is where the pop of color comes in. Most cheese and crackers are monochromed and you don’t want to end up with a plate of neutral/brown ingredients. Luckily, with the addition of fruit and jams, your charcuterie board can have the pop of color it deserves! From green apples to red grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and dried apricots, the options are endless.
Veggies: Adding pickled veggies will add a touch of sour that will pair well with meats. Pickled onions, carrots, or shallots are great options.
Sauces and Jams: Two words - hot honey. This will give your charcuterie board the spice it needs! Jams are also great additions as it breaks up the dryness of all the other ingredients on the board and also adds flavor.
Bowls: With so many components, it’s important to be organized. Bowls are a great way to organize certain jams, cheeses (like mozzarella balls), and nuts. The number of bowls depend largely on the size of you board. Space them out on your board and they will also act as great posts for your crackers, cheese, and/or meats to rest up against.
Bigger First: Start with the big ingredients first. Once they are in place, lay other elements around them. Get creative, make ribbons out of the cured meats, create a domino effect with your crackers, and lay down contrasting textures and colors next to each other.
There is no right or wrong way to compose a charcuterie board. It’s something you just figure out as you go, but with these tips in mind, you will be off to a great start!